The Church in Wales

IAWN Contact: The Revd Mary Stallard

Mary Stallard Wales I am Mary Stallard, a priest in the Church in Wales.

The Church in Wales is a bilingual and disestablished sister of the Church of England. We are a small Province with six dioceses. We are led by our Governing Body, seven Bishops and a financial decision-making body - called “The Representative Body” but which has long strides to make before anyone could possibly claim that it is well named, especially in terms of its gender balance!

I have had various roles in the Church in Wales. My husband Andrew and I were the first stipendiary, married and both ordained Anglican couple in Wales. Before ordination I was a high school teacher. I have worked in parish ministry, in theological education and in selection and formation for ministry. I have been a Bishop’s chaplain and a Residentiary Canon at our Cathedral in St Asaph. I am currently Co-Director of a Centre for Religious Education and Faith Development and a school chaplain at Wales’ only Catholic and Anglican High School in Wrexham. I still offer an assisting ministry in various parishes and I also contribute to religious broadcasting in Wales and across the UK with the BBC.

In the 23 years since I was ordained I can see that there have been many changes in our Church and throughout Wales. There are lots of amazing and talented women in the Church in Wales, but they have not always been treated with equality. Archdeacon Peggy Jackson, who has been such a great gift to Wales, came among us from the Church of England as Archdeacon of Llandaff a few years ago and she has helped us to review and document the progress of women in leadership in our church.

In a brilliant, bi-lingual, publication called “Crossing Thresholds”/“Croesi Trothwyau” instigated by Archdeacon Peggy, the role of women in leadership in our church is traced.

English – Crossing Thresholds

Welsh – Croesi Trothwyau

From Eleanor Carbonell, the first Anglican deaconess licenced in the Province in 1884 there is an amazing legacy shared with other Deaconesses, Deacons, Church Army Sisters, Readers, prominent lay women and supportive men and women in and out of holy orders who have together prayed, worked and kept the faith enabling our Church to finally declare itself open to the possibility that women might one day be elected as Bishops in our Province. The Canon (or legal statement) that allows for this to happen came into effect in September 2013 and the work for equality did not stop then!

There is much to do to pave the way for more equal leadership in our Church. Many of us have the heart-felt concern that until we can demonstrate our commitment to practising what we say, we believe then our public voice is limited in speaking up for others who are vulnerable in society.

Since 2006, inspired by the work of Anglican Women’s Empowerment (AWE) and the International Anglican Women’s Network (IAWN) at the United Nations, the Church in Wales has been monitoring the representation of women at all levels in its structures. Early reports of the monitoring group indicated that we were beginning to make progress towards becoming a more gender-equal church. However, more recent reports have indicated that such progress is far from steady.

In 2015, we established a group called ‘MAECymru’. (Cymru is the Welsh word for Wales and MAE stands for ‘Merched a’r Eglwys’ –  women and the church. MAE is also an acronym for ‘Ministry and Equality’.) This group aims to support the equality debate for women and men, lay and ordained, particularly in the Church in Wales and also beyond this. The group seeks fairness and well-being and a vision rooted in scripture that enfolds God’s will for the world.

We are growing the membership of this group across Wales and through it we hope to continue to educate, inspire and empower all those who are keen to work for equality. We held a launch day and a wonderful day conference in 2016 at which we heard from Bishop Libby Lane from the Church of England, Hilary Cotton, Chair of WATCH, and Revd Terrie Robinson, Director for Women in Church & Society at the Anglican Communion Office.

The website for MAECymru is here.