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A new sexism in making C of E appointments?

14 March 2014


From Canon Paul Shackerley

Sir, - The letter from the three priests (7 March) is both disquieting and deficient in ecclesiology. Their rationale is defective on two accounts.

In discerning a suitable priest for a post, not only to the order of bishop, but in all ordained ministries and senior appointments, the process in the Church of England has become both competitive and discerning. Competitiveness and discernment present the Church with an unspoken restlessness in discerning vocation, because the motives of managerialism against ministerial dynamics compete in the selection process. This is regardless of whether interview panels and gatekeepers assert they are not.

As a supporter of the consecration of women to the episcopate, I find the view held in the letter incongruous with God's calling to us as priests and deacons. Its authors are merely colluding with the gatekeepers of senior appointments, who, in some cases, eagerly seek to appoint women rather than men to senior appointments. Is sexism against men the new sexism?

I want to trust and believe that the Church of England has an open and discerning process of selection for senior positions. This letter does little to cultivate trust in the Church or the Holy Spirit, and encourages neither discernment nor competitiveness.

Some gatekeepers of senior appointments may advertise that women are under-represented in senior staff, implying two subliminal dynamics at play in the selection process. First, men need not apply because the gatekeepers are looking to appoint a woman because women are waiting for preferment. Or, alternatively, women will not apply on the condition that they will be appointed not for their skills and calling by God and the Church, but simply because they are women. This means that the discerning process is neither competitive nor discerning, but a charade.

Such a condition will weaken the ministry of women rather than open the doors of equality. If a male or a female priest feels called by God to a senior appointment, he or she will be locked in a process of selection that is between a rock and a hard place rather than a prayerful seeking of God's will for their ministry.

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