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Ministry to men — and the pitfalls of sexism

26 July 2013


From the Revd Rowan Williams

Sir, - The Revd Paul Eddy (Letters, 12 July) might be heartened to know that, when I attended a Bishops' Advisory Panel as an observer earlier this year, several of the candidates were actively engaged in a ministry to men. Nevertheless, his justifiable concerns about providing suitable mentors for younger male Christians, in particular, need to be held within the context of the debate about gender in the theology of the whole Church.

As a female university chaplain, I have been slightly surprised that the most active members of our newish Anglican Society - one of whom recently wrote an excellent article in these pages (Comment, 31 May) about the anti-EDL "tea party" at York Mosque - are all male. They don't seem to have a problem with relating to a female mentor; nor does it appear to have any dampening effect on their discovery of a faith they can call their own.

Further, I see a steady stream of female students and staff expressing disquiet with local student-orientated churches (the worst offenders, I am glad to say, are not Anglican) whose idea of ministry to women is focused solely on domesticity and subordination; in more than one case, the pastoral damage has been profound.

If the Church is to survive for future generations, we need effective ministry to all our young people, regardless of gender, which convinces them that every individual is made in the image of God, with a range of gifts to offer in the service of the Church. My worry is that, by targeting ministry along gender lines, we will actually perpetuate damaging stereotypes that are increasingly irrelevant to today's young people, and create a Church that is ever more polarised.

Anglican Chaplain, University of York
11 Newland Park Close
York YO10 3HW


From the Revd Philip Derbyshire

Sir, - We haven't had any confirmation candidates for a number of years. This year, four men (all 65-plus), called by me the "Senators", are being confirmed in September. We meet once a month and enjoy a good glass of wine, and explore everything from prayer to world faiths to poverty and technology and its effects on life (good and bad).

These men have a wealth of knowledge and experience, and have been loyal sons of the Church for many decades, and married to equally devoted women who "took the plunge" years ago. They have really wrestled with this level of public commitment, and they certainly keep me on my toes - no soft-option answers accepted.

Each man is being sponsored by another adult man in the congregation, and I think this is a key ingredient to this success.

We are also building a healthy Jubilee Junior Church and Family Service community (children aged three to eight, plus mothers and some fathers). We need all these for a healthy church life, I believe.

The Vicarage, Stewkley LU7 0HH


From the Revd Nicholas Bromfield

Sir, - In her review of Christopher G. Smith's book The Mystery of Reality: With its implications for love, religious faith and the courage to be oneself (Books, 5 July), Anne Spalding writes: "I found his exploration fascinating, but he barely makes links with daily existence. (Perhaps I should not be surprised at this: all his sources, except for one scientist, are male.)"

This may, of course, be tongue in cheek. But it looks not to be. What a wholly unnecessary, sad, and ridiculous thing to say.

The Rectory, Oakland Road
Harrow Hill, Drybrook
Gloucestershire GL17 9JX

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