The Revd Canon Dr Mary Medcof, a Canadian priest who helped form the International Anglican Women’s Network in 1996, has died. Mandy Marshall, the Anglican Communion’s Director for Gender Justice, pays this tribute.
Many women across the Anglican Communion know of Alice Medcof because of her consistent work at the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women. Alice was a regular participant ensuring women’s rights, championing the Christian faith and working to ensure gender based violence was on the agenda of everyone along with human trafficking.
Alice gained a degree in mathematics and worked in computer science before changing career and gaining a degree in theology. She was ordained in Toronto in 1980 in the Anglican Church in Canada at a time when many still did not accept the idea of women being priests and in ordained leadership in the church. She was a pioneer who demonstrated that women could be a priest and a mother at the same time and that you didn’t have to choose. After all, men had been priests and fathers for many years without question.
Alice was an advocate for women in the Anglican Communion. She, along with others, established the International Anglican Women’s Network in 1996, an official network of the Anglican Communion that reports to the Anglican Consultative Council on women’s issues. The network enables women across the Anglican Communion to come together, share with one another, support one another and pursue equality and justice for all. In 2003, she began what would be two terms as chair of the network. It was during this time that she annually accompanied Canadian groups to UN headquarters in New York to participate in the UN Commission on the Status of Women (UN CSW). Always encouraging women that their voices needed to be heard and to make sure that they had a place at the decision making table.
One of Alice’s legacies is the International Anglican Women’s Network which continues to work for equality, leadership and justice for women in the Anglican Communion. The current Chair of IAWN, the Venerable Carole Hughes, reflecting on the impact Alice had, said: “Alice inspired, encouraged and offered leadership across the network worldwide. We are so grateful for her presence and her courage.”
The Deputy Chair of IAWN, the Revd Lizzi Green, said: “at my first CSW I conducted a side event where I spoke about abuse. Alice was there. She was so utterly kind and fabulous when she came to talk to me afterwards that it genuinely helped change my life.”
Many women have sent appreciative messages for Alice’s life on the IAWN Facebook page including Mugisa Isingoma from the DRC, who said: “you have been so powerful in our group, during IAWN also in our several meetings, rest in peace mama Alice.”
The Revd Christina Rees added: “Alice was a great inspiration to me and helped to guide me through my first UNCSW. She was generous with her knowledge and friends and used her intellect, experience and courage to further God's kingdom on earth, with a particular care for women and girls. I’m sure she’s not ‘resting’ in peace but having a blast!”
Alice is survived by her husband Jamie, daughter Cathi Porciello (Arcangelo), son Bill (Suzanne), and grandchildren, Liam, Domenic, and Ella.