Thinking Anglicans

A Report on the Developments in Women’s Ministry in 2018

WATCH (Women and the Church) has published A Report on the Developments in Women’s Ministry in 2018. There are tables giving

  • the proportion of incumbents/incumbent status who are women
  • an overview of the extent to which women are visible and involved in a diocese
  • the numbers of senior women clergy in diocese
  • authorised readers (LLMs), diocesan secretaries, and chairs of diocesan synods

The tables are preceded by this introduction:

In 2019 it will be:

  • 50 years since women were first licensed as Lay Readers
  • 25 years since women in the Church of England were first ordained priests
  • 5 years since legislation was passed to enable women to be appointed bishops

In 2018

  • The Rt Rev Sarah Mullaly was translated from the See of Crediton to become Bishop of London (May 12) and the Very Rev Viv Faull was consecrated on July 3rd, and installed as Bishop of Bristol on Oct 20th. Now 4 diocesan bishops (out of a total of 44) are women. In December 2018 it was announced that Rt Rev Libby Lane has been appointed the (diocesan) Bishop of Derby.
  • Women were appointed to four more suffragan sees during 2018, so at the end of 2018 12 suffragan sees were filled by women (from a total of 69 sees).
  • The appointment of two more women to suffragan sees in 2019 has been announced.

Ordained ministry is not the only way that anyone, male or female, serves the church. Most of those who offer ministries of many kinds are not counted in any way. However, WATCH considers that it is valuable to get an overview of those who have particular responsibilities in diocese and the national church, and this year we would like to draw attention to The Church Commissioners.

This group is rarely noticed publicly, but the skills and decisions of its members are vital to the funding of nearly all that the Church of England is able to do. Some are elected by General Synod, some are appointed by the Archbishop or the Crown.

Currently, the three most senior Church Commissioners are women:

  • Ms Loretta Minghella is the First Estates Commissioner since the end of 2017
  • The Rt Hon Caroline Spelman is the Second Estates Commissioner (from the end of 2017), being a link between the C of E and the House of Commons
  • Dr Eve Poole is the Third Estates Commissioner.

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peter kettle
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peter kettle

I wonder whether there would be any interesting differences in women incumbents if figures were available for dioceses with full area systems?

Michael Mulhern
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Michael Mulhern

Now that all three historic orders of ministry are open to women, and we have some excellent female clergy (like we have some excellent male clergy), many average female clergy (like we have many average male clergy) and some really terrible female clergy who should not be exercising public ministry (just as we have some really terrible male clergy who should not be exercising public ministry), I wonder what difference it would make to the Church and the society we serve if, instead of issuing statistics to great fanfare accompaniment about how many women have climbed the ecclesiastical greasy pole,… Read more »

Charles Read
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Charles Read

The pointy of publishing the statistics is to gauge where we are at with gender equality. If it turns out that there are far more men than women in senior posts, we might reasonably ask if there is a reason for this. When a female priest and I once complained to a bishop about the way he had organised worship at a clergy conference (a way that we thought marginalised women clergy), the bishop exasperatedly told us: “Goodness me – I already ordain women. What more do the girls want?”. He did not get that gender issues go further than… Read more »