Why we need both women and men in the church

by Anna Blanch on November 4, 2011

In the latest guest post in the Goannatree series on Women in the Church, Laura Sykes poses a timely challenge and explores why Men and Women are needed in the day-to-day life and operational decision-making of the institutional Church. So I welcome Laura Sykes, otherwise known as LayAnglicana to Goannatree.

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I expect you know from your own experience, as I do, that in the workplace you need input from both men and women to achieve the best results. But this is a subjective statement – how can I prove it to you?

Well, if you watch ‘The Apprentice’, I think you will agree that, year after year, the initial single-sex teams are much less successful at the given tasks than when the sexes are mixed up at a later stage. I have to say that, in the adult version, the women at this initial stage consistently waste more time on squabbling and jockeying for position than do the men. However, if you are currently watching the teenage version, it is the boys who are squandering their efforts on displays of machismo. Both sexes behave better, and more constructively, once they are combined.

Stereotypically, women bring a priori thinking, commonsense, intuition and imagination to the table, whereas men bring a posteriori thinking, logic, ‘inside the box’ and clear-headedness. Don’t all scream ‘sexist!’ at once – sometimes stereotypes are true for a reason. And of course none of us is 100% male or 100% female.

But I have always found wisdom in the eastern idea of yin and yang, the two opposing but complementary harmonies, each of which carries the germ of the other.

In an ideal world, this is how the church should operate. If the congregation reflect the population as a whole, so should the priesthood. A good example of why this should be so is St Paul’s Cathedral. Pete Phillips asked on Twitter whether there are any women currently among the Dean and Chapter. He is a good Methodist, and I assumed he was teasing the Church of England (but from his later air of injured innocence I think I must have got this wrong!) The answer is that, even after the ordination of women, they have always been in a tiny minority. Of the eight currently listed as members of the Dean and Chapter, only the most junior, a lay Canon for the arts, is a woman (Lucrezia Walker). Lucy Winkett, currently Rector of St James’s Piccadilly, is the most senior woman ever to have served at St Paul’s, where she was from 2003-2010.

It seems unlikely that the lay Canon for the arts would have been included in the recent presumed discussions about how to react to the encampment on St Paul’s doorstep (my apologies to all concerned if her advice was indeed asked, but I would be willing to bet ‘ready money’ on it!) Indeed the reaction bears all the hallmarks of a single-sex team: the chief criticism I have is that they reacted to the ‘problem’ in two dimensions, not three. Their actions were the result of logical, ‘in the box’ thinking. Where was the leap of imagination which the situation demanded?

So, St Paul’s, what about it? Bring on the women!

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Image Credit: ‘Stained glass in the university’ by Nikita Starichenko licensed from Shuttercock.
Image Credit: The Tao image is downloaded from wikimedia under a creative common licence.

Laura Sykes was a lay worship leader from 2005-2010, since when she has been editor of the website Lay Anglicana. The website, which fosters the exchange of news and views from the pews, includes a blog for which Laura won an award at the 2011 Christian New Media Awards and Conference for the best newcomer.

Connect with Anna on Academia.edu, Linked In, facebook page, & Twitter.

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    I have to agree with Laura’s analysis of the situation in the Church. What I find strange, is that when the majority of church attendance is by women, they are so under-represented in the church, which remains, despite it’s aspirations for fairness and equality, a pre-dominantly male environment. Particularly in leadership positions.

    In my Diocese, we have a female Arch Deacon The Venerable Sheila Watson and some clergy in relatively senior positions, but not as Bishops, which is where I see the disconnect.

    My fear is that even if the measure on Woman Bishops is passed, that they will be relegated to Suffragan roles (although important) and might have to wait a long time for a Diocesan appointment. If that happens, what will it say about the ‘intentions’ of the church for gender equality?

    Having served in the Army, when women were relegated to subordinate roles and were expected to carry Hand Bags in the field, to a time now, where they have full equality with the exception of a tiny number of roles. Women have become Generals, have commanded at Brigade level and have been the Head of Corps or Regiments. But, still somewhere there is a glass ceiling, which has so far, prevented them becoming the Chief of the General Staff or Chief of the Defence Staff. Even here, in an institution, which has evolved and professes full equality of gender, some barriers still exist.

    But, I would love the church to at least get to the situation in the USEC, where the presiding Bishop is female. After the Supreme Governor is a female, HM The Queen, and she hasn’t done a bad job.

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