"Celebration of Women in Ministry" held at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco, July 12, 2014
Cast Wide the Net was first envisioned as a practical step toward closing the gender gap in rectorships and other church leadership positions. The “Called to Serve” study (2009) and Church Pension Fund data have shown that over the past two decades there’s been little change in eliminating gender disparities in clergy positions, compensation, and other aspects of deployment. A search toolkit was seen as a way to offer resources for women entering search processes, and also to offer help to search committees for preventing gender biases from affecting their processes and outcomes.
Spearheaded by the Executive Council Committee on the Status of Women (ECCSW) during the 2009-12 triennium, a resolution to develop the toolkit was passed at the 77th General Convention. The Board for Transition Ministry and the ECCSW, who were assigned to bring it to life during the 2012-15 triennium, collaborated as a joint task force to build a resource hub that could offer and share a variety of resources across the church.
Although the original focus was on women and leadership, resources also are being developed for women in the early years of their ministry, women in nontraditional ministries, and for women who represent additional forms of diversity. Anyone is welcome to make use of these resources and to suggest others that are needed.
Continuing the toolkit into the future
A resolution to continue work on the toolkit and to make resources widely available over the 2015-18 triennium has been proposed for the 78th General Convention. Our hope is to offer multimedia, networking, interactive tools and a range of resources that speak to women’s interests and to anyone seeking to eliminate gender bias from the search and selection of talented clergy for church positions.
The toolkit alone will not erase gender disparities. But it will help raise consciousness as to how we make the best and highest use of all our clergy talents and gifts. Gender as an attribute of our humanity is a precious gift for our common work together for the mission and ministry of the church.