How and why attitudes towards women in leadership within the church have evolved or remained entrenched over the past 50 years

This research was carried out to analyse the attitudes and practices of the Baptist tradition and Church of England since the 1960s. Through library based research I have explored areas of sexism and discrimination against women in the Baptist tradition and the Church of England to ascertain whether there has been any movement towards equality and how and why this has come about, if at all.

The research identified that since the 1960s the ‘issue’ of women’s ordination has been progressing slowly but the many theological and traditional barriers have led the Church of England into a paradoxical situation. They are incrementally accepting women ordination, however, at the same time they are accommodating and valuing those who oppose women on traditional sexist grounds.

The Baptist tradition has its roots primarily in the ‘priesthood of all believers’ and this includes gender equality. This research focused on the Baptists in England since 1960s and identified the lack of structure and accountability of its many local churches to the Baptist Union of Great Britain, fails to establish or maintain a common theological understanding of gender equality. Many local Baptist churches are autonomous and therefore gender discrimination is difficult to challenge.

As a result of uncovering these barriers the research turned to look at the scriptural foundations of Genesis chapter 1-3, that underpins both the ‘complementarian’ and ‘egalitarian’ viewpoints, and formed the foundation for understanding the Church of England and the Baptists cultures, where a variety of congregations broadly agree with either the ‘complementarian’ and ‘egalitarian’ view, based on their interpretations of the Genesis chapters 1-3.

The research then looked at youthwork and the impact of gender discrimination has on young people and the expectations of young people for equality and justice have a major part to play in why they are not entering the adult church. This highlighted the need of the Church of England and Baptists to grow and evolve out of prevalent tradition and sexism in order to survive in this post Christendom and postmodern era.

Hazel Davis

Hazel’s bio is to follow…

Hazel graduated from Bristol CYM in 2014 with a BA (Hons) in Youth and Community Work and Practical Theology.