Women theologians barred

19 March 2009

by Bill Bowder

Incomplete: the line-up for the consultation for Anglican women theological educators ACNS

Incomplete: the line-up for the consultation for Anglican women theological educators ACNS

IT HAS emerged that two women theologians, from Pakistan and Tanzania, were refused entry into the UK for the first consultation for Anglican women theological edu­cators from across the Anglican Communion, held in Canterbury between 23 February and 2 March.

The exclusion of the women un­der­­lined a growing trend, where people were unable to obtain visas to attend Anglican Communion meet­ings, a source said this week. Last year, some bishops’ wives were refused visas for the Lambeth Conference.

In the run-up to the conference, a Congolese member of the Lambeth Bible-study team that was to meet in South Africa had first to spend three weeks in Kampala, Uganda, in order to get a visa to enter South Africa, the source said. UK visas from Tanzania were now processed in Nairobi, delaying the process.

In some countries, such as Egypt, visas were no longer dealt with by the British Embassy, but by commercial enterprises, who were less likely to be influenced by the name of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The Anglican Communion Office (ACO) had resorted to issuing letters signed by the secretary general, Canon Kenneth Kearon, to give to UK embassies abroad, the source said.

The importance of having all the relevant people at such meetings was emphasised after the Canterbury consultation agreed that “networking amongst women theological edu­cators both from within and outside the consultation was identified by all participants as of great significance.”

In a reflection on the meeting, the organiser, Suminder Duggal, com­munications assistant at the ACO, said that the participants had called for a network of Anglican women in theological education, beginning with a directory of all those at the con­sultation, and with a dedicated web­site.

Emily Onyango, from Kenya, said that in her country the profile of women in the Church was “very low, hindering their potential to make real changes”. It was hard in Kenya to escape “church politics, where there is a power struggle between men and women,” Ms Onyango said.

Women were present from Aotearoa/New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, China, Fiji, Hong Kong, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Mexico, Myanmar, Philippines, South Africa, Uganda, the UK, the United States, and Zambia.

The meeting agreed to develop mentoring; to “mainstream” women’s issues in theological education; to affirm Latin American theological educa­tion; and to call for a global Anglican theological academy for women in leadership.

The communiqué can be found on www.aco.org/acns/news.cfm/2009/3/3/ACNS4584.

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