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Margaret Rose on ordained women's leadership

9/15/2006
[Episcopal News Service] 

The Rev. Margaret R. Rose, director of Women's Ministries for the Episcopal Church, speaks about the "Imagine: Claiming & Empowering Ordained Women's Leadership" conference October 2-6 at the Kanuga conference center in North Carolina and the leadership of Presiding Bishop-elect Katharine Jefferts Schori.

We're very excited about the Imagine conference which will be the first week of October at Kanuga Conference Center. It's a conference for ordained women about claiming and empowering ordained women's leadership. We've been very excited because there is, I think, a real need at this point to look at the leadership of women around the church. There have been wide strides with lay women in leadership in the Church. We're very grateful and excited for that and those lay women have led the way, but when we look at the statistics we see that there are not a lot of women in the so-called cardinal parishes and there are not very many women, still, in the House of Bishops. So this conference is about claiming the voice of women for leadership in the Church, of ordained women at this point.

We see this, in part, as one of the Millennium Development Goals. The Millennium Development Goals, of course, are really looking from the U.S. point of view out into the world, but this conference really is about empowering women to do what it is that they are called to do and to look at, in a larger sense, to look at the kind of church that they want to be leaders in. The third Millennium Development Goal is about empowering women around the world. This particular conference is about helping women to claim their leadership so they can be engaged in that work, not only locally but also in the global context.

Let me say a little bit about the conference itself. It's not just about having women take on leadership in the Church as it is. We are hoping that this week of gathering together will provide the opportunity for women to envision the kind of church we want to lead. What is it that needs transforming in the Church today? What are new models of church that we want to help bring about? What are the ways in which we can use our leadership to make the Church a better place, to make the Church a place where the gospel of Christ really can be preached, to make the Church a place where the mission of God, which is that of caring for God's people and especially those who are poor around the world, is possible? So, we're going to talk theology at this conference. We're going to talk about the kind of church that we want to be engaged in.

And then we're going to have peer coaching and it will involve, first of all, women beginning to envision the church that they want to have, that is to say, envision the kind of the church that we think will be good for the needs of the world, and then to find ways for women to articulate their own ability to choose leadership, to put themselves in those places where they will be chosen, so that in five years the House of Bishops will be a different place in terms of gender equality.

The General Convention this past summer passed a resolution which followed on the Anglican Communion Resolution 1331 which called for 50 percent representation of women on all decision-making bodies of the Church. In many places, we have gotten there in this Church, but certainly not in the House of Bishops. This would be one goal of this conference: to give women both the courage, the vision, the sense of purpose, the ability to run for bishop in those places where they feel called to run.

I'm excited about the future of the Episcopal Church and I'm excited about the role that women and also Katharine Jefferts Schori will play in it. I think of her election in some ways as cognitive dissonance. Sometimes cognitive dissonance can help people do things they might not ordinarily do and therefore might be a role for unity in the Church in ways that we did not expect.

We've noticed in our work with women in the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, in the last few years women have gathered from all over the Anglican Communion, and we have discovered that when the women come together, though they may disagree on many issues -- including the one that seems to be dividing our Church right now -- we have noticed that they also agree on the issues of feeding hungry people and survival and the question of AIDS, and the women who gather are working in unity and they are finding ways to make a difference in the world. I think Katharine Jefferts Schori has this same desire, that the work of the Church is the work of the world, and it's the work of caring for a world that is broken right now by too much violence, too much war and those are the things that bind us together. I think that she will be able to help us do that. When we argue so much about our internal issues, we are not able to do the mission that God calls to do. I think that Katharine Jefferts Schori, with her eyes on that clarity of mission about what God is calling us to do, will be able to lead us in a way that gets us out of some of the binds that we're in right now. At least, I pray so and I think that all of the women at the Imagine conference will pray so, and I am sure that the whole Church does, as well.