Let’s lose the Labels!

First published on: 8th March 2024

A message on International Women's Day from Rev. Canon Amanda Bruce, Dean of Women & Diversity. 

Tell us a bit about what you do in your role as Dean of Women & Diversity? 

As Dean of Women and Diversity within the Diocese, my role isn't primarily pastoral, but one of advocacy and challenge. Since my appointment in 2018, I've focused on making appointments paperwork and language more accessible to women, appointing a Racial Justice Officer, Mrs. Jennie Taylor, committing more resources to racial diversity and access, ensuring continuity of disability support, and promoting inclusivity across institutional structures and processes. I actively participate in Bishop’s Council, the Diocesan Oversight Team, and Diocesan Synod. Additionally, I've initiated Unconscious Bias Training and Diversity Surveying for St James’ House staff, Cathedral staff, and senior diocesan staff, supported the implementation of LLF, and developed policies to support role fulfillment during times of change, which are implemented by our HR team alongside the Archdeacons. As a 1-day a week role, it has been a busy few years.


What are the challenges still facing women within the church and society how can we address this? 

We need to continue to make our paperwork and policies work for everybody, so that everyone has an equal opportunity to be fully involved in our churches, mission and care in the way that God calls them to be.  We have to ensure that the way we speak, look and communicate doesn’t exclude anyone.  We need to look closely at how the variety of theological and ecclesiological stances include or exclude people and why, whether that is ok or not, and how we change it.   

Much of this, though, is down to culture and will only change if those entrenched in particular ways of working and thinking are willing to hold less tightly and allow others in, maybe even people they haven’t been expecting God to call or use. 

Nationally, the 5 Guiding Principles are still a problem, because even as they apparently protect some, they enshrine the prejudices that exclude others.  This issue is a national one and recognised by the relevant groups that work nationally to ensure equity for all.  The same could be said of the Vocations work, that there is a focus on academic excellence that is exclusive and needs questioning. 

Our clergy housing, buildings, comms, care and policies all need to be continually looked at and as we work to involve people we all need to be aware of the inclusion needs of each and every person.  This is not a 1-woman job, this is a culture change across our whole institution.  My role of advocacy and challenge are simply a starting point, hopefully a provocative one at times. 


The theme for this year’s IWD is  'Inspire Inclusion' do you have a message for the Diocese on this? 

Let’s lose the Labels! 

As I interviewed for the role of Dean of Women and Diversity, I spoke about the labels we all wear.  I hate being given a label to wear at training events and the like.  I’d rather people spoke to me than tried to read me.  Although, even without sticky labels, we try to read each other.  We give people labels to wear based on physical attributes, the things we see them doing or not, the clothes they wear, the way they interact with others, labels of gender, sexuality, ability, age, character, socio-economic distinctions, education, intelligence.  Yet our labels are always wrong, there is always more to a person than what we can see, interpret or read into someone.  I’d ask us to all talk to each other more, to be curious about those who you are starting to label as ‘different’ and get to know the fascinating people around you rather than rely on visual cues and assumptions.  Don’t reduce people to a set of labels, they’re a child of God and far more valuable than a few mental-sticky labels you attach to them! 

Let’s get to know the person, not lean on the labels! 


Final thought

I would like to pose a question to every individual in our diocese: How can we love more, judge less, and thus include others more fully in our lives, work, and ministry? By doing so, we strive to bring more of the Kingdom of God into existence here in the Diocese of Liverpool and within our local churches.

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