March 5th, 2013
On 19 September 2011 I invited over sixty members of the Church of England – ordained and lay, women and men – to a conference at Lambeth Palace entitled ‘Transformations – Theology and Experience of Women’s Ministry’. Whilst one aim of this event was to review experiences of women’s ordained ministry in the context of current consideration of moves to appoint women to the episcopate, the intention was always to look beyond – to consider what women’s experience could tell us about the inherited models of ordained ministry in both theology and practice and how these might be changed for the better. I was not disappointed.
Throughout the day there was a constructive atmosphere of considering how women and men, working together, could bring different contributions to the process of what I chose to call ‘humanising’ ordained ministry. By this I meant, as I said in my closing remarks, that there is something toxic about the way in which we currently expect the clergy to work: we need, together, to liberate clergy not only from bureaucratic processes but also from inappropriate business models of completing tasks as opposed to engaging prayerfully both with God and with God’s people.
I am grateful to all those who contributed to the day, whether they made formal presentations or participated in the discussion groups.
There was much in the set-piece contributions and in the ensuing discussions and their conclusions, well summarised in this document, that I found both thought-provoking and encouraging. The recommendations made in the process deserve careful reflection. The issues touched on here transcend questions of gender and go to the heart of what it means to be an ordained minister of the Gospel in the Church of England today and in the future. I commend this report of the day’s proceedings to anyone genuinely concerned with the future of ordained ministry in the Church of England.