A REPORT on gender equality in the Church in Wales caused
controversy for the Governing Body, with a heated debate spread
over the two days. It was not because speakers were opposed to
equality of the sexes. They objected to the interpretation of the
data, and were concerned at the recommendations.
The report was produced by a working group established by the
Governing Body's standing committee to review representation of
women in 2015. It came after similar reviews in 2008 and 2011.
Dr Gill Todd (Swansea & Brecon), who
chaired the working group, said that it was "very uncomfortable" to
present the report, because the "outcome . . . is so very
disappointing". "It is astonishing that the Church in Wales
continues to have a number of all-male chapters, some all-male
appointment committees, and some all-male decision-making
committees. It is not surprising, but very sad, that women . . .
feel voiceless in many parts of the Church in 2015. Why, oh
The report shows that, 35 years since the ordination of women,
the percentage of stipendiary priests who are women range from 30
per cent in one diocese to ten per cent in another.
Dr Todd said that the 2011 review showed that a number of women
had been appointed to senior positions within the Church, and there
had been "a significant increase in the number of area deans". But
the situation had worsened by the 2015 review, and "sadly, we heard
at the weekend of the move of Sue Jones, the Dean of Bangor, to the
diocese of Derby, leaving only one female archdeacon, and no female
cathedral dean in this province."
The proposals in the report, she said, were designed to "achieve
change and embed gender equality unequivocally in the Church in
Wales for ever; and, secondly, to make the Church in Wales
recognise the joy that comes from men and women working together in
God's name; and the pain that comes from continued discrimination
and bullying. A failure to recognise the gifts, calling, and
vocation of others is a failure to demonstrate Christlike
Bullying also played a part in persuading women to leave the
Church, she said. Many victims "vote with their feet, and leave the
organisation. Unfortunately, they also leave the bully to make the
next person's life a misery."
She was "taken aback" when a male priest told her that they,
also, were bullied by churchwardens, other church officers, and
other clergy. "The bullying of men doesn't make the bullying of
Seconding the motion, Canon Jenny Wigley
(Llandaff) said that the report painted a story "of a dearth of
women as role-models; of a squandering of their gifts and talents;
and of the exclusion of women from all sorts of areas of
responsibility and decision making".
Dean Roberts (Monmouth) welcomed the report,
but emphasised that he was opposed to "gender balance". "What we
need is the best person for the job, regardless of whether they are
male or female."
His point was echoed by the Revd Janice Brown
(Bangor), who suggested: "Maybe we don't have enough women who have
the skills" for the senior positions. "Are we going to put people
in post because they tick boxes, or because they are the best
people for the post?
"When I'm lifted up to be a bishop, I want to be there because
I'm the best candidate for that job, not because the Church needs
to have three [men] and three [women]."
The report was focused on "equality of outcomes" rather than
"equality of opportunity", Penny Williams
(Llandaff) said. "There is a danger of adopting this system of
equality, because, while it appears fairer, you are actually just
replacing one unfair system with another."
The debate was adjourned overnight. When it resumed on Thursday
morning, Sue Last (St Asaph) challenged Ms Brown's
comments the previous evening, saying: "The fact that the Church in
Wales in 2015 has reached the point that women priests can be
bishops is because other strong women have fought the fight. It
therefore saddens me to hear a woman priest suggest that getting
the gender balance right is just ticking boxes.
"Does she not accept that, if other women had not fought the
fight to be ordained on her behalf, she and others like her would
not be ordained priests today?"
Jenny Wilson (St Asaph) said that she would
prefer to see gender balance measured across dioceses rather than
individual ministry areas, as some ministry areas were quite
The Revd Jan Gould (Llandaff) spoke of the
"number of women who have left, or are about to leave . . . to
continue ministries elsewhere. Many of those women are close
personal friends; so I know their true reason for leaving. . .
Those women who have left this province, on the whole, didn't feel
valued by the Church they longed to serve with all of their
Terry Hill (Monmouth) said that he "thought the
gender battle was over" until he read the report. "There are
barriers that hinder the promotion of women. We need to seriously,
vigorously seek out those barriers and remove them."
The Revd Steve Leyland (Bangor) said that it
was "disgraceful that gender discrimination is still an issue". He
longed for the day when gender balance was achieved; but warned
that there was a danger, when that time came, that women could be
overlooked if men were needed to redress balance. "Positive
discrimination is still discrimination," he said.
"There are far more male clergy than female clergy; so surely,
then, out of the people that God may be calling to these senior
posts, there is a higher chance that God's person - out of those
that are eligible - is likely to be a man," The Revd Richard Wood
He wanted to know how many vacancies there had been for senior
posts, to determine "how few opportunities there have been to make
that change", and said that "seven years is nowhere near long
enough to change a culture when the obvious way to do it quicker is
to fire a lot of people."
The Archdeacon of Llandaff, the Ven. Peggy
Jackson (Llandaff), said that "there is a disconnect between who we
think we are as a Church and who we actually are. The difficulty
with statistics is that they show us that and we can't escape
The Revd Philip Bettinson (St Asaph) said that
it was "frankly unacceptable that we, as a Christian Church, have
people that are feeling bullied". He queried the effectiveness of
exit interviews for clergy leaving the Church, saying that they
were being conducted by "probably the same people who are doing the
Ms Brown moved an amendment to the motion which would have
removed any endorsement of the report's recommendations, while
calling for further work to improve the opportunities for women in
This was welcomed by some, including the Revd Anne
Golledge (Monmouth), who, "after being ordained for nearly
15 years, [had] never come across bullying or discrimination", and
who described it as "a positive way forward".
But it was opposed by others, including Sandy
Blair (Monmouth), the only male on the working group, who
said that it "rips out the heart of what has been proposed, [and]
puts serious obstacles to the progress that needs to be made."
"As Bishop and Archbishop, I must take part of my responsibility
for the Church in Wales being in the sad state that it is, in as
far as the representation of women is concerned," the
Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said.
But it was wrong to "speculate" about the reasons why some women
had left the Church, he said. "There are individual reasons why
people left the Church in Wales, and the Governing Body is not the
proper place to discuss them. There are issues of
He opposed the amendment.
The amendment was put to the vote and lost: 33 in favour,
and 76 against; with 12 abstentions.
The Bishop of Swansea & Brecon, the Rt Revd
John Davies, moved a further amendment. He said that removing the
words "and endorsing the recommendations" from the motion would
"not remove the teeth at all, because the rest of the motion would
still be there. And that would address a number of the points that
have been raised by people trying to support the amendment."
An attempt by the Archbishop to change the wording so that it
read "and take seriously the recommendations" was ruled out of
order: the chairman said that he could take only one amendment at a
Bishop Davies's amendment was passed with a substantial
majority, and the Archbishop did not seek a further amendment.
The Bishop of St Asaph, Dr Gregory Cameron,
described the preceding half-hour as "very painful". He said: "I
see the Church in Wales committed to wanting to see change on this
issue, but divided about the means by which we implement that
change. We may not be entirely happy with some of the changes, or
the methods for change that have been proposed in the report; but
it is vitally important that the Governing Body sends a clear
signal that it wants to see change on this issue, and that it wants
to see change quickly on this issue."
The motion was passed overwhelmingly:
That the Governing Body:
(i) receive and welcome the report of the Working Group on
Representation of Women in the Church in Wales dated April
(ii) accept that the Church in Wales has not achieved in the
last seven years the expected cultural change, the appointment of
more women into senior posts, and the greater involvement of women
in Church decision-making;
(iii) recognise that the equality agenda is the
responsibility of the whole Church;
(iv) commend the Report to the Province, dioceses, deaneries
and parishes for study and appropriate action;
(v) request the Standing Committee to allocate the
recommendations in the Report to the appropriate bodies for
(vi) request the Standing Committee to report back on
progress in implementing the recommendations within three