When the leaders of the Anglican Churches meet next week in Canterbury there will be no women amongst them. The stark reality for that meeting, where crucial decisions are on the table about the future of the Anglican Communion worldwide, is that men will make those decisions.
There are no female archbishops in the Anglican Communion. Eight out of the thirty- eight Provinces have female and male bishops, but there has only been one female Provincial head - in the US - and she retired last November after nine years of being the sole woman amongst the Primates.
Why does this matter? Because most Anglicans across the globe are women, so their voices should be heard when there are high-level meetings making far-reaching decisions. And because women may have something helpful to say. For instance, when there were similar tensions in the Anglican Communion in 2007, representative
Anglican women issued a statement including this commitment:
"Given the global tensions so evident in our Church today, we do not accept that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would ever cause us to break our unity as represented by our common baptism. Neither would we ever consider severing the deep abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women.”
See full statement here and below.
Hilary Cotton, Chair of WATCH, said
“This is billed as a really tough meeting, and it is likely to be made tougher by not having women there as equal participants. This is not because women might do it better, or because the men might behave better with female colleagues around, but because diversity (in this case gender diversity) broadens perspectives and approaches. Women would bring different life experience and wisdom, and that might help to reveal blindspots and assumptions that could be worked through, allowing a better way forward to be created."
From the Anglican Women gathered at the 51st of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women
3 March 2007
In the name of God, Saviour, Redeemer, and Giver of Life.
We, the women of the Anglican Communion gathered in New York as the Anglican Consultative Council delegation to the 51st Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, and as members of the International Anglicans Womens Network representing the diversity of women drawn from across the world wide Anglican Communion, wish to reiterate our previously stated unequivocal commitment to remaining always in “communion” with and for one another.
We remain resolute in our solidarity with one another in our commitment, above all else, to pursue and fulfill God’s mission in all we say and do.
Given the global tensions so evident in our Church today, we do not accept that there is any one issue of difference or contention which can, or indeed would ever cause us to break our unity as represented by our common baptism. Neither would we ever consider severing the deep abiding bonds of affection which characterize our relationships as Anglican women.
We have been challenged in our time together be the desperately urgent issues of life and death faced by countless numbers of women and children in our communities. As a diverse delegation, we prayerfully reflected on these needs.
We thus reaffirm the conclusion of the statement presented by our delegation to this year’s session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women:
This sisterhood of suffering is at the heart of our theology and our commitment to transforming the whole world through peace with justice. Rebuilding and reconciling the world is central to our faith.
For further details and photographs:
Jody Stowell - Media Officer WATCH
Hilary Cotton – Chair WATCH