The Methodist Church's Irene Hayes reflects on yesterday's International Women's Day and the opportunity to join online Solidarity Circles on equity topics, with a closing date of 20th March 2023.
"We often talk about the importance of equality; it feels fair to give everyone the same thing so that everyone has an equal opportunity to thrive. However this approach assumes that everyone is starting from the same place.
The theme of International Women's Day this year is #EmbraceEquity. Whilst equality and equity are often used interchangeably, they have very different meanings. Equity is about giving everyone what they need in order to be successful and not just the same thing as everyone else. It is a powerful idea that challenges us to look beyond what is 'fair' to what is 'just'.
But does the Methodist Church need worry about #EmbracingEquity? After all, hasn't the battle for women's rights in the Church been won?
I celebrate that the Church has been a pioneer in women's representation: women have served in nearly every leadership role within the Methodist Church and it is wonderful that again two women will serve as President and Vice-President of Conference from July.
However, I have heard it said (in jest of course!) that it is men who are a minority group in the Methodist Church. And whilst this may be true when you look at the membership numbers, there are still stories of women being treated less favourably than men. As a local preacher who is married to a minister I am aware that I am often judged differently to my male counterparts.
We live in a society where sexism and misogyny are unfortunately endemic. Recently it felt that every day there was a headline highlighting yet another example of injustice against women.
It is good to see the Church take a stand in this area and provide resources for churches to make a difference. The Thursdays in Black campaign supported by Methodist Women in Britain is one example. Another is the safeguarding team's Domestic Abuse Webinar series. The theme and stories shared in the 2022 webinar: The Hidden Victims of Domestic Abuse resonated with me. The childhood experiences of domestic abuse left me with many scars...as well as a strong sense of justice.
This is one of the reasons why I was drawn to apply for the role of co-ordinator for the Solidarity Circle for Women. I realise that the term Solidarity Circle will be new to many of you, so I'll explain a little of the background. Solidarity Circles are an important part of the Strategy for Justice, Dignity and Solidarity, approved at Conference in 2021. The aim of the circle is to give those with lived experience of a particular diversity (in this case that of being a woman) the space to share their stories, to discover how God is working in and through that diversity and to make suggestions to the Methodist Church about how the Church needs to change to create equity.
I feel a sense of hope as I start this new role. At the heart of Methodist belief is the idea that God's grace is offered freely to all people and I am confident that the Solidarity Circle for Women will model this in a spirit of hospitality, openness and welcome. The meetings will be online to allow contributions from across the Methodist Church in Britain.
Other Solidarity Circles are in the areas of Racial Justice, Disability and LGBT+. Maybe you would like to be part of a circle? If so, then I encourage you to apply. Please click here for more information. The closing date is 20 March 2023."