Transformations is an exciting stream of work designed to further the development of women’s ordained ministry in the Church of England.
Conference at Lambeth Palace, 2011
It all started with a conference held in September 2011 held at Lambeth Palace by invitation of the Archbishop. The aim was to reflect on women’s ministry and celebrate what women deacons and priests had brought to the Church of England. The conference was planned by a steering group representing NADAWM, DARC, WATCH and AWESOME. Each group was invited to send two representatives, and AWESOME’s were Lis Goddard and Rosie Ward.
There were about 50 invited participants, both women and men, and the day included some plenary addresses and discussions as well as time in groups exploring issues such as patterns of appointment, scripture and attitudes to women, issues for clergy couples, and different patterns of ministry available to women.
After the conference the main papers (Bible study, panel addresses and discussion, and summaries from each group) were gathered into a booklet which was sent to all the participants, and also sent by Archbishop Rowan to all the bishops. The initial steering group found itself taking on the role of furthering the conversations which had begun on that day.
The Archbishop was keen that more bishops should hear about the issues raised at the conference, and the planning group was invited to make a presentation to the College of Bishops in September 2012, outlining areas for encouragement and concern, and endorsing a proposal for research to be undertaken to look at some of the issues raised in more depth.
Bishops and Senior women, September 2013
A year later, in September 2013, a whole day of a College of Bishops’ meeting was given over ‘Women’s Ordained Ministry and the Transformations agenda’, to which one ‘senior woman’ from each diocese was also invited. The Transformations Steering Group gave an update on its work, along with presentations from those involved in research on
- lack of young women ordinands (particularly evangelicals)
- self-supporting ministry
- women leading larger churches
- flexible working practices (especially around maternity leave).
There was also an update on Women Bishops discussions, and groups were invited to discuss the questions: ‘what enables women’s ordained ministry to flourish?’ and ‘what are the barriers to women’s ministry?’
Since then, the Transformations Steering Group has continued to report back regularly to the College of Bishops. The research work done by Dr Liz Graveling was been vital, and when her involvement ended, arrangements were made for two senior women in the church to carry on looking at the issues with large churches, and HR policies affecting women.
Where are we now?
There are now ‘Transformations’ developments in a number of areas:
- Following the publishing of Liz Graveling’s research paper on young vocations in 2015, focusing on the lack of women coming forward, a number of day conferences for younger evangelical women thinking about ordination have been held. Lis Goddard has spoken at most of them.
- Another piece of research by Liz Graveling is on the lack of women leading large churches, an important issue for the Church, as the number of women leading large churches is very small.
- Other issues of concern to women, such as maternity leave and flexible working, are being taken forward by the HR department of Ministry Division.
The Transformations Steering Group continues to meet three times a year, and representatives from the 4 groups above have been joined by Black and Minority Ethnic women.
We have been asked to ensure that we keep our focus on women’s ministry outward-looking: how does all we are doing equip ordained women to enable the church to fulfil its calling and transform the country?
Papers and information can be found in various places.
The Church of England website has a Gender and Ministry page with a list of Transformations work and further links, including Liz Graveling’s research papers: https://www.churchofengland.org/clergy-office-holders/ministry/deployment/transformations.aspx
Transformations Presentation to the College of Bishops, September 2016