Four decades after the first women were ordained in the Anglican Church of Canada, much progress remains to be made, say female priests who profess to have struggled with everything from unequal pay to inappropriate touching by some parishioners.
From November 28-December 1, more than 40 female priests from the Anglican Church of Canada gathered at St. James Anglican Church for "Unmasking the Feminine," a conference marking the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women in the church. For participants, the event seemed an occasion both for celebrating the achievements made in advancing the rights of women and being mindful of the challenges many say yet remain.
"The progress we've made over those years has made life significantly better than it was for our mothers and grandmothers, but oh my, it has been a very hard row to hoe," said Canon Judy Rois, executive director of the Anglican Foundation of Canada, in a keynote address opening the event. "All of us know the strain of a white collar around our neck, and all of us know the sting and the pain of opposition. But thank God, thank God, we also know the indomitable spirit of hope."
"We have much to be grateful for in Canada," Linda Nicholls, installed as bishop of Huron November 26, said in her introduction to a conference workshop. "It doesn't mean were finished, but it means we're on the way."
Asked what they felt were the continuing challenges for women in the church, some noted that female priests are still being paid less than their male counterparts.
For example, said the Rev. Trish McCarthy, of All Saints Anglican Church in Regina, many locally-ordained priests are women. Such priests, she said, are normally compensated for their mileage, and they're entitled to other benefits, but otherwise their positions are unpaid.
"In the west, that's pretty dominant," she said. "There's a major pay equity problem."
One participant said that female priests are more likely to be working part-time, in small parishes, and another said that women priests tend to lose out because they're less inclined to negotiate salary than men.
In a brief interview with the Anglican Journal, Nicholls voiced similar concerns.
"I think some of the women do find that in places, there's been the experience that women serve in smaller churches, and more women are in non-stipendiary roles," she said. "That's also true for Indigenous communities and others, so we've got a lot of work to do to have equality in terms...