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Church Women Converge and Connect

In this mad world where technology drives us harder every day and time seems to move faster every year, to dedicate two and a half days to deep discussion, study and prayer focused on Women in Leadership in the Anglican Church is a gift with rich rewards.

The recent Women in Leadership conference, hosted in Perth by The Most Revd Kay Goldsworthy AO, attracted more than 25 energetic leaders from around the country – and British photographer, TV producer and podcaster, Laura Watts who was interviewing for her popular ‘Birds Who Pray’ series.

The idea for a national conversation about this important issue came from the Archbishop after invitations to talk at different Dioceses in the past few years about women in leadership roles in the Anglican Church and to focus on leadership development, mentoring and identifying next-generation leaders.

‘It’s very important for women who feel there are still too few opportunities to take up leadership roles, compared with men, to connect; to focus on what’s required in leadership in the Church right now and into the future; and to identify the women we might look to as next-generation leaders’, said the Archbishop, who has now been encouraged to make the conference an annual event.

The Revd Gillian Moses was ordained several years ago and made the ‘reaffirming’ trip to Perth from Brisbane with her daughter, Rosemary, who is at the start of her own ministry, and nine-month-old granddaughter, Peggy.

‘People still see women in the clergy as not quite the full deal. In the Brisbane network, we had a woman in an assistant Bishop role which was great and we saw progress but, when she left, it went back to all men – it was pretty depressing’, Gillian reflected.

‘Being a school chaplain, I look at the school education system and how pathways are made for women as well as men and wonder why this doesn’t happen for women in the Church. It’s as if we’re going backwards.

‘When women are ordained in the Anglican Church, they are sent to do the busy work whilst the men take care of the career planning. Women are sent to the ‘hard’ parishes and dioceses which are struggling. We’re collectively having to prove ourselves. And that was part of the enriching discussion in Perth. We can’t wait around for other people to change this situation for us. We can no longer wait around to be noticed.’

The Revd Dr Elizabeth Smith, took on the ‘hard’ Kalgoorlie parish in WA’s goldfields at a particularly tough time, and summed up the sentiment of many when she said, ‘My chances of collegiality with a room-full of wonderful, feisty women are limited – so it’s been great to be part of this.

‘No profession can rest on its laurels’, said Elizabeth. ‘And while the Anglican Church has made progress in a lot of places, there are still places where women don’t function as priests or certainly not as bishops. You cannot rest on your laurels and you cannot take progress for granted.

‘The women at our meeting want to work very collaboratively; really want to bring other women along; recognise the diversity and not fall into the trap of saying all women are nurturing or all women should be healers. “Some of us are really good strategic people and some of us are really good nurturers and we need everyone’s differences to make it work.

‘I take away a sense that there is a crowd and a cloud, and a tribe of great thinking, praying women working for change in the Church. I might be on my own out there (in Kalgoorlie), but I’m not on my own theologically; I’m not on my own in prayer. I have a tribe and we’re heading in the same direction; we have the same problems; and we have a huge variety of capacities and interests between us. Yes. Solidarity. Sisterhood.’


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