Gender

My lovely daughter in law announced on Facebook today some news that we have been party to for a little while now: she is pregnant again. Happy. Happy. Happy.  She and Nick are such excellent parents that it would be a pity if Naomi was the only person on the planet lucky enough to benefit. So August looks like a time to be visiting Sydney.
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The Old Testament readings at the moment are about Joseph and his unfortunate choice of employers and even more unfortunate choice of brothers. It's been a while since I've read it. I'd forgotten how quaint a tale it is. Or how gripping.
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At the last General Synod, held in Waitangi, Carole Hughes presented some data about gender equality which I found surprising. The overwhelming majority of people who attend Anglican churches in New Zealand are women. About half of those ordained are women. But there are very few women on the  national committees which govern our church and none of those committees, save one, the Women's Affairs Committee,  has a woman chair person.  We have 16 Bishops: 2 women and 14 men.

Every year I attend the opening service for our Diocese's hall of residence, Selwyn College. The student body of Selwyn is, in any given year,  about equally mixed: about 94 men and 94 women. Every year I watch the swearing in of the Selwyn Committee, those of the student body who have been elected by their peers as leaders for the year. There are 12 committee members. I have never seen more than 4 women amongst them, and in my 7 years I have never seen a woman President or Vice President. In fact, in the 33 years since women were admitted to the college there has only been one woman president.

We are a church which prides itself on its diversity and openness, but even so, I can just about understand (though not accept or approve of) the lingering reality of the stained glass ceiling, given the age of most of our people. But the students at Selwyn are millennials: the young women being overlooked for leadership are, like all Selwynites, a very bright group. There are head girls and duxes and prefects and women who have already represented their provinces or their country in sport. There is something going on here which is profoundly wrong. It's a matter of justice, naturally, but it's also a matter of practicalities. At a time when we need all the skills we can muster the Anglican Church is depriving itself of the leadership of some of our brightest and best.

So today I sat down with a small group: Jo Kelly Moore, Dean of Auckland; The Ven. Carole Hughes, Archdeacon, lecturer and convener of the Women's Studies Council;  Canon Alec Clark, Vicar General and Ministry Educator of our diocese and myself. We met by teleconference specifically to talk about this issue, and the conversation was as fascinating as it was bamboozling. Bamboozling, to me at least because I don't think I understand what is going on and I'm not sure many other people do either. The problem is deep and systemic, and while the women of our church, well some of them anyway, have been talking about this issue at some depth for a very long time, I don't think this is true of most men. At the General synod we made a commitment to jolly well pull our socks up and put a bit more effort in - we Anglicans are  REALLY good at making that sort of resolution, but the persistence of the problem, after all this time, indicates that whatever we have been doing up til now (including the making of hopeful resolutions) isn't really working and something different has to happen.

The four of us discussed what that something might be. I have the seed of an idea but I'll need to talk about it with my episcopal colleagues.  It might mean some extra work for me, but this is not something I'm going to let go of. I'll keep you posted.

Comments

Tony said…
What is it about churchy types (particularly of the protestant breed) who think that if we work a bit harder and pray a bit harder things will get better or change?
Does the established church actually not know, beyond the theory of it, how to rest like a child in its mother's arms? (there's a psalm somewhere that talks about this)
Is there not something wrong with tying itself up in knots (that requires more work to do and then undo) with more resolutions etc, instead of resting in Grace and Love and simply Being and allowing the God of Grace, Love and Being to bring the Freedom to the Body of Christ that Jesus' words and life thrilled his followers with?
What if women intuitively understand God's Grace and Love and Being, don't see it in church structures, and just don't want to be part of that kind of system in the first place (not being female, I'm guessing here...)?
And us men, well, we just love to talk and talk and be in charge, eh?
You're a thoughtful blighter, Kelvin!
Claire Brown said…
Waiting with bated breath, Kelvin.

Barbara McGrath said…
Love the idea of ' the stained glass ceiling '.
Possibly toughened glass from the dawn of time.