Women and the Church (WATCH) was founded in 1996 as a national organisation working actively for gender justice, equality and inclusion in the Church of England.

Although the Church of England claims to be fully and unequivocally committed to all orders of ministry being open equally to all, without reference to gender, it also accepts that some within the Church are unable to receive the ministry of female clergy.  In that light, provisions were made in the 2014 House of Bishops Declaration for the pastoral and sacramental ministry of those who do not fully accept women’s ministry, with the intention of enabling them to flourish.  These provisions nonetheless depend on the Church of England’s exemptions under The Equality Act 2010 and institutionalise discrimination against women in various ways.

The WATCH Committee has concerns about how the provisions of the 2014 House of Bishops’ Declaration are working out in practice and believes that these concerns need to be addressed urgently for the future wellbeing of our Church.

These concerns include:

  • The provisions have encouraged the silencing of ongoing debate on theology relating to any limits placed on women’s ministry, which makes it harder for the Holy Spirit ultimately to guide the Church into truth on this important matter.
  • The provisions have encouraged different groups to retreat into like-minded communities which often do not engage significantly with each other and this makes it harder for hearts and minds to change.
  • ‘Mutual flourishing’ has never been defined and many women and men, both those who fully affirm women’s ministry and those who don’t, do not describe themselves as flourishing.
  • The ongoing lack of transparency about which churches are making use of the provisions, and how, means that ordinary churchgoers are easily misled about their churches’ positions on the matter of women’s ministry. This damages both trust and the mission of the Church.

More information on the provisions under The House of Bishops’ Declaration, and the Five Guiding Principles that underpin them, can be found here.

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