Keynote: Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin

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Keynote Address: Rev. Rose Hudson-Wilkin

Women's Ordination Worldwide
Now is the Time
First International Conference
Dublin 2001

French Version

This is, indeed, an historic gathering and an historic moment. It reminds me of another historic moment nine years ago. Only then, I was standing in Dean's yard - November 11, 1992, Westminster, carrying a poster with the words, Women, beautifully and wonderfully made in the image of God, words I adapted from Psalm 139 which I had read that week, reaffirming for me that I was created in the image of God. That both male and female was part of that special creation and that we were all called to 'represent' Christ.

The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin | Photo from The Independent

The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin | Photo from The Independent

Let me share something of my journey with you: born and grew up in Montego Bay, Jamaica and baptised as an infant within what was known as the 'Church of England' in Jamaica - later one of our bishops determined 'How can it be the Church of England in Jamaica'. With legislation it became, 'The Anglican/Episcopal Church in Jamaica'. I attended a little mission Church, attached to the St. James Parish Church, Montego Bay. As my faith deepened as a young Christian, I became more and more involved in the life of the church through the Anglican Youth Fellowship - AYF.

At approximately age 14 I had a real sense of being called but had no real way of knowing how this was to be expressed as there were no immediate female models of ordained ministry. Yes there were women - after all isn't the church full of women - if the women stayed away from the church internationally, the church would be in real crisis. I offered myself to be trained for the Church Army. In 1979 I began that training and returned to Jamaica to work. While there I became more acutely aware of the importance of the Sacraments in the life of the Church. But in the very next breath we were told that we could not receive the sacraments because we had no one with male genitalia - my choice of words, not theirs - to consecrate the elements. The city churches were well serviced, but many rural churches were starved of the very elements which were supposed to bring them new life.

That was when I really began to engage with the issue provoking others to think and to ask themselves questions about women's ministry in all its forms. On returning to live in England, I offered myself for the diaconate. Those in the system wanted to know why I wasn't caring for my husband and one child - so far. It was not a ' Here is someone offering themselves for God's ministry and Yes! she is a she!!' That was hard to swallow. I persevered and nearly two years later I was accepted in another diocese, no one questioning my legitimacy as a woman - and a black woman - to offer myself to God for that which He has called me.

Today, I am the Vicar of two congregations in the East end of London. Along the journey, I have faced rejections along with the welcomes. It's been a double whammy - woman - and black! But what do I do? First, I own the fact that it hurts like hell - no woman for my funeral; they would not want someone black conducting this service; after all it is not really normal to have a black woman. So how do I deal with it? Do I bury my head, get depressed, or worse yet, stay depressed about it? No. After acknowledging my pain, I remind myself that they are the ones missing out - ultimately, it is their loss! - and friends, I do believe this.

At my ordination to the priesthood, I described the experience as that of being pregnant and giving birth. First, there is all that waiting - it is not a passive wait; although the waters burst on that momentous evening in November, it took nearly a year and a half later for the child to be delivered. And it was no easy birth. It was a mixture of pain and joy. Pain because of what we collectively have been through - the women who never made it, who will never become an incumbent, who will be barred from a parish or a particular event, those who will never make it as bishops. Pain for those of us who are constantly told that because of your birth designation you are consigned to a particular place. Pain because of the inability of the whole church to rejoice with us but instead seem to focus on those who are unhappy about this new position.

I am delighted that this is an ecumenical gathering. It reassures me that we are on this journey together. In every denomination there are women who know deep in their hearts that they are being called before God to live out their baptismal call. Yet there are those in authority who are apparently safe-guarding the faith - so called gate keepers - who know more than God and who dare to say that they know the will of God - and women play no significant part in that! They fail to remember our Lord calling Martha away from the expected domestic role, to sit, listen and learn, thus being better equipped for the real task of living the faith.

There are those who, with reluctance, say - 'Well, I do believe in the ordination of women, but what I can't stand are those women who are strident'. Strident! what do they mean by this? If by 'strident' they mean articulate women who believe and feel passionately and will express their points of view, then, women be strident. Dean Matthews, a member of the Archbishops' Commission in 1935 was in no doubt when he said 'The arguments which have been brought against the eligibility of women to the priesthood are without value' [The Ministry of Women: Report of the Archbishops' Commission - Church House 1935]. Those who still try to find theological arguments to use are being dishonest. We may be told that we are strident for pressing the Church to keep this issue on its agenda, but we have been the ones who are the true guardians of the faith. We have taught it to our children in the homes, in Sunday schools, in our worshipping together and by being living examples. We have not picked up our marbles and left; we did not threaten the Church with schism; we did not threaten to stay home and worship. Instead, we have made the ultimate and painful sacrifice to stay. All of those great women who have gone before us and who were never given the opportunity to 'serve' as priests with the Church, we salute them and we thank them for blazing a trail for us to follow.

Against them at the time was not just a conservative Church and an old boys network, but a world that had not yet come into its own in receiving the skills of its women. It took a war to help society realise that women can do more than cook, clean and look after the children but that God had endowed them too with brains, gifts and skills so that they could be a real partnership to their male counterparts. Today we have the best of secular culture as an example. We are encouraged that in all walks of life women are quietly forging ahead and making their mark in places where once the old boys network would have stayed firmly closed. I am not saying that they have gotten it totally right - look at the outcry during the recent campaigning for the General Election in England re. the silent voices of women.

Other churches have come to the conviction that ordaining women into the full ministry of the Church is the right way to go. They have gone ahead with the ordination of women, and they are still learning to live together along that journey. Not so in the Church of England. We have enshrined in law a division which we may never be able to change. Delegates, I struggle and perhaps we all must struggle as to whether we should have accepted ordination with this condition attached to it. Somewhere deep in my heart I believe the church has begrudgingly obliged us by giving us only part of the carrot - the end bit - instead of the whole carrot. What this means is that some people may never have the privilege of experiencing the gifts of a woman priest. What a loss!!

Women, when we get there, we are not going to be the clones of male priests. We are going to be ourselves and we are going to make our offering according to the gifts that God has given to us. What has caused me some pain as well is to see intelligent women buying into the myth that women cannot be priests because of some 'accident of birth' - even those themselves who hold high office or are in one of the many professions which once barred them from that position. If we are saying it, then why do we expect the men to be different?

'Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant, talented, fabulous'. Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn't serve the world. There's nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we're liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others'. [Often attributed to Nelson Mandela, but actually by Marianne Williamson]

- The Reverend Rose-Hudson Wilkin, Friday, June 29, 2001 Dublin, Ireland

The Reverend Rose Hudson Wilkin


The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin was appointed to the role of Speaker's Chaplain in June 2010 by the Speaker of the House of Commons, Rt Hon John Bercow MP, in London, England. She is the Vicar of the United Benefice of Holy Trinity with St Philip, Dalston, and All Saints, Haggerston, in the London diocese. Rose combines this parish role with the position of Speaker's Chaplain and as Priest Vicar at Westminster Abbey.

Rose was born and grew up in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Commissioned as a Church Army Officer in 1982, her theological training took place at the West Midlands Ministerial Training Course at Queens Theological College.

She was ordained Deacon in 1991, and Priest in 1994. In 2007 she was appointed a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth II, making her one of only a few who are occasionally invited to officiate and preach at the 400-year-old Queen's Chapel beside St. James' Palace in London, England.

She is a member of the General Synod of the Church of England and has served as one of the Panel of chairs. During her time on the Synod she was one of the CofE's delegates to the World Council of Churches meeting in Zimbabwe & Porto Allegre.

She has served as Chair of the National Committee for Minority Ethnic Anglican Concerns (CMEAC) and of the Worldwide Committee of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK). She has also been a member of the Broadcasting Standards Commission (BSC).'s-chaplain/revd-rose-hudson-wilkin.aspx

WOW Member Groups at Dublin Conference 2001


Women's Ordination Worldwide

WOW Member Organisations - a selection of self-introductions for the WOW2001 Conference

This list is not exhaustive and was assembled October 17, 2001.



IMWAC was created in November 1996 during a meeting of leaders of twelve national organizations that had launched or were preparing to launch the "Kirchenvolks-Begehren" in their countries. This initiative originated in Austria and consisted in collecting signatures approving a call for urgent structural reform of the Roman Catholic Church and, in particular, the implementation of equal rights for women in the Church. Women should be admitted without any restrictions to all Church ministries.

A wide public opinion campaign started, centred on the "purple stole actions" . Women (and men) attend ordination ceremonies wearing purple stoles to exhort the institutional Church to overcome the discrimination that is practiced against half of its membership. Special "purple stole liturgies" are celebrated across the world on different occasions as in the World Day of Prayer for the Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church (March 25th, Feast of the Annunciation): the day of Women Deacons (April 29th, Feast day of St. Catherine of Siena): or Feast day of the Apostle to the Apostles (July 22nd, Feast day of St. Mary Magdalene). During the Special Assembly for Europe of the Bishops' Synod in Rome, (October 1999), an international group of women and men celebrated such a "purple stole action" in front of St. Ignazio, with great media success.

In Germany, the first official preparation course for women deacons has begun in 1999 with fourteen women. Members of IMWAC are among those who undergo this preparation. In Austria, an autonomous mutual training programme for presbyteral ordination of women has started.

In France, Cardinal Lustiger has - unwillingly - become an instrument of the Holy Spirit in support of IMWAC and "purple stole actions": for Lent 2001 he has asked those adults and young persons who were to be baptized at Easter, and also all others who would wish to do so too, to wear a purple stole with the inscription "Be confident; He is calling you" ! Elfriede Harth, spokesperson IMWAC



OCW was founded in 1993 by Marie Louise Uhr and Zoe Hancock to raise public awareness of and work for the inclusion of women into a renewed priestly ministry. OCW has approximately one hundred and sixty members and operates on both a national and regional level. The regional groups work independently as well as under the umbrella of the national group. Our newsletter, OCW News, is produced three times a year and is circulated among members and forwarded to the Australian Bishops, various clergy, religious congregations and libraries.

To commemorate the Pope's proclaimed Day of Vocations, - May 6 - OCW prepared a booklet of stories of six members called to ordained priesthood. Copies of this booklet were forwarded to the Pope and to the Australian Archbishops asking that the stories be read in a spirit of pastoral care and that the ban on discussion, dialogue and study of women's ordination be revoked. Judi Vassarotti, OCW.



We Are Church (Portugal) was launched in January 1997 when the five-point petition was made public. It was also sent to all bishops, monasteries and convents and to hundreds of parishes by post. The media coverage was overwhelming; it was included in every single main news hour of the major television channels. As the months progressed many manifested their interest in the movement but signatures did not flow in in large numbers, possibly because the idea of signing a petition to the Pope was so unexpected. About a thousand were gathered and five of us (including a parish priest) went to Rome to join the pilgrimage to present the petition. We tried to set up a network of focal points in various parts of the country and in that year produced three newsletters.

Over these years many events have been organized - meetings, lectures, articles in the mainstream press. Purposely we have never become an 'organization' with statutes, formal leadership, etc. We have organized lectures by Jacques Gaillot, Leonardo Boff, Thomas Plankensteiner and Lavinia Byrne; all of them have pulled large audiences and much debate. The media are particularly friendly to us - a lot of the journalists who cover religious issues in the mainstream press also signed the petition! In 2000 and 2001 we organized a vigil in a church (with permission from the Cardinal!) in order to pray for the ordination of women. Although media interest was again overwhelming, numbers actually present were disappointing.

A public opinion survey carried out by a reputable institution found that 71% of Portuguese saying they were catholic were in favour of women's ordination! Ana Vicente, We Are Church, Portugal.



WOC was established in 1975. Currently, we have over 2,000 members across the United States of America, and approximately 50 international supporters. WOC members are committed to creating reform within the Roman Catholic church, while working at a grassroots level to support the ordination of women to a renewed priestly ministry.

Following the example set forth by Jesus, who included women in his earthly ministry, WOC seeks to reclaim Christianity's early tradition of a discipleship of equals. WOC's mission is to support and affirm women's talents, gifts and calls to ministry.

WOC works to create a church environment that is inclusive of all people, free of all forms of domination and discrimination and includes the full participation of women in church leadership roles. We produce a quarterly newsletter, 'NEW WOMEN/NEW CHURCH', and undertake prayerful protests around the country. WOC also sponsors the Young Feminist Network (YFN) which supports young adults seeking to integrate their faith and feminism in today's church and world. Erin Hanley, WOC communications Director.



We Are Church (Austria) was founded in 1995 in a spontaneous action to organize a referendum of the People of God to demand five things from Catholic Church authorities:

  1. removal of the strict dividing line between 'clerics' and 'laypeople';
  2. ordination of women;
  3. optional celibacy for diocesan priests;
  4. priority of conscientious decisions in matters of human sexuality;
  5. humanization of church life.

The referendum was very successful and We Are Church Austria ever since has upheld these goals until they will be part of canon law and general church practice. WACA has some 2,000 members (individuals and organizations), conducts regular meetings, prayer and discussion groups, annual purple stole demonstrations on ordination day, also issues a bimonthly paper 'Wir sind Kirche' and regular press communiques on church events on local and world levels. Hubert Feichtlbauer, WACA spokespserson.



WOSA was launched on August 9, 1996 in Umlazi & Durban, South Africa by Dina Cormick and Velisiwe Mkhwanazi. It has a steering committee of seven: Marylyn Cason, Dina Cormick (newsletter), Rosemary Gravenor (treasurer), Thoko Makhanya, Velisiwe Mkhwanazi, Betsy Oehrle and Cherryl Stone. WOSA Newsletters are distributed free twice a year to 450 supporters - including several of our unsupportive hierarchy! Our annual get-to-gether (AGM) is usually held around March 25 or the Mass of Chrism. This year we had excellent press coverage for our stand outside Durban Emmanuel Cathedral before the Mass of Chrism. The publicity has also led to another round of vindictive personal attacks on several members of the steering committee - but we remain determined not to be intimidated.

Initially WOSA began an overt campaign for ordination with public debates and placard signs outside churches. We discovered that Catholics here are too nervous and conservative to openly and publicly support us, so we started a covert campaign with the newsletter! This has proven to be a far more effective campaign tool and our readership is growing. Dina Cormick, WOSA-WAC.


MARIA von MAGDALA, Germany
- Initiative for Equality of Women in the Church, Inc.

The German organisation is a Christian Women's Group for the purpose of improving the structural situation of women in the (catholic) church and of striving for a renewed church in which women and men are equal in all matters. (par.1 of the statutes)

First contacts were made at a church meeting in Aachen in 1986, and already by March 1987 the group Maria von Magdala was founded in Munster (Westfalia). There we articulated our identity and our aims.

Since September 1993, we are an officially registered organization.

We meet twice a year at different places for a weekend. We hold services, work on a topic and plan our next activities. In the meantime, several regional groups have been formed in Germany and there are also contacts with interested groups and individuals abroad.

Our aims are:

  • Legally secured equality for women in the church
  • Admission for women to all church offices and to all advisory and governing boards of the church
  • Abolition of the exclusive right of ordained persons to make official decisions
  • Equal opportunities and equal rights for women theologians in all fields and all departments of theology
  • An awakening and strengthening of women's consciousness of their dignity as being created in the image of God
  • Changing the exclusive male imagery of God - towards an inclusive imagery
  • The use of an inclusive language and liturgy
  • Breaking up and abolishing the long tradition of women's discrimination in church

All women who are willing to work toward the goals of the organisation are welcome as members of the organisation.

For further information: Susanne Mandelkow, Dorffelder Strasse 110, 59227 Ahlen, Germany.


Netzwerk Diakonat der Frau - Women Diaconate Network:

After the theological convention in Stuttgart in 1997, the nationwide 'Netzwerk Diakonat der Frau' was brought into being. Since 1999, this grouping has made women's preparation for diaconate possible through a 'Diakonatskreis' (diaconate circle), in a three year training programme. Fourteen women are now preparing themselves in a training programme similar to that of the men, who have already had a training process for ordination to a permanent diaconate since before Vatican II.

The training process contains three elements: working in the practical side of diaconate ministry, spiritual assistance and spiritual exercises, as well as six weekend seminars per year. The training is financed by donations and from the womens' private means.

With theological doubts about the women's diaconate being removed, the church will today have to 'repeal the exclusion of women from diaconate for the sake of the credibility of her saving mission'. This will 'set a necessary example for a redeemed co-operation of women and men in its structure and offices'.

For one and a half years I have been part of the first 'Diakonatskreis' for women (1999 - 2002). I am well aware of the fact that there will be no ordination at the end of the training. Going my way, I am confident that I am one of many who prepare the way for the strengthening of a diaconate-based church.

For further information: Angelika Fromm, Fritz-Kohl-Strasse 7, 55122 Mainz, Germany


Netzwerk Diakonat der Frau, c/o Katholischer Deutscher Frauenbund, Mauritz-Lindenweg 65, 48145 Munster, Germany.


Aktion Lila Stola - Purple Stole Movement:

The 'Purple Stole Movement' was brought into being in Mainz, Germany in 1996, in response to the second demand of the 'We are Church' movement for 'full equality of women in the church', taking English women as an example.

During the ordination ceremonies for diaconate and priesthood, women as well as men wear the purple stole as a symbol of hope for a changed church without the hierarchy of offices and where women, too, can work according to their calling.

The colour purple has long been the colour of the women's movement, but it is also an ecclesiastical symbol of changing one's ways, of repentance and of new beginning.

In Germany, this symbol has meanwhile become widely known and even some clerics are prepared to support it!

For further information: Angelika Fromm, Fritz-Kohl-Strasse 7, 55122 Mainz, Germany.



An Australian women's ordination body, it was founded on March 25th 1993 under the patronage of Our Lady and Blessed Mary MacKillop, to promote the 'Ordination of Women in the Catholic Church. In this year (1993), our first action was to initiate a petition on an inclusive priesthood. This petition was presented to Pope John Paul II on his visit to Australia in 1995 for the beatification of Mary MacKillop. On March 25, 1994 we commenced, in conjunction with international and local groups the 'World Day of Prayer for Women's Ordination'. Aside from initiating public prayer vigils, an essay competition for students and a student resource kit in 1996, our women's ordination publication 'Bread and Wine' was awarded a grant by the Victorian Women's Trust. In 1997 we participated in and distributed material at the Australian Catholic Bishops Inquiry on the 'Participation of Women in the Church'. Our membership consists of women and men, lay and clerical. Alistair Gillard.


BASIC (Brothers and Sisters in Christ), Ireland.

Who are we?

BASIC is an Irish-based network of women and men - lay, religious, priests who feel called to play an active part in building up a Church Community which is freed from the sin of sexism and healed from the divisions between men and women.

What do we believe?

BASIC believes in a Church which affirms, proclaims, lives out and makes visible sacramentally God's creation of women and men as equal partners and the Good News of their reconciliation and unity in Christ.

What is our Mission?

BASIC's mission is to foster women's vocations to a renewed priestly ministry and to bring about the ordination of women in the Roman Catholic church, through prayer and action.

BASIC was founded in 1993. Its first initiative was to launch a petition calling for 'all ministries and offices in the church to be equally open to both men and women, and for all sexist structures and regulations to be abolished'. 22,000 signatures were collected and were sent to all the Irish Bishops.

In 1995 BASIC held a seminar 'Women - Sharing fully in the Ministry of Christ' at which the main speakers were Mary McAleese, now President of Ireland, and Reverend Enda McDonagh, the now retired professor of Moral Theology at Maynooth. Three hundred people attended. The proceedings have been published, under the same title, by Blackwater Press.

BASIC then produced a short pamphlet 'Women - called to be priests - 7 Questions for reflection, discussion and discernment', launched by Dr. Gabriel Daly, OSA. 50,000 copies were distributed, largely outside churches around the country.

Then in 1998 BASIC commissioned an oil painting by renowned Polish artist Bohdan Piasecki: 'THE LAST SUPPER'. It features Jesus celebrating his last Passover meal in the company of men women and children. It was reproduced on the cover of the National Catholic Reporter for Holy Week 1999 accompanied by an article from Sr. Joan Chittister OSB. BASIC has since sold thousands of prints and postcards of the 'LAST SUPPER' to all parts of the world.

As a member of WOW, BASIC was chosen to host the First International Conference to be held in Dublin in June 2001. The group has almost 180 members, with a few abroad. Members keep in touch through the newsletter published three times a year.

BASIC has celebrated the World Day of Prayer for the Ordination of Women (March 25, Feast of the Annunciation) since inception in 1994. It is also affiliated to the European Network of Church Reform Groups.


Contact:Address:456 Merville Garden Village, Newtownabbey, Co. Antrim, N. Ireland, BT37 9TX.




CNWE was founded in Canada in 1981 as Canadian Catholics for Women's Ordination. In 1989 it changed its name to reflect an awareness of the interconnectedness between issues in church and society. Its mission is...

  • To enable women to name their giftedness and from that awareness to effect structural change in the church that reflects the mutuality and co-responsibility of women and men within the church.

CNWE aims to:

  • Identify, understand, communicate and celebrate the history, talents skills and contributions of women
  • Raise consciousness about the nature and consequences of patriarchy in the church
  • Foster solidarity among women, especially those who are experiencing alienation within the church
  • Communicate with women in other religious traditions and with secular women's groups in order to promote greater awareness of issues concerning women
  • Encourage the people of God to retrieve and name the feminine aspects of God

CNWE is a national movement that operates using a federated model of local groups as well as individual members where no local group exists. A National Work Group is chosen at the Annual General Meeting to facilitate and support the work of the organisation. The NWG chooses from within the group a co-ordinator, secretary and treasurer. Local groups arrange regular programs and inclusive ritual and organise actions such as 'Purple Stole' and 'Women in Black' vigils. Each year a different local group is responsible for planning the annual conference.


e -

Co-ordinator Veronica Dunne.


PHOEBE - Japan:

Encouraged and inspired by WOW to which meeting one member was invited in London in October 1998, the group was formed in March 2000 in Tokyo. About a dozen women joined; lay and religious with diversity in age, work and nationality. A feminist theologian, teachers of women's study, social scientists, peace study activists, journalists etc. We meet every month to study about the women in the early Church, to share the information we get as to the women's participation in the Church and to exchange our opinions.

Contact: Naoko Iyori, e - mail:



CATHOLIC WOMEN: KNOWING OUR PLACE in New Zealand sent warmest greetings to the delegates at the WOW International Conference. You are all prophets and we would have loved to have sent a New Zealand representative to be with you but this has not been possible. Despite the geographical distance we are spiritually close to you in prayer.

Slowly but surely there have been small changes in attitude to women's ordination and your conference is important in affirming Catholic Women around the world. We look forward in hope and prayer to the day when the institutional church places women and men side by side and employs the fullness of human gifts and abilities in all facets of church leadership, management, operation and ministry.

You may like to know a little about us. We began, as did many grassroots Catholic organizations, when twelve women met in June 1994 to discuss the Pope's letter on ordination of men alone. The group organised a public meeting in August 1994 at which there was standing room only. Two hundred and fifty people attended and made suggestions with respect to future action. As a consequence, a Pilgrimage of Hope was held on 18 September 1994 when a few hundred people met at the Christchurch Cathedral and walked away to pray elsewhere, symbolising the exclusion of women by the institutional church. The Pilgrimage was accompanied and filmed by two television crews, giving national attention and causing ongoing debate.

We look forward to the day when it will be possible for us to walk back again.

Meanwhile, we exchange newsletters with you, our international friends, and hold several main event a year with liturgies which include and embrace all those present in the love of God our Mother and Father.

We pray that your voices and your prophecies will be heard afar. Blessings and peace to you all. Sheryn Gillard Glass <> on behalf of Catholic Women: Knowing Our Place.