Great joy, today, as I welcomed the Ven. Karen Gorham as new Archdeacon of Buckingham. This appointment, created in the eleventh century, has now for the first time been filled on an equal opportunities basis! I wonder about the Ecclesiastical Women’s Leadership Labyrinth. How can those of us with headline responsibility for the wellbeing of the Church engage seriously with that?
We inaugurated Karen’s ministry near the Dove window in All Saints’ High Wycombe. In 1896 Frances Dove (1847-1942), educationalist, founded Wycombe Abbey, the highest performing academic school in Britain. As a woman, she was blocked from election as mayor of Wycombe, and retaliated in 1933 with a stained glass window, designed and executed by women, illustrating the core contribution of women to the English church over 1,000 years, strategically placed near the council pew!
All Saints’ is an interesting reference point in the story of women's ministry in England, as home parish of the first English woman priest in modern times, the Reverend Joyce Bennett, ordained in Hong Kong in 1970.
Plainly women's ministry began way before the Chatterly Trial and the Beatles' first LP. But what have we done with women’s senior leadership? However much more faithful and realistic, however less blokey C of E culture may be this century, to what extent have we managed to match gifts to calling and potential, and to what extent, and why, do we still tolerate a lot of idiotic Father Ted gender stereotyping?