Women in senior positions in the Church of England feel ‘limited’ because of their gender

In 2014 after years of debate the Protestant Church finally allowed women to take on more senior roles in the Church, such as a position of a Bishop.

Last year, Dover had its very first female Bishop appointed but not only was this a huge step for Dover but a huge step for the Church of England as Bishop Rose Hudson Wilkinson became Britain’s first black female bishop.

Born in Jamaica, Rt Rev Rose Hudson-Wilkin, was ordained a priest in 1994 and served in east London for 16 years.

“When I was 14 I felt a calling to ministry, this was a time when women were not allowed to be in a leadership role, as a priest. 

“So it was challenging because I had this call and I could not see in practise how this was going to develop. I was very conscious however that what I saw around me was women in unacknowledged roles of leadership. 

“The reality was that if women weren’t there, things didn’t really happen.”

Canterbury Cathedral

“It was hard to be a part of a church that did not embrace women, eventually women became able to apply for the role of Deacon which I did.

“They thought you ought to be at home with your husband and child and my response to them was that my husband didn’t need looking after and if I hadn’t thought about how I was going to manage with my child then I would not have applied for the role.”  

“When I did eventually get ordained, it wasn’t just a personal triumph at all. Women were breaking ground. It was something amazing that was taking place, women were finally allowed to be leaders.

“I’ve never felt that my voice has been silenced in the church but that is mostly because i don’t allow it to be.”  

Even though there are some women now taking on the challenges of a senior position, the number of men in the Church of England still largely outweigh the number of women.

In recent statistics produced by the church of England it says that still only 25% of senior positions in the clergy are held by women. 

Archdeacon Jo Kelly- Moore from Canterbury Cathedral spoke out about what it’s like to be one of the only women involved in the Church of England. 

Archdeacon Jo Kelly-Moore has been involved with the Church of England since January 2017, before this she worked for the Church of New Zealand and  has been an ordained minister for 20 years. 

The Archdeacon of Canterbury Cathedral

Although she feels that gender equality in the church does seem to be moving in the right direction, there is still a lot of work to be done. 

The Archdeacon said: “I have felt limited because of my gender. One of the things that I find really difficult here is the exclusive language that is used. In a New Zealand prayer book you would never have the word mankind, other words are used to describe God to avoid gender. 

“God is way beyond gender, I find here that subconsciously the way that we speak and the language that we use actually informs how we are forming our society. 

“The room is not always flavoured by a diverse collection of both men and women. When you get to the senior levels of governance, I have experienced a perspective where you can feel the room thinking that I am young and inexperienced. I don’t feel that they treat my male colleges in the same way.”

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