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.