Saturday, 14 February 2009

Women's leadership in the church

Janet Lees has written some more about women's leadership in the church. I've written a bit about this yesterday too on the Women in Ministries blog. Janet's reacting in part to official figures published in the Guardian about women clergy in the C of E and how they have been promoted:
I also wondered about the story behind the story. For women clergy to lead committees is one story but why do we need ordained clergy to lead committees? All denominations do this: clog up the church bureaucracy with ordained clergy. Why? Particularly when most mainstream churches also struggle with the availability of ordained leadership at local pastoral level. Why do we need priests or ministers, women or men, to chair committees? Of course you are hearing from a totally meetings-phobic person here. I can understand that knowledge and skills in theology and ecclessiology etc. may be required of a committee chair, depending on the remit of the committee. But to struggle for all those years for ordination of women to the priesthood and then celebrate by chairing a committee, however prestigious, well I just don't get it. Please someone, tell me the story of that.

I am not as "meetings phobic" as Janet I'm one of those sad people who sometimes quite enjoy a well run meeting. I am concerned though that just as women begin to get some positions of leadership and influence within a few churches in Europe those churches are changing massively. Will that small proportion of women leaders be able to make a difference or find the energy to do things differently? And let's be clear the number of women in these positions is still pretty low despite the supposed feminisation of the clergy.

Meanwhile, given bleating from a small minority of male C of E clergy with "hurt feelings", I feel driven to ask when the talented C of E women who trained more than 20 years ago will begin to ask for compensation for the lack of advancement they receive? Many of them will be retired before they even get a chance to be called to be even suffragen bishops.

In the end, feminist that I may be, the way the debate about women bishops is going takes us away from the reality that ministry and leadership in the churches, whether exercised by men or women, requires vision, humility and commitment to telling the story of the gospel. It's a hard but joyful job. Let's get on with it as a community of women and men.


janetlees said...

OK, OK but I still don't get the committee thing. As the well known cartoon has it 'God did not send a committee' so women and men do your thing by all means but get over the committee thing for goodness sake.

wim said...

You're certainly right about committees - we have far too many of them in most denominations. Perhaps we need to find new ways of organising that require less formal minute taking etc. One of the things I loved abotu the PATH tool that we did on my leadership course is how the paper everyone has worked on as part of the process becomes the minutes of the meeting - you can take a digital photo of it and send it to everyone by email.
I feel ok with meetings that serve a realy purpose and have energy not just talking shops.