Gender Issues

I read with interest Kenny’s comments on the Gender Audit in our Church. (I tried to make a comment there but unfortunately wasn’t able to  so will have to do it here.)

Kenny says: “I am about to start worrying about a movement that seems to want positive discrimination for women. When appointments are made, in this Diocese at least, I know that the best person available is appointed. Because of years and years of discrimination, sometimes the posts require experience and acquired talents which mean that women are sometimes not appointed.”

I am not aware of any movement which seems to want positivie discrimation for women but that may be a Glasgow Diocese thing, so I won’t comment on that.  However, I will comment on Kenny’s next statement that some posts require experience and acquired talents which mean women are not appointed because they haven’t been ordained as long as men. What tosh! I said this at General Synod last year and will say it again… nobody seems to be taking into account transferrable skills which women have brought with them into the church. We may not have been ordained as long as some men but we may bring with us a wealth of talents in business, such as managerial skills, teaching, administration, and a whole host of other skills which can benefit senior positions in the Church. Some of these skills may be far more relevant to senior posts than being a parish priest for however many years you care to mention.  Length of service does not equate to suitability for any post, let alone senior ones.

This is also demeaning to the skills of the laity too. Many women priests will have been lay people in the Church before ordination and may have far more knowledge of the SEC than some men. They may have served on Committees, been Lay Reps, and elected Bishops which again may be more than some male priests have done.

So enough with the waiting for a few years until the imbalance is redressed. There really is no need.

17 thoughts on “Gender Issues

  1. Absolutely agree, and how well you put it. In the south, where the whole thing around women bishops is being debated [‘how shall we accommodate those for whom this is unacceptable’] at every level down to parishes, the democracy of discussion is counter-balanced by an idea that the church should be run as a business, with the over-emphasis on managerial skills at the expense of well-rounded experience [such as you have described]. It would be a great tragedy if the first UK female anglican bishop – outside the SEC – were a paragon of managerial efficiency [some ambitious senior females are of this ilk]. We are looking prayerfully to the SEC to lead the way: not sure where the next vacancy will be, but hope it is open to new ways…

  2. What an odd logic – maybe I am misunderstanding his argument.
    A couple of questions that were raised from reading K’s blog –
    1st question: what is the minimum number of years that would count as ‘experience’ – because it seems to me 16 years is a pretty decent length of time to have gained some idea of what one might be doing….
    2nd question: applying his logic and taking it to its natural conclusion, is there an implication here that women really shouldn’t have been allowed ordination – historically, the Church had no experience of women in this role [discounting some of those pesky Early Church allusions in various of the Epistles, etc], and further, that because women had no experience of being priests it therefore debarred them from becoming priests….?
    Feels a wee bit circular…

  3. @nik hmmm Eminent retired theologian at [SEC] lengthy debate about women bishops related women’s provenance to records independent of epistles. Happy with that one. Hats come later.

  4. These days I don’t disagree with you, but do think there ought to be some weighting given to time in orders. I’d suggest a minimum of 1 curacy and 2 charges as incumbent, simply to give an understanding of the different stresses in different parishes and the effect this can have on clergy. After all, one of the major roles of the bishop is as pastor of the pastors – and the sense that s/he has walked in the same shoes for slightly longer than 5 minutes is vital.

    • Yes, but we are not just talking about women as Bishops here. We are talking about any senior posts within the Church – Deans, Chairs of Committees, Education etc. I know of one male Provost who went from Curate to Provost in one fell swoop.

  5. Yes, I agree with that. Chairing committees depends on particular expertise, deans need to have been about in the diocese for a while to know the people (which should rightly embrace the time before their ordination). A case of assesing and evaluating the entire experience of the person, not just their time in Holy orders.

  6. Length of service doesn’t seem significant to me.

    Unless I missed it, I think both you and Kenny omit consideration of *opportunity*.

    I hate to assume a 50% ratio is correct for any and every role in the church at any point in time, and think such would be missing the point; but you can only have a fair meritocracy if everyone has had the same opportunities all the way along their path. In other words, you don’t just need to turn the spotlight on (say) the processes of making various appointments, but also on all the stages from ground from DDO through training and onwards: is there equal potential there too? That’s the point at which one is allowed to turn around and say “we chose the best from those available” – not before – and is hopefully why a gender-audit should be a good thing.

  7. It is strange, Ruth, to have to reply to part of a comment I made on my own blog on someone else’s! Very strange. Perhaps you could have persevered a little if my “comments” apparatus seemed to be failing.

    Again, I’m being set up as the “baddie”, the “anti-women guy”, and various other things too! I’m feeling uncomfortable about the way things are going in the SEC, but to suggest that I’m in any way non-supportive of women being appointed to the upper echelons of Church life and work is simply nonsense.

    I was part of the selection committee in our Diocese when we were electing our current Bishop, and as you know, there were three candidates put before our electoral synod. One of these was a woman without much parish experience, but someone who I believed to have all the gifts and talents required to be an excellent bishop and leader in mission. So, let’s get that one out of the way. I am pro women bishops and hope we have one soon. You have all the credentials, and this time next year you may well be Bishop of Edinburgh. I would applaud that appointment.

    It has to be said that, in my opinion, we have in our Diocese , the most gifted clergyperson I have had the delight to encounter. She has a senior position through merit.

    Perhaps my concerns have been misunderstood. I’ll try again.

    The Gender Audit needed to be done and I have no problems with that. However, there now seems to be an almighty rush to put things right. If what I was hearing at Diocesan Synod was wrong, then I apologise, but basically we were being told that in future, those responsible for making appointments to senior positions within the Church, had to always consider the imbalance we have at the moment. That sounds like positive discrimination towards women however you put it. It sounds like, “We must try to appoint a woman here, to be seen to be aware of the terrible imbalance we have.”

    I think positive discrimination demeans women who I think are perfectly capable of being appointed on their own merits, whether to Dean, Cathedral Chapters, or whatever you care to name.

    Now that we seem to be in a dreadful hurry to redress the imbalance, many capable and gifted men will be overlooked, simply because we must be seen to be appointing women as often as we can.

    I do not have any real senior position in the Church and a look at my ministry career will testify that I’ve never been a career priest in search of glory or titles. After Saturday, however, I almost felt like apologising for being Convenor of the Diocesan Church in Society Action Network, knowing, as I do, many women, ordained and lay, who could adequately fill that post. When a man has to consider apologising for being a man, then we are in a pretty pickle.

    I suggested that we give time time, and eventually, especially in the SEC, things will work out.

    Again, it would be nice to discuss this issue on my own blog where the full text appears, but you know how much I appreciate following you, so it’s almost a pleasure having to visit you more often to see what folk are saying about me!

  8. Before we all get too worked up about this issue, is Kenny really saying anything that radical when you read his entire post? My take (having read his blog too) is that the best person for any job anywhere (not just the church) should be given that job, regardless of gender. That means at times, even with transferrable skills taken into account, a male may be more suitable than a female – or vice versa!

    While a gender audit and consideration of the role of women in the church can only be a good time, at the end of the day should the question not be “Who does we feel God is telling us should be doing this job?” without considering gender at all!

  9. I managed to get a comment on to Kenny’s blog. This is what I said:

    Again, I say that as I wasn’t at your Synod I can’t comment on whether they were encouraging positive discrimination. But where is the harm in considering the gender audit when appointing people to senior posts? If one person just stops to remember it then they might just look a little bit wider than who has been ordained longest. And I still don’t see what’s wrong with that.

    Maybe I’m not explaining this very well! But I never said you were ‘anit-women’ or a ‘baddie’. But you did say ‘Because of years and years of discrimination, sometimes the posts require experience and acquired talents which mean that women are sometimes not appointed.’ All I am saying is that the Gender Audit might make people think a little bit outside the box. OK, this woman may not have experience in the Church, but may have it from outside the Church. That is not positive discrimination, it is being open-minded and open to the Holy Spirit, dare I say it. I just don’t see this as being a case of ‘we must be seen to be appointing women as often as we can’ but perhaps that was indeed what your Synod was saying. And if that’s the case then I disagree wholeheartedly with that too.

  10. Pingback: Into the Breach | Still Striving For that Elusive Halo

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