Churches are being urged to take steps to make their congregations safe spaces in which women can flourish, after new research released on International Women’s Day revealed that 62 per cent of women have experienced sexism in the UK Church.
The Minding the Gap report, published by the Sophia Network, found that institutional sexism was also seen as the number one barrier for women in church leadership in the UK, identified as such by 53 per cent of respondents in the survey.
The report also highlighted a number of other barriers facing women in leadership in the Church, including a lack of female mentoring and leaders (46%); and a lack of theological understanding of women and men working in partnership for the gospel (42%).
The report surveyed more than 1,200 women about their experiences within church communities in order to paint a comprehensive picture of what it is like to be a woman in the Church in UK & Ireland.
Following the survey findings, which will be launched in parliament on International Women’s Day (Thursday, 8 March), the Sophia Network is now encouraging churches to sign up to its ‘Minding the Gap Manifesto’ – eight commitments to making their congregations places of gender equality.*
Dr Claire Rush, vice president of Girls’ Brigade International and vice-chair of the Sophia Network, said: “The #metoo campaign shows that gender equality has still not been achieved, and it’s heartbreaking to see that the Church, which should be a liberating and hope-filled community, remains a place in which some women are experiencing sexism.
“Our hope and prayer is that leaders will take up the challenge posed by our research to make their churches spaces in which women can flourish by being released into their God-given giftings, becoming all that they have been created to be.”
The Sophia Network was started in 2007 and exists to empower and equip women in leadership, and to champion the full equality of women and men in the Church.
Rev Vicky Thompson, chair of the Sophia Network, said: “Many assumptions are made about women’s experiences within and relationship to the Church. But we are not aware of previous research that has tried to capture the range and breadth of women’s experiences – including the highs and the lows.
“Although we were disappointed that so many women have experienced sexism, we were heartened to see some positive results about women’s experiences of church – particularly the support they have received in their leadership journeys from male leaders.
“We hope this research will provide a useful tool to pave a way forward towards the full equality of men and women in the Church for the sake of the gospel. We are hoping the findings will also shape the future direction of Sophia.”
To download the Minding the Gap report, visit mindingthegapuk.com
Follow the Sophia Network on Facebook or Twitter: @sophianetwork
Minding the Gap: A snapshot
62% of women have experienced sexism in the Church
75% identified as egalitarians
85% were in leadership (paid and voluntary) in their church
46% are mentoring another woman in their church
86% feel like valued members of their church
42% said a lack of theological understanding of women and men working together for the gospel was a barrier to women in leadership in the Church
75% feel they have a strong sense of what their God-given gifts are
*Minding the Gap manifesto
- We believe that women, as well as men, have inherent value and dignity because they are made in the image of God.
- We will call out everyday sexism in our church wherever it takes place and challenge each other to do better.
- We will work hard to ensure that no woman in our congregation feels ‘less than’ just because she is a woman.
- We will strive for fair representation of both men and women preaching God’s word in our pulpit.
- We will tell stories of the female heroes of the faith – Bible characters, theologians and church leaders – to provide our congregation with a holistic picture of the kingdom of God.
- We will encourage women in our church to step up into positions of leadership.
- We will be intentional about putting in place training, equipping and mentoring for those women who feel called to lead in our church.
- We will commit to championing the fully equality of men and women working together for the sake of the gospel.
Will you sign up to the Minding the Gap manifesto?
Let the Sophia Network know on social media #MindingtheGap18