Topic: Members News

Newsletter to Member Easter 2020

Dear Friends

We find ourselves in extremely strange times. I hope that this letter finds you all well and able to sustain yourselves and those you love in good health and good spirits during this time of trial. Our perspective on life and what matters has been so disrupted by COVID-19 that many things can seem trivial in the light of simply getting by. Like other organisations the executive of WATCH are learning to hold meetings online and giving thanks for new technologies that we are just about getting to grips with.

We are fortunate as a charity whose work is not time sensitive so we can simply continue to work on our projects championing the issues that matter to women in the Church of England.

Church of England Family Friendly Policy

Over many years we have worked through the Transformations group to get a national policy around Maternity Leave and other family friendly practices. The status quo has been that these are diocesan matters for each diocese to manage. This has led to a lack of clarity for those in ministry and those exploring ordination. It has also meant some gaps for women in training or moving between jobs and diocese when pregnant.

We are delighted that the tenacity in insisting that this was an issue which the Church of England needed to do better has now paid off.

We are particularly pleased to see the recognition that becoming a mother may enrich people’s ministry rather than seeing motherhood as a problem.

Read more about the Church of England’s Family Friendly Policy here. 

Harassment and Bullying

In Transformations one of our focuses now is to push for a coherent national harassment and bullying policy for the Church of England that improves on the 2008 Dignity at Work. For Outlook, Cath Williamson is researching different diocesan policies in the hope that we can commend good practice.

However, policies are only good if they are usable. We are interested to know if any diocese has Harassment offices who have been trained to support those who have concerns. If you have any examples of good practice do please let us know.

Watch Research

Susy Brouard is conducting in a research project on the role of Deans of Women’s Ministry which will be completed in the next few months.

Lizzie Taylor is researching the Transparency of Conservative Evangelical Churches in their stance on women’s ministry. This has particular concerns for churches with large student focused ministry.

Feminist Liturgy

A liturgy writing day was hosted in Oxford in February back in the days when we could travel. It was a lovely day and some very creative liturgy was written around the theme of Holy Week. We hope to hold more days around the country when gathering is allowed again.

The Five Guiding Principles

The Church of England Working group reflecting on the 5 GP’s of which I am a member has presented a paper to the House of Bishops which we had assumed would come to the July Synod. 

Members of the WATCH committee are working on a booklet that will help those reflecting on the principles and how we live in a church where they are to be maintained.

In these strange times we prepare for Holy Week and Easter. I have been reflecting a lot recently on the women standing at a distance from the cross. We are all having to think more about social distancing. We are distancing ourselves for positive reasons at the moment but so often women have been distanced because they are deemed not to belong in the action.

The Women at a distance

Women have often found themselves at a distance,
far from the action of men,
kept away for their safety,
Or simply not deemed important enough to be there,
Here at a distance they are marginalized.
Silent, they seem to have no part to play
and yet there they are.
Watching, waiting, praying, weeping.
Were they near enough to be seen from the cross?
Close enough to see the suffering?
Was their act of solidarity registered; did it help?
We honour their act of witness
As we honour the watching weeping witness of women down the ages
distanced from the action
watching their loved one’s suffering
Powerless to help.
Emma Percy

We remember that these women went early in the morning to the tomb and were the first witnesses of the resurrection. May we find hope in the resurrection however or wherever we celebrate this Easter. For Christ died and rose again for us and for all people.

Blessings to you all
Emma Percy
Chair of WATCH.

Newsletter to Members Christmas 2019

We hear again the Christmas tale of a young mother giving birth to her first child. We celebrate the miracle of birth, the wonder of women’s bodies that can carry and protect the developing baby, feeding him from her own flesh and blood. The created wonder of a body that can feed the new born with the perfect nourishment of a breast full of milk, before laying him in the cradle full of hay. God incarnate honouring and blessing the remarkable capacity of female flesh.

We retell this story in a world where the bodies of women are still dishonoured, belittled and abused. We tell it in a Church where women’s bodies are still considered other and where some continue to place limits on what is deemed appropriate for women to do and be. We tell it in a society that is questioning what we mean by a woman’s body and whether we need to speak in new ways about gender, bodies and human identity. We pray that Holy Wisdom will help us speak with courage and confidence as we call for gender justice in our world and in our church.

This year has marked in the Church of England 25 years of women priests and 5 years of women as bishops. In the Anglican communion the recent consecration of the Bishop of Montana marked the 100th woman bishop. We rejoice in how far we have come and give thanks for the variety of women’s voices at all levels of the church. We pray for confidence for women to speak out of their experience, to help the whole church to see more fully the divine image that women reflect.

We recognise the trust placed in Mary to be the God-bearer; playing her part in the redemption history in the once only miracle of Jesus birth. We recognise our calling to be Christ-bearers; nurturing the light and love of God in our inward beings and bearing witness to its truths in our daily lives. We birth hope, love, forgiveness and mercy through the grace of God.

Holy God, Mother of all that is
sustain us with your love
nourish us with your grace
that with Mary and all the saints
we may be bearers of your light and life in the world
this Christmas and for evermore
Amen.

 

Emma Percy
Chair of WATCH

Autumn 2019 Members Newsletters

Dear Members

Thank you for continuing to support WATCH. Here are a few of the things we have been doing.

AGM 2019

It was good to see a number of you at our October AGM at St John’s Church, Waterloo, London. Our speaker Loretta Minghella, OBE, First Church Commissioner, gave a very powerful address. Amongst other things she challenged us to think about whether the bids for Strategic Development Funding take gender seriously. It would be interesting to know if any of you are involved in applying for this funding and would like to think further about how in the Church of England’s mission we address the falling numbers of women under 40 in our churches.

Loretta Minghella’s talk and Bishop Anne Holingshurst’s address are available on the website.

Loretta Minghella’s talkBishop Anne Holingshurst’s address

Implementation and Dialogue Working Group

As chair of WATCH I continue to sit on this group. It has been interesting and at times difficult. The Five Guiding Principles urge us to find ways of enabling those with diametrically opposed views on the ordination of women to flourish. The group has had conversations about what that means and whether it is theologically possible. A report will go out later this year to the House of Bishops.

Transformations Lambeth Day

As one of the WATCH members on the Transformation Steering group I played a large part in organising this consultation day held early November for Bishops and Deans of Women’s Ministry. It was a really good day with a lot of positive energy in the room.  Headlines are:

  • Intentional good practice focusing on women does work: the diocese with higher numbers of women incumbents have good HR practice around supporting and equipping women; this insight needs to be shared more widely.
  • Diocese still need Deans of Women’s ministry and these need to be properly resourced.
  • Harassment is an issue that needs to be voiced and responded to.
  • The Five Guiding Principles was the issue most attendees wanted to talk about.

Transparency

Our social media presence has continued to call for transparency in churches that have passed resolutions. We simply ask that the parish’s stance on women’s ministry be clearly displayed.

Treasurer

We are delighted to welcome John Briggs as our new treasurer. He will take over fully from Mark in the New Year. John is the Cathedral Registrar at Christ Church. Many of our members have now moved over to our new membership scheme with CAF bank. If you have not yet done so, please can you check the Join web page or contact admin@womenandthechurch.org
Join WATCH

Liturgy

We will be hosting a liturgy writing day on Saturday 8th Feb at the Oxford Deanery. For information, contact secretary@womenandthechurch.org

2020 AGM – date for your calendar  *note different Location*

Saturday 17th October,  St Pancras Church, Euston Road, London NW1 2BA

Easter 2019 Newsletter

This Spring marks the 25th anniversary of the ordination of women as priests in the Church of England. I participated at a special service at Lambeth Palace along with previous WATCH chair Christina Rees. The Archbishop spoke about looking forward to the day when we do not need to mark anniversaries because the presence of women clergy has become unremarkable, yet he acknowledged that there is still much to be done to make the Church of England a fully inclusive church for women.

The Five Guiding Principles and The Independent Reviewer

The 2014 legislation which allowed for the consecration of women also introduced the 5 Guiding Principles and the House of Bishops declaration. An Independent Reviewer was appointed to look at cases where parishes or individuals felt their needs were not being properly respected.

The current Independent Reviewer is Sir William Fittall who has taken over from Sir Philip Mawer. He has made two investigations and the full reports can be read here.  …

The first case makes two very important points.

  1. The legislation of 2014 only makes provision for theological views about receiving the ordained ministry of women. Therefore parishes should not use this legislation to try to get Episcopal oversight that better correlates to other theological issues they have. In this case, the issue was around divorce and remarriage. We need to watch carefully that it is not used as a means for people to simply choose a bishop of their liking.
  2. This ruling provides a very good discussion of ‘taint’. The suggestion that a bishop consecrated by a bishop who also ordains and consecrates women cannot be considered a suitable bishop to offer oversight to a parish that does not recognise the ordained ministry of women would be tantamount to a theory of taint. Those who do not accept the priestly ministry of women have clearly distanced themselves from any theology of taint. Therefore, they cannot suggest that there is a question about the suitability of a male bishop consecrated by a bishop who has consecrated women, any more than they can query the ordination of a man ordained by a bishop who also ordains women.

The discussion around taint is particularly useful and worth reading in full.

The second case is about how to practically provide for the needs of the minority who do not accept women’s ordained ministry in the setting of cathedrals. This was about a request from an individual to know who will be presiding at services to allow an individual to make choices about whether to attend based on the gender of the celebrant. The ruling suggests that the request to see the rotas is a fairly straightforward request and to not give this information to someone who has asked is to not take seriously their theological position.

These rulings make interesting reading in how to work with the legislation. What is becoming clear is that it is not within the scope of the Independent Reviewer to look at cases where those in favour of the ordained ministry of women feel that their needs are not being met in parishes.

At WATCH we hear from a number of sad cases where resolutions have been passed in ways that members of the congregation feel uncomfortable with, but have little recourse to challenge. We also hear sad stories of new incumbents not allowing the sacramental or preaching ministry of women in churches where this has in the past been welcome. There are no obvious mechanisms to help in these cases, though we try to give supportive advice.

I continue to sit on the Implementation and Dialogue working group for the 5 Guiding Principles. It is due to make an interim report to the House of Bishops later this year.

Transparency

One of the issues that we are looking at is how to encourage transparency from churches that do not accept the ordained ministry of women, particularly churches that have a theology of headship. We are aware of women, especially younger women, attracted to large churches in which they only gradually become aware that women are treated differently. It can be hard to discover and develop a sense of vocation within a church that limits what women can do in terms of ministry. To leave a church community where you have found friends in order to follow a call is something that some of us have had to do and we do not underestimate the pain of such a decision. We would encourage churches to be up front and clear about the theology of gender they hold to.

We encourage churches that are supportive of women’s ministry to be up front about it too. Our churches so often fail to understand the social changes in our country which mean that, for most people, discrimination in terms of gender, sexuality and other protected characteristics is not acceptable. In most places of work it is, of course, not legal to discriminate in this way under the Equalities Act 2010.

Statistics on Women’s Ministry

The Church of England releases statistics about ministry collated by Church House. One of our national committee members then works hard to reflect on these from the perspective of women. We have released a report which you can find on our website.

We look at women in incumbency roles within diocese. Twenty-five years on from the first wave of women priests we find that one diocese has 40% of women in these roles. However, most have less than a third of women in these roles and there are still a small number of dioceses with figures under 15%.

Women still make up a large proportion of self-supporting ministers, SSM. But collecting information about these seems to be more complex.

Women still tend to enter training at a later age than men and this has implications for the kind of training offered and for access to senior posts in the future.

We also note that this year is the 50th anniversary of women in Reader ministry.

Collecting information about lay women’s involvement and experience of the church is much harder and we continue to think about how we might find ways of gathering meaningful data.
See our Report on Developments in Women’s Ministry 2018

Transformations

WATCH has two members as part of the Transformations Steering Group. This group continues to work at raising issues that impact particularly on ordained women. We have been focusing for a long time on provision for maternity leave, particularly trying to ensure some kind of consistent maternity policy across the church and looking at the gaps. One ‘gap’ is the provision for women who become pregnant as they complete their training. It has been unclear who has responsibility for their maternity leave, and these women can find themselves in very tenuous positions. Transformation members have raised these issues consistently and we do appear to be making progress. The Remuneration and Conditions of Service Committee are in the process of making recommendations which should cover most of the issues we have raised. Most importantly, they are beginning to see that women of child bearing age are a valuable resource for the church, and caring for them when they have children should be seen as investing in them, rather than as a problem.

A Transformation day for Bishops and Deans of Women’s Ministry is being planned for 7th November to look positively at how women clergy can be best enabled to prosper and flourish.

The group will continue to look at issues around young female vocations, women leading larger churches, bullying and harassment (does this have gendered elements?), and language and liturgy.

Liturgy and Worship

Looking back to the days of MOW, many of us remember the booklet Celebrating Women. This brought together prayers and poems that used feminine language and imagery. It was, for me, a real gift, enabling me to begin to explore different ways of speaking to and about God. We would like to produce a similar booklet to mark this 25th anniversary year. If you have prayers, poems or litanies that you have written and feel able to offer to others, we would love to receive them. Please send to chair@womenandthechurch.org

Treasurer Vacancy

Rev Mark Bennet has given tireless service to WATCH in many ways, not least as our Treasurer. We thank him for his hard work and would like to enable him to hand the work over. We are, therefore, very keen to hear from anyone who would be prepared to take on this role.

See details of the Treasurer’s Role

AGM

We have decided to move the date of our AGM this year, as many members told us that the late November date clashed with their Diocesan Synods. We will hold the AGM on 5th October. Our speaker will be the First Church Estates Commissioner, Loretta Minghella, while Bishop Anne Hollinghurst will preside at the Eucharist.

Easter Greetings

Finally, I would like to wish all our members a Blessed and Happy Easter. As we reflect again on the joyful news of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, we renew our hope for our world, trusting in our God who overcomes hate with love and death with life. The Holy Week and Easter stories are full of women. The woman who, like a prophet, anoints Jesus head. The women of Jerusalem who weep as Jesus carries the cross. The women disciples who watch the suffering of the crucifixion. The women who come early to the tomb on Easter morning. The mother who mourns her son. The first witness of the resurrection, Mary. We pray for women who prophecy, for women who weep, for women who watch, for women who act, for women who bear witness and preach the good news of God’s love. Last Easter I was in Sydney. There, it was a radical thing for me to be preaching in an Anglican Church. The diocese does not ordain women as priests and does not encourage the preaching of women. While there, I wrote this Easter poem.

Happy Easter to all of you and thank you for your support.

Emma Percy
Chair of WATCH

The Myrrh Bearers

Mary Magdala carried the perfumed oil
and Susanna the basket of sweet-smelling herbs.
The younger women brought the water and the fresh linen.
We gathered in the darkness and followed the lantern light towards the garden.

We spoke only of practicalities.
It was too soon to speak of Friday.
The pain too much, the grief too raw.

We had seen death before
but not like that and not him.
It was Joanna who mentioned the stone
and for a moment we stopped,
wondering if this trip were folly.

It had felt so right to be doing something
to be respecting his body, performing one last act of love.
Mary Magdala, always the confident one, urged us on.
There would be a way, this was a good thing we were doing.

The sun was rising and the garden when we arrived was bathed with dawn light.
I am not sure who saw it first,
the stone that had nearly stopped us, rolled away from the entrance.
We hurried forward eager now to do what we had come to do,
armed with our gifts of frankincense and myrrh.

But, no body was there
the grave clothes neatly folded.
And then one whom I can only describe as an Angel speaking to us.
He is not here he is risen, he is not dead he is alive.

And our feet taking us swiftly back the way we had come to tell the others
He is not gone, He is not dead, He is alive.

Emma Percy
Easter 2018