WATCH: Just getting started – 22nd November 2014

We had a great celebration at our 2014 AGM, marking the achievement of one of our ten aims as WATCH – the appointment of women as bishops. It was a little premature, of course, as we await the first (of many) appointments, but we were encouraged by comments to the media from Archbishop Justin that he expected the House of Bishops to consist of half male and half female bishops in ten years’ time.

We also received a message from Archbishop Justin specifically for our AGM:

“I regret that I shall not be able to join the lunch at Waterloo. However, I fully expect that weekend – following General Synod – to be ‘with’ you in the spirit of celebration. Let me also express my gratitude for the way in which at WATCH you have expressed your intention to continue to work for the place of women in the Church, not least in particular for the vital place of lay women’s ministry for the mission of the Church.”

Throughout the morning there was much applause and many cheers as those who had contributed to the campaign were thanked for their long-standing commitment and perseverance.

Christina Rees led us in a heartfelt toast to ‘women bishops’ and Hilary Cotton in a toast to ‘the future’. A most splendid cake was shared amongst us and old friendships were renewed and new ones made over lunch.

The eucharist was one of celebration and thanksgiving, using material from Nicola Slee’s ‘Praying like a woman’, which we concluded with June Boyce-Tillman’s familiar song of the campaign, ‘We shall go out with hope of resurrection’. I first sang that in Coventry Cathedral in October 1992, before the knife-edge vote on women’s priestly ordination, and it had given new hope to a generation of women and men since then.

And so that campaign is concluded. Thanks be to God.

But there is so much more to do to change the gender culture of the church and achieve liberation of men and women, not just equality, within and through the love of God.

We heard from Women’s Ordination Worldwide that however progressive Pope Francis may be in some ways, his statements on women have been conservative and discouraging. We also heard from Christopher Hall of the Li Tim Oi Foundation that their work is needed more than ever, and indeed we raised nearly £1000 in our eucharistic collection for that work.

In the afternoon we committed ourselves to future work on monitoring, campaigning, transforming, affirming and reviving the place and roles of laywomen, and providing an online set of rich resources of feminist worship and theology, arguments and papers, poetry and activities.

If you would like to join us in any of our work please get in touch. We can guarantee passion, creativity, fun and action, not just words. To see more do look at our renewed website.

WATCH is just getting started – so that Christ’s offer of liberation for all, including all women, is made real.







Alleluia! “Women Bishops” legislation finalized at General Synod today

The finish line for the WiE legislation was crossed today when General Synod agreed to promulge and action the Canon enabling women to be bishops in the Church of England.

WATCH shares the joy of the church and the nation that after a long time of watching, waiting and campaigning, there will now be ACTION. We look forward to hearing about and supporting those who will be nominated for upcoming vacancies. There is a deep and rich pool from which to draw.

Although the legislation has passed a finish line, WATCH will continue to seek gender justice in the Church of England, that it may be a place of flourishing for women and men.

Hilary Cotton, Chair of WATCH said, “Today signals a profound shift in the Church of England, and for Anglicans around the world. Women and men will at last be able to use their gifts fully in the leadership of the Church. WATCH looks forward to bringing gender justice to fruition in the Church of England. From now, we are just getting started”.

As the river meets the sea- Address by The Revd Lucy Winkett

On the Feast of St Mary Magdalene on 22 July 2014 at St James’s Church Piccadilly London, the Revd Lucy Winkett gave an address. The text is below.

as the river meets the sea…

A friend of mine was telling me that she was on a train last Monday following the proceedings of General Synod on Twitter. Much was being said in all directions and so she was happily reading at pace the content of the debate. This is someone who has been part of the campaign for the ordination of women for over 40 years and so her interest, you could say, was high.
Just before the vote, as those of you who were there will testify, a time of silence was asked for. Silence to think, to pray, to absorb all that had been said.
My friend on the train, suddenly was cut off from the conversation she had been following as the tweets stopped. She was transported back from her virtual participation in the debate to looking out of the window in the real train in real life. And after 40 years, she suddenly found herself thinking, “what do I really feel about this?” “something may be ending” “what is the future now”. “I think, I hope, maybe, do I? that everything is about to change”.
Those two minutes, the silence before the decision, for some of us, the moment before the miracle, is reminiscent of the spirit of the readings for today for Mary Magdalene. Where great drama is unfolded in strikingly undramatic style.
Because the voting last week was just the latest in a long line of votes at evening PCC discussions, at deanery synods and chapters, Diocesan synod meetings, talking over endless coffee breaks about whether votes would pass or not.
The debate has been being had for years: and from MOW and WATCH, a huge torrent of words and paper, drafting of statements, letters, redrafting, making judgement calls on tone, on clarity, conversations on standing outside for hours in November, whether the banner looks OK, what song to sing, how we didn’t like being called feisty or strident. How we hoped both for peace and respect in the oppositional debates we took part in but also hoped too that we were indeed, as many who didn’t want us ordained suspected, the thin end of a very large wedge. The days in the basement of the Deanery at Amen Court in the generation before email; organising mailings, letter writing, stamp licking, the writing of prayers, the bravery of the St Hilda Community, the hilarity of the magazine Spare Rib, the flavouring of points of order and grave speeches with the production of ironic tea towels, the use of satire and irony and cartoons and fun. The relationships between women variously belonging to acronyms such as GRAS and MOW, MOW and WATCH, WATCH and AWESOME, and now the optimistically named Transformations Group.
It is as if this mighty river of prayers, and words, and liturgies and papers and letters, which has flowed beneath and around us, a river that has sometimes threatened to drown us, whose current we have tried to ride and sometimes tried to control but which has been flowing irresistibly on; it is as if we who have been riding this tide have finally, finally, can’t quite believe it, finally reached…………. the sea.
The future is before us: vast and precious, oceanic and unpredictable. Our energy and hoping, our drive and imagining of this future has carried us to the ocean and now we know, deeply, that things don’t have to be as they are.
It’s always struck me in John’s gospel that the moment of resurrection happens off stage, not recorded explicitly. It is a tender gospel: an intimate conversation in a garden is the revelation to Mary that something absolutely new is announced. Jesus has gone, and she is not yet able to take hold of him. A heady mix of fear, exhilaration, trepidation and relief.
We are well used to the paradox in the church that what feels like joy and relief to one feels like anxiety and even disaster to another. This happens on many different subjects in many ways and has been happening since Paul sailed away from Barnabas in the Book of Acts. The important things are how we pray for one another, recognising the paradoxes for what they are, never being afraid to say, and attempt to live what we believe to be right, and learning ever better to disagree well.
So at this moment after this particular vote, I want to say a word about many of you who are gathered here and others who are wishing us well tonight who, like my friend on the train, have kept faith with this vision for much of your lives. And within those, I want particularly to talk to you who are lay. I heard a Church Army officer preach not long ago and he started his sermon by saying “I am what’s known as a member of the laity….. which is Church of England jargon for…. a person”.
Women and men, not ordained, some maybe thinking they might have been but others clear that ordination was not for them, have turned up on wet nights to meetings when you would rather have been at home with baked beans on toast; you have spent summer evenings you would rather have been in the garden going yet again to another synod meeting where you know you’re going to have to say it ……..again.
I and my colleagues here, women ordinands training now, women who are even now being asked if they will serve as bishops, would quite simply not be able to follow our own calling if you had not done what you did. Generations of women have lived and died believing they were called to the priesthood, but it simply couldn’t be. Those of us who are blessed to be in this generation, stand on your shoulders; it is you over the years, more than clergy or bishops, who have led us and made the case over and over again to your vicars, your Bible study groups, your PCCs and within the wider church structures. And, while of course all of us from every point of view have made mistakes along the way, and our spirit now is thankfully a spirit of forgiveness and grace, it’s important to acknowledge here that over the years, you have been told to stop, you have been told that you are betraying Scripture, or that you are threatening the unity of the church. You have been told that you are putting the church you love in peril. I want today in this eucharist to say thank you to you for not giving up when at times it must have seemed very bleak and you must have wondered if it was worth it.
There is one other point of connection I want to make between the saint we celebrate today and the journey that you have been on. And that is the attribution of mixed motives. Mary Magdalene, perhaps more than most saints, certainly more than most Biblical figures, has been the object of much speculation and projection over the years. From Pope Gregory in the 6th century, what were her seven demons? From successive religious leaders and theologians strong supposition that she was a prostitute? And fascination persists in our own day; from the writers of rock musicals: was she in love with Jesus? and from the writer of popular fiction: did she marry him?
The motives of Mary Magdalene in not only following Christ in life, but not leaving him in death is the stuff of many a film and sensationalist novel. And her role as apostle to the apostles, the one who proclaims the new future Christ brings, has historically been overlooked.
But despite all these speculation about motives, the fantasies and anxieties that
surround Mary Magdalene as they have often surrounded this debate, I want to suggest that at the heart of the gospel, at the heart of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, at the heart of the discipleship of Mary is simply love.
And love, for us has sometimes looked like persistence or grief. And the expression of love can look like admin or marching or dancing or tears. Love can look like writing an article, making tea for a flask to share on the way to Church House, calling a friend after the meeting that left her sad. Love can look like respect for another view but holding your ground. Love of God can be accepting your place, the only place you can be.
So tonight we thank God for this eucharist, for the story it tells of brokenness and healing, of bread first eaten by slaves in peril and the rich wine of the wedding feast. We thank God for Jesus Christ’s offering of all that he had and all that he was for the life of the world he came to save. And we thank God for the women and men who are with us in this sacrament who longed to see this day: who died before they knew that their efforts were not in vain. After our prayers, which will be led by Lindsay we invite you to come and light a candle during the aria I know that my Redeemer liveth which was sung at the memorial service of Monica Furlong: to remember those who have gone before, but also to give thanks for the witness of someone you want to remember today at this moment of change.
I close with the prophetic imagination of Isaiah whose encouragement is to look to the future, as we will do in our last hymn; to look outwards towards a society full of need and injustice; to look beyond us and our debates to the deep, complex and often paradoxical circumstances of what we laughingly call real life.
Strengthen the weak hands and make firm the feeble knees. Say to those who are of a fearful heart, be strong, fear not. Here is your God. Amen.
Lucy Winkett

Women Bishops legislation passes through Parliament!

History was made today as the Women Bishops Measure successfully made its way through both Houses of Parliament.

WATCH would like to thank Peers and MPs for their overwhelming support and encouragement for women’s ministry both lay and ordained at every level.

All the long years of debate are over and after so many words we are speechless with joy.

House of Commons Debate on Women Bishops – Monday 20th October

As you know by now the House of Lords debate on the Bishops and Priests Consecration of Women Bishops Measure, took place last Monday 13 October with much success. The next and nearly final stage will be on Monday 20th October when the Measure will be debated in the House of Commons. Please could you, as WATCH members and friends, contact your Constituency Member of Parliament and draw her/his attention to this important debate with a request to attend and support it. Please add any comment or view you may have about the Measure and Bishops Declaration. It would be so good if there was a full House with an overwhelming acceptance of the Measure. This would signal to Church and Society how pleased everyone is to see our excellent ordained women having the opportunity to take their place as Bishops alongside the men.

If you do not know the name or email address of your MP click here

Some of us will be attending the debate; others will be watching it on the Parliamentary Channel. We are not sure of the time of the debate but will let you know when it is published.

With many thanks.

WiE Measure to the House of Lords on 14th October 2014

The Women in the Episcopate Measure will go before the House of Lords on Tuesday 14th October 2014. The Measure will then go to the House of Commons, although a date has not yet been specified. Please do consider contacting your MP to encourage them to attend the debate and vote in favour.

Please remember all those involved in taking this Measure forwards in your prayers.

Latest news from the Church in Wales on the election of women as bishops

WATCH is delighted that the Church in Wales has taken the final necessary step to allow women to be elected as bishops. Today the bishops have published the terms under which women will minister as bishops, and in particular the provisions for those who dissent from this development. These are contained within a Code of Practice

There is a large overlap between the Code of Practice and the Church of England’s equivalent document, the House of Bishops’ Declaration. The 5 principles are practically identical. But the bishops in Wales have decided to make provision for groups of individuals rather than parishes who dissent, which is a less formal way of working.

There is a discrepancy though. The Code of Practice describes provisions for those who dissent, and contain nothing exceptional for those who assent. But Archbishop Barry Morgan, introducing and explaining the Code, seemed to go further than what is stated. He described there being reciprocity of provision, and that,
‘Some might even prefer to be ordained by a woman bishop and that request will go to the relevant Diocesan who will make provision for that to happen so that there is total reciprocity.’

Which is correct – the Code of Practice, or the Archbishop’s statement? If the Code is intended to allow for such ‘total reciprocity’, then we suggest that it needs to be spelled out, for the avoidance of doubt.

The Church of England has no such reciprocal provision. It remains the traditional norm that your Diocesan bishop is your bishop, whether you like him or not. The only exception is if, in future, he is female, in which case your parish can ask for other arrangements.

What was there left to say? The Final Approval debate on women in the episcopate – 14th July 2014

Being in the public gallery for the final General Synod debate on women becoming bishops was a very different experience from November 2012. We were tense, hopeful but not confident, hot, and braced – having sat through many Synod debates on this over the past 14 years we were expecting to hear expressed again the sub-text ‘what a problem women are when they want us to change things and be included’.

Synod had just debated and affirmed a covenant to care for armed forces members and families, as they are more and more likely to live outside bases in England and have less immediate support. This was a sombre but positive debate and generated an atmosphere of serious business., that was carried through to the Final Approval debate.

The Archbishop of York chaired the debate differently from November 2012, calling more speakers in support of the legislation than against, in the morning at least. This helped to reflect the support from the wider church, and gave a more realistic sense of where the church is on the issue.

Dr Paula Gooder spoke first from the floor, setting a positive bible-based argument for going with the package and being called to reconciliation within it. Dr Philip Giddings followed up by declaring that he would, this time, vote in favour of the legislation, unlike in November 2012. The Bishop of Ely called upon everyone to live up to the 5 principles and pledged himself (as a ‘young man’) to honouring them in future years.

The first three speeches had thus set out the territory: we are all in this together, we need to move forward together, and let’s make it work together.

Almost all subsequent speakers wanted the legislation to be passed, including a number of those who declared that although they were happy to work with the arrangements, they could not in conscience vote yes. We recognised the dilemma but were frustrated by the decision: what if the vote failed again because of this?

There were a number of ‘bending over backwards to make this work’ speeches, generosity expressed, willingness to admit past hurts inflicted and to apologise. All very different from previous debates on this subject.

Lunch was taken with a sense that everyone was trying really, really hard to help everyone move forward together: that people were being genuinely careful and supportive of others with different points of view. It was demanding listening but hugely promising for the vote.

The afternoon reverted more to type: equal numbers of speeches for and against, a number of exhortations from opponents not to exclude them and their views, a repetition of the unorthodox theology that caused such disturbance in November 2012, and a sense of partial retreat into camps, tribes and silos.

I have to say I got a bit bored as I heard the same phrases used against and in favour of the legislation through the afternoon. The energy flagged in the heat and I really hoped we would not conclude with a series of weak but well-meaning speeches.

But no. The Chair invited the Bishop of Chichester , the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Canon John Spence each to speak for five minutes. To be honest the first two of these speeches were probably better than they sounded, and will merit reading in the proceedings as I am sure they set out good intentions and pledges from both sides. But they were eclipsed by John Spence’s speech (which is on YouTube). He had been waiting to be called all afternoon, and thought he had two minutes. Given five, he majestically called for Synod to step out in trust, in a speech that raised the energy, released the tension, made most people cry, and allowed us to remember what we are church for. And he didn’t mention women once.

So the Synod voted. We knew we should have enough of a majority if everyone in favour of the principle of women becoming bishops voted Yes, and so it proved. After a brief flurry of cheering in the public gallery (counter to instructions from the Chair) we left Synod to the rest of their required voting, and were met outside by dozens of photographers. You will have seen the pictures. The feelings? Mainly relief, then joy, then gratitude to all who for so long have worked and prayed for this result. Sadness for those who played their part and weren’t here to share in the achievement, and sheer pleasure that the Church of England had some good news to proclaim. For WATCH? There is another crack in the edifice of patriarchy, and we believe all will be the better for it, inside God’s church and inside God’s world. Let’s see where the Spirit now leads us, and join in her work.

Hilary Cotton
Chair, WATCH








The day is here Novena – Day 9 – Flourishing

Any junior school child will tell you what plants need to flourish: light, warmth, food and water. So what do humans require?

Catherine of Siena wrote:
The sun hears the fields talking about effort,
and the sun smiles and whispers to me,
‘Why don’t the fields just rest,
for I am willing to do everything to help them grow?’
Rest, my sweet ones, in prayer.

How shall we flourish, grow sweet blossom, bear fruit, bring forth life, resist evil? Remember that the fruit of the Spirit, like all fruit, comes without conscious effort. The lilies of the field do not toil or spin. If we rest in prayer we will flourish.
For centuries in the Church women have been excluded, marginalised, patronised and treated as the cause of sin and corruption. Yet they have contributed to the growth and holiness of the Church in myriad ways. How? Katherine Jefferts Schori, Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the US was asked how she maintained her resilience in all the adversity that she must face. Her answer: ‘I know that I am beloved’.

How shall we cultivate such resilience? By dwelling on what is good, and by a rigorous realism about what is.

Hilary Cotton

Prayer for the day
God of life and growth,
entwine us with all
who work for the flourishing of your Church,
bringing to fruition Episcopal gifts
in those who are called:
both men and women.
Give us the will to dwell
on what is good,
the heart to know
the truth of your love,
and the mind to discern and live by what is just;
that all whom you cherish will bear good fruit
in the season of your Spirit.
Hilary Cotton


Philippians 4:4-8
Points for Prayer
remember the ways in which you are beloved – by God, by friends and family
pray for women you know who are living lives of honour and grace in difficult circumstances
pray for Provinces where there are already female Anglican bishops, that they may know today that they are beloved.
pray for goodness to abound at General Synod.

The WATCH Prayer
Gracious, loving Lord,
we look forward with hope and joyful anticipation
to the time when
men and women
can serve you,
and all people,
equally in every task
within your Church.
Thank you that every position held
and task done
is valued by you
and furthers
your mission on earth.
Thank you Lord
for hearing our prayer.




Novena – Day 8 – Calling

Will you come and follow me
if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don’t know
and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown,
will you let my name be known,
will you let my life be grown
in you and you in me?

Will you love the ‘you’ you hide
if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside
and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you’ve found
to reshape the world around,
through my sight and touch and sound
in you and you in me?

Lord, your summons echoes true
when you but call my name,
let me turn and follow you
and never be the same.
In your company I’ll go
where your love and footsteps show.
Thus I’ll move and live and grow
in you and you in me.

from The Summons
John Bell

Prayer for the day
Those who work for change suffer resistance.
So make us strong.
Those who do new things sometimes feel afraid.
So make us brave.
Those who challenge the world as it is arouse anger.
So grant us inner peace.
Those who live joyfully are envied.
So make us generous.
Those who try to love encounter hate.
So make us steadfast in you.

The St Hilda Community

1 Thess 5:16-24
Points for Prayer
We pray today:
that we may all respond to Christ’s call to follow him, and discern God’s will for our lives
that we may value every vocation
for the Church to be open to discern God’s call to anyone, to any ministry, regardless of their gender
for the women and men in our Church God is calling to be bishops

The WATCH Prayer
Gracious, loving Lord,
we look forward with hope and joyful anticipation
to the time when
men and women
can serve you,
and all people,
equally in every task
within your Church.
Thank you that every position held
and task done
is valued by you
and furthers
your mission on earth.
Thank you Lord
for hearing our prayer.