Noting that women make up just six percent of the Anglican Communion's top decision-makers, the International Anglican Women's Network urged at its February 22-27 meeting in New York City that the worldwide church study the role of women and find ways to empower female leadership.
Representatives of 30 of the 38 Anglican provinces (national or regional groupings of national churches) and the network's steering committee met in person for the first time since the network, which represents 40 million Anglican women in 165 countries, was formed in 1996.
They said the network supports implementation of a resolution passed at the 2005 meeting of the Anglican Consultative Council, the communion's main legislative body. Resolution 13/31 recommends "a study of the place and role of women in the structures of the Anglican Communion" and requests that each province consider the establishment of a "women's desk." However, such a study has not yet taken place and only a few provinces have women's desks or departments, said Kim Robey, program officer, Women's Ministries and Leadership, at the Episcopal Church.
The council also, in the same resolution, acknowledged that one of the UN's Millennium Development Goals is "equal representation of women in decision-making at all levels" and requested that its standing committee identify ways in which that goal "may appropriately be adapted for incorporation into the structures" of the communion.
Three of the communion's four "instruments of unity" are open only to bishops: the Lambeth Conference, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the primates' meeting. In many Anglican provinces, ordination is not open to women. The Anglican Consultative Council (the fourth instrument) has members who are bishops, priest and laity.
The network meeting's final statement is available here.