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Saturday, July 24, 1999 Published at 23:13 GMT 00:13 UK


Church women call the shots

Church of England voted to admit women priests - but doubts remain

By BBC News Online's Alex Kirby

About 160 women are discussing how to achieve a greater say in the male-dominated Christian churches.

[ image: Still a male-dominated church?]
Still a male-dominated church?
Modelled on a similar event held three years ago in Austria, Britain's first ecumenical women's synod is the brainchild of an informal group drawn mainly from the Catholic church.

Although it is called a synod - the term used for high-level policy groups in many churches - this meeting at Liverpool's Hope University College, which will last for four days, has no official standing.

A distinctive agenda

The women attending do not represent their churches, nor are they delegates. They have no power to take decisions on their churches' behalf.

The synod's purpose is to try to elaborate an agenda that the organisers say women cannot develop within the structures of the churches themselves.

Items on the agenda include concepts of God, concerns for justice and the stewardship of creation.

Reverend Jean Mayland: "Sexism is as sinful as racism and has no part in God's kingdom or God's church"
One of the organisers, the Reverend Jean Mayland, an Anglican priest, told BBC News Online: "The synod is in a sense a reproach to the male-dominated churches.

"But we think change would benefit men as well as women. No one has suggested that we are being divisive, though some men have asked by what authority we are holding the meeting."

A handful of men have also asked to attend, and will be able to take part in the synod, though not to vote on the recommendations it decides at the end of its meeting.

These will be sent to the churches and other women.

The synod has the moral support of the main ecumenical body in Britain, Churches Together in Britain and Ireland.

But it will be largely self-financing, with each person attending paying £50 towards its costs.

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