The work to facilitate and resource Anglican Churches around the world in the fight for gender justice will continue in the new look Anglican Communion Office (ACO). Last month, the Anglican Communion’s Standing Committee announced the results of a review into the operational priorities of the Anglican Communion Office and proposed that programmatic work should be carried out by the 41 member Churches (provinces), networks and agencies. Today, it was announced that, following a consultation, the work of gender justice would continue until the next full meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC-18), which is due to take place in 2023.
The ACO brings together three charities: the Anglican Consultative Council (ACC), the Anglican Alliance and the Lambeth Conference. The review affects only those ACO staff employed by the ACC.
The ACC has recognised the importance of advocating for Gender Justice for a number of years and Anglican churches around the world have been key campaigners in the fight for gender justice, including speaking out against gender-based violence. This work is recognised by many as part of the fourth of the Anglican Communion’s Five Marks of Mission: to “seek to transform unjust structures of society, to challenge violence of every kind and to pursue peace and reconciliation”.
The importance of advocating for gender justice is demonstrated by statistics from UN Women, which show that one in three women globally – rising to 70 per cent in some countries – will suffer gender-based violence in their lifetimes. Christians are not exempt – both victims and perpetrators can be found in Anglican churches, the ACO said.
“Sadly, the Church has been slow to address these issues”, Mandy Marshall, who becomes Project Director for Gender Justice, said. “Female Christian survivors, including clergy wives, have often typically been ignored, side lined or told to keep quiet for the sake of the ministry of the Church.
“Gender inequality and injustice is both a cause and a consequence of unequal power relationships, misuse of power and abuse of power. Within the Church, there is often still significant deference to clergy and an inability or reluctance to challenge clergy and episcopate who are potentially abusing their positions of power. This culture within our churches needs to be challenged and changed.”
Last year Mandy Marshall wrote an international resource on the impact of Covid-19 on domestic abuse, which detailed how churches can respond to the increase. It is available in seven languages and has been widely praised around the world.
Speaking about the newly configured role, Mandy Marshall said: “It’s positive to be able to continue to embed gender justice working with each province around the Anglican Communion so that we can shine the light of Christ into the dark places of gender injustice and gender-based violence.
“This is a huge role and takes the leadership and priorities of the Primate in each province to set a direction for transformation and change with allocated funding for gender justice. I look forward to connecting with others around the Communion to make gender justice a reality for all.”
Welcoming the move, the Secretary General of the Anglican Communion, Dr Josiah Idowu-Fearon, said: “2000 years after Jesus’ radical inclusion of women in his teaching and example, women are still unequal in many places – both in attitudes and practice. By changing attitudes, behaviours and church culture across the Communion – and from our Churches into the wider world – we can make life better: enabling reduction of gender-based violence and allowing both women and men to flourish and be all that God made them to be.
“Leadership is needed to help bring about positive change. Together, we can make a difference.”