President Karin welcomed our speaker for the evening, Christina Rees, who is on the General Synod and was, until earlier this year, Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church). She has regularly appeared on Radio 4’s Thought for the Day and Prayer for the Day. She has also appeared on NewsNight, Panorama, Big Questions etc . Christina campaigned for the ordination of women in the Anglican Church and WATCH was started in 1996 as a forum for promoting women’s ministry in the Church of England and to provide a national network and support group for women priests.
This summer she will attend the Synod where they will discuss opening up the possibility for women to become Bishops. Many women have come into the church since 11th November 1992, when the church agreed to women priests, but ‘Religion’ is not a neutral place for women and she considers they have had to put up with a history of discrimination, and we have a background of centuries of women being viewed as the flawed half of the human being.
Aristotelian biology proposed that women were just incubators and not good ones if they had girls. Tertullian believe that women were the ‘devil’s gateway’. Thomas Aquinas believed that men who failed in this life would come back as women, and that women would come back as beasts. Augustine brought a move towards women by saying that in spirit and mind, women can bear the image of God. However, in reality 15/16th century wise women and herbalists were treated as witches.
The first ordination of a woman was in 1994 and in the first few years after that, women priests faced people saying that they were witches and should be burnt at the stake. Several priests were overheard saying that they would sooner ordain a cat or pork pie than a woman.
Christina pointed out that the church runs on an impressive group of volunteers, who every year, raise and give away more than is raised by Children in Need. Christina knows that Women in the Church have to move mountains, and every time the Church of England says ‘you can’t do that’ we have to challenge and ask ‘why’. Women should be allowed to work on an equal status with men in the church, not to take over but to work alongside them.
Christina works with the Lee Ti Moy Foundation which gives support and education to women within their own country. Half of the women helped by the Foundation go on to be church workers or social workers. In 2003 she visited Uganda. At that time children were being sacrificed to bring good luck on building projects. Christina held two conferences inviting women to come to share what they need to be able to do their work. These were the women who were speaking out against genital mutilation of girls, of the need for education and literacy in local communities.
Questions followed covering;
– the support for women bishops by the Anglican bishops
– will there will be movement in other Christian churches if women bishops are allowed in the Anglican church,
– the concern from women themselves, worried about the prospects of women bishops,
– are there women ready to be come bishops
IPP Pam gave a vote of thanks and said that we had been privileged to hear Christina speak.