Wednesday, 15 July 2009

What's missing?

There was a worrying lack of female voices in the plenary room before dinner.

Apart from the wonderful Alison Elliot as moderator of the Assembly, all the keynote speakers were from middle aged or elderly white men. And Alison's role is confined to keeping order rather than sharing ideas.

Why is this? Why are so many church meetings seemingly incapable of thinking that a woman, a young person, a person from an ethnic minority might have anything interesting to say? Surely the organisers could it have been planned better?

Sarah, the Youth President from my church is here as a delegate. I'd have much rather heard her thoughts on the theme 'Called to One Hope'.

Let's hope that we can hear a diversity of voices throughout the assembly.


  1. A small piece of input made by the youth participants of the Assembly can see on the floor between main entrance and plenary hall. There are two artworks, one of the young delegates and one of the stewards. Take a look, if you are at the place.

  2. David thank you so much for this post I really appreciate it. Our churches are full of women but so few of them have women leaders. I'm glad that in the UK both the Methodist Church and the URC have elected women leaders to their annual meetings. Only when our national churches change will the international situation change

  3. David,don't worry - there are many gifts and many fruits - speaking in plenary sessions not exactly the most important one. Is't it our task to listen carefuly. Even the Lyon meeting is Church happening and living, despite all the congress like set-up. Don't get dragged away by the political agendas. Maybe there is a prophet somewhere around. And Maybe she is selling vegetables on the market in tne Lyon streets right now.

  4. i agree with david. i think the role of a committee like the nominations committee is to properly represent different points of view, so the balance of gender/age/ethnicity etc should be a priority. With regard to the gender gap, there are i think 130 female delegates. if they are not being properly represented, perhaps they should speak louder to make their voices heard.

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  6. Don't get me wrong, my curator is a woman. I insisted she'd be more up to the job than me, after an equal vote.
    My priest is a woman, I proposed her.
    My Senior [~bishop] is a woman - I voted for her.
    I am not in a position make any statements about their age, yet they are not old ;-).

    I insist our task is to look after gifts and talents, and yes, omitted that above, for a wealth of views and perspectives in our discussions and decision-making.

    Aren't we seeking consensual decisions, anyway? We don't want the young /guaranteed 20%/ to start negotiations on coalitions with men and women, do we?
    The young would be the junior member in such coalition in any case... ;-)

    In my view it is simply overambitious to strive for personal representation everywhere. Just imagine the variety knowledge, spiritual experience in Europe. You are just tasting a small sample of it during the assembly. How do you represent it?

    Not to speak about our notorious individualism. (I, for instance, do feel underrepresented in Lyon - that's an indisputable fact.... so may be thousands of others)

    Voices heard:

    For a useful plenary discussion people who speak only if they have something relevant to say, not just to present themselves or their group, such people are true blessing. Confess: I have some gender bias here. My working conclusion is that ladies tend to be... wiser... in this, than gentlemen, in average.
    Let this finding dilute your concerns on lack of female voices, slightly.

    Working conclusion:

    An efficient and fruitful dialogue needs wise people who bring in all relevant views - simply because they are wise and sensitive.

    Isn't it a fact that those who the Church should bear in mind - widows, orphans, prisoners among the first - technically cannot send their delegates to assemblies, commissions and working groups? Is gender, age, denomination or minority status of those who speak for them of any importance?

  7. I reccomend reading Jakub's post attentively, think it's worth it.

    Raising awareness of the ecumenical movement among the "underrepresented" groups is by all means important.
    But is reaching some quota really the first criterion we should consider when looking for delegates?

  8. This has been a great discussion - sorry that working for the assembly meant that I didn't have time to follow up on it. Underrepresentation of women still concerns me though. Only three of the 15 peopleon the working group are women - they will have to be 5 times as wise as teh guys - I wonder which of them will be asked to take the minutes??