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Better training needed for women ministering in conservative Evangelical churches, poll suggests

30 July 2021

YouTube/St Paul's, Hadley Wood

The Revd Dr Kirsten Birkett gives an online address to St Paul’s, Hadley Wood, last year

The Revd Dr Kirsten Birkett gives an online address to St Paul’s, Hadley Wood, last year

TRAINING for women’s ministry in complementarian Evangelical churches needs to be improved, and proper pay scales should be developed for women in lay ministry, a survey commissioned by the Bishop of Maidstone, the Rt Revd Rod Thomas, suggests.

The survey, commissioned at Easter, approached 150 women in ministry — almost all lay ministers — in complementarian churches, and was carried out by the Revd Dr Kirsten Birkett, who is herself a complementarian priest.

The survey had been prompted by the small numbers of women coming forward for any ministry in conservative Evangelical churches.

Eighty-three women filled in the survey, most of whom were involved in pastoral work with children and families. Of these, 89 per cent said that they were satisfied in their ministries, but less than half said that they were well resourced.

Women were asked whether they thought that the complementarian stance of their church helped their ministry. Seventy-seven per cent were positive; some said that they were happy that they were not expected to do things that they were not comfortable with.

Of those who said that the stance was not helpful for their ministry, some said that training for women in ministry positions had been neglected, and others felt that their ministry was not valued.

Thirty-five per cent of respondents said that they had not been encouraged to undertake further training, and 51 per cent said that they would pursue such training if funding and work were available, and there was a job to which they could return.

Dr Birkett said: “It is a good result when collectively we are able to realise that some people are being treated unfairly, and to do something to remedy that. It is an opportunity to learn anew what the Bible says about people and relationships, and look again at how we are acting to make sure that it conforms with the Bible.

“In some cases, we will reject new trends — such as those that encourage sexual immorality. In other cases, we will rejoice that we can now uncover and change ways in which unnoticed sinfulness has been tolerated in the Church, just as it has been in wider culture.

“Certain aspects of how power structures can be harmful have been recognised in conservative Evangelical culture recently. I believe that the way in which women are employed in conservative Evangelical churches is in danger of being another.”

Among the recommendations of the report is a call for an acceptable pay scale for women’s ministry work to be developed by the Bishop of Maidstone. He is also urged to issue guidelines on how incumbents or supervisors should care for female employees, including items that those meetings should cover, such as pastoral care, which are separate from business meetings.

Bishop Thomas said that the survey had “clearly uncovered many ways in which leadership teams can better embrace women’s ministry and encourage ministers themselves”. The recommendations will now be considered by the Bishop’s Working Group.

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