Meeting urges more women leaders

Published May 1, 2006

Why are there not more women in leadership roles around the world, both within church structures and secular governments? That was one of the issues considered at the 50th United Nations Conference on the Status of Women, held in New York City Feb. 27 to March 10 and at about 125 accompanying events. Anglican presence was stronger than ever, thanks to an initiative by the Episcopal Church of the United States that brought at least two women from each of the 38 Anglican provinces to New York. Canadian attendees included Canon Alice Medcof, Elizabeth Loweth, Annette Graydon, Margaret Rodrigues, Marilyn Ashby, Celia Ahlstrom-Soderling and Angela Clark. More than 100 Anglican women attended daily worship, UN briefings, plenary sessions and caucuses and a forum at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine. “This is the only opportunity for Anglican women worldwide to gather and meet face to face,” said Phoebe Griswold, co-founder of Anglican Women’s Empowerment, part of the Episcopal Church’s office of women’s ministries. The Anglican Consultative Council (the worldwide Anglican Communion’s executive committee) held workshops on global education and leadership of women and linking faith and finances. Other discussions covered AIDS, violence against women, maternal health, human trafficking, the role of religion for good or for oppression and the role of women in development. The UN commission issued two statements at the end of the two-week meeting. One of them noted that women’s progress toward full participation in decision-making has been “slow and uneven” and that women continue to encounter challenges to their participation and leadership. The commission also supported the advancement of women in health, education and development and urged governments and society to include gender issues in planning and decision-making. Ms. Medcof, a priest in the diocese of Toronto, said she was interested in “overcoming Biblical and cultural obstacles to women’s leadership.” What churches can do now is “press for education of girls and press for curricula that … give equal place to women and men and recognize women as leaders,” said Ms. Medcof, noting that in many developing countries, village schools are run by churches. Ms. Griswold, in a speech at the St. John the Divine event, commended Ms. Medcof for keeping alive the International Anglican Women’s Network through a period of restructuring. Founded in 1996 as an “official network” of the consultative council, the network was moribund for several years due to lack of funding, however, Ms. Griswold noted in her speech the a new elected steering committee has been formed for the network. The network is intended to “bring the voices of women” to the consultative council.


  • Solange DeSantis

    Solange De Santis was a reporter for the Anglican Journal from 2000 to 2008.

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