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Tuesday, 23 July, 2002, 10:03 GMT 11:03 UK
Archbishop 'must grasp nettle'
Women clergy still face many obstacles
Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Wales, has been officially named to succeed George Carey as the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Reverend Mary Robins, of women's clergy group Gras, reflects on what she hopes to see from the new archbishop.

A future leader of the Church of England needs to grasp the nettle that has been scrupulously avoided for at least ten years.

In a desperate attempt to keep everybody happy it has 'soft-talked' the most reactionary groups in the Church, and has inadvertently given them huge power to block any kind of creative change - particularly in the areas of gender, race and sexuality.

What this leads to is gross injustice to some of the most vulnerable members of our churches, and the very real humiliation of women priests properly ordained within the Church.

Full integration is still a long way off, say critics
This does not commend the Church to a society that already has higher standards as it works on these issues.

Whatever became of 'daring to be a Daniel?' The Church needs to sign up to the Sex Discrimination Act and Human Rights legislation and also to rescind the Act of Synod [which deals with the issue of women priests].

Reflecting reality

The wider leadership of the Church ie. the bishops, is hopelessly unrepresentative of modern society.

"Male, overwhelmingly white and the product of a limited range of educational institutions and social backgrounds," as Lady Justice Hale recently said of the British judiciary.

It has to change in order to be more sensitive to what is needed.

The Church of England behaves badly to its women clergy, virtually excluding them in several dioceses, underemploying them in others, and failing to recognise the gifts of some of the most able in suitable jobs.

After eight years of employing them it has strikingly failed to integrate them fully into itself, largely for fear of annoying the small minority who disapprove of them.

It needs to give the women much more recognition and support.

Time for change

It is not easy to see how, if ever, the Church will appeal to a larger number of people than it does at present, though the minority who still attend Church - supposedly about as many as actively follow football - do a remarkable amount of unpaid work in the community among many groups who need their help and often get great joy from their Church association.

But for the Church to be seen to be neglecting women, black people and gay people in a society learning to show more generous attitudes to all three groups, works to put further nails in its coffin.

Perhaps what the Church and its leaders need is courage, in the place of the present chronic timidity and desperate wish to please everyone.


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22 Jul 02 | Talking Point
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