New Dean of Women and Diversity

First published on: 2nd November 2018

Bishop Paul said: “When Canon Sam Nicholson’s time as our Dean of Women’s Ministry came to an end,  I consulted the female clergy of the Diocese for advice on whether they wanted this role to continue. The answer was “yes, but what about other aspects of diversity in the Church?”
A number of excellent candidates asked to be considered for this wider role of “Dean of Women and Diversity”. I’m grateful to them all. I was glad to offer the role to Amanda Bruce, and I’m delighted that she has accepted.

Amanda has already taken a creative approach to this brief and I know she will be a strong advocate for women in ministry and a powerful champion for diversity in our Diocese. My prayers are with her as she takes on this vital role for all of us."

We spoke to Amanda about her new role:

Why do you feel called to this role?

I have become increasingly aware of and disheartened by the exclusion I see in churches, of people with all sorts of conditions and circumstances. Idealistically, I have a passion for a church without edges and for whom there are no outsiders.  Too often we exile people to exist outside of ourselves – I don’t see God in scripture doing that and as his people I don’t believe we should either. Instead, in scripture, I read of a call that God places on us to extend a radical welcome, a welcome that goes beyond our own comfort, theology and opinion.  I can, of course, pose the challenge in my own church community but, as Bishop Paul invited me to be part of the conversation about this role, following Sam Nicholson’s resignation, it seemed that God was calling me to a wider sphere within which to challenge perceptions and enable a greater welcome, and so a bigger church.

What do you feel are the main challenges?

I suspect that the main challenges are the culture and theology that form our individual perceptions of who is and isn’t welcome and to what.  Often we aren’t even aware of our own biases and so disable people who have much to offer simply through how we act or the words we use without any knowledge that we are doing so.  This unconscious disabling of others seems to me to be the greatest challenge, albeit one that will take many years, and long after I finish this role, to change.  Sometimes, of course, our exclusion is very conscious and deliberate.  That lack of grace seems to me to exclude God from lives and people, actions which also need challenging.  This role is about carrying on the challenge to exclusion, conscious and unconscious, and furthering the grace that we can extend to others.

Why is having a Dean of Women still important?

Because we still have inequality in the ways in which women and men are welcomed and encouraged, in church, in our culture and in the world we are part of.  Much has been achieved towards equality, but we’re not there yet, and while difference shouldn’t make anyone unequal, there are still areas of ministry and work where a specific gender is seen as a disabling feature that excludes someone from the exercising of their gifts.  That still needs challenging and my role is one of challenge more than anything else. 

The role has been expanded to include a brief on diversity – what are you looking to cover and why is this important? 

Whilst a key element is the gender divide, it is wider than just about women.  This role will contribute towards Diocesan thinking and action in welcoming all, whatever their gender, ethnicity, sexuality and capacity.  This is a very wide-ranging role and not one that I can hope to do solely, particularly on a one-day-a-week allocation of time, so will include the gathering of various people to speak and act into the different elements of this role. 

What are your initial priorities?

Initially, I need to know far more about what work has been done practically, and the places and ways in which my predecessors have been working, so that I can continue to build on what has gone before. I will be working closely with Ellen Loudon, as this role fits into her oversight role.  I will be part of the processes and structures of the Diocese and Church, specifically the Diocesan Oversight Team and the Wellbeing and Appointments Team, to ensure opportunity for all, and specifically women, is available. Two initial ideas that Ellen Loudon and I have spoken of are a Women’s Day and Unconscious Bias training.  We have also spoken about various elements of the appointments process that need a watchful eye. This role will develop over time and is not set in stone.

How do people get in contact with you? 

I will soon have a Diocesan email address and that will be the best way to contact me. 

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