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Last updated 11th October 2023

Women in Ministry Strategy

Strategy for Women in Leadership

It is the desire of the Diocese of Blackburn to encourage, motivate and develop opportunities for women to flourish in the many varied leadership roles, both lay and ordained, that God has called them into.

The Diocese is fully committed to mutual flourishing and the Church of England’s five guiding principles. To this end the Diocese wishes to create a place where women and men can minister in God’s service to help the fulfilment of the Diocesan vision to make disciples, be witnesses, grow leaders and inspire children and young people.

The Diocese recognises that women face different and unique challenges when serving in leadership roles withing the church. Whilst these can enrich ministry it is also necessary to ensure a positive culture is created to allow both women and men of different theologies and traditions to work well together.

The Diocese recognises that mutual flourishing can only work when all of those called into leadership roles can flourish alongside each other.

The senior leadership team is aware that historically there have been occasions when the Diocese of Blackburn has not necessarily been a comfortable place for women in ministry, and that women have not always been encouraged to explore or fulfil their callings. Acknowledging our need for repentance, and having the humility to receive God’s forgiveness, the Diocese now seeks to create a strategy to ensure women are encouraged in leadership and this document forms a focus for their thinking.


Across all forty-two Diocese in the Church of England, the average percentage of female stipendiary Parish clergy is 27%. 

Blackburn Diocese has 24%, which whilst being an increase from 14% in 2017, is still below the national average. The Diocese has therefore set a target of increasing this number to 30%.

The figure of 30% is seen by the Diocese as a guideline target for every situation where both women and men are involved in ministry, including but not exclusive to:

  • Senior Clergy
  • Bishop’s Leadership Team
  • Area Deans
  • Stipendiary and non-stipendiary Clergy
  • Curates
  • Ordinands
  • Licensed Lay Ministers
  • Authorised Local Ministers
  • Membership of Deanery, Diocesan and General Synod
  • Membership of Diocesan and Deanery sub committees
  • Diocesan working groups
  • Memberships of the Diocesan Board of Finance and Diocesan Board of Education

The figure of 30% is a general guideline, as opposed to an inflexible necessity.

This is in acknowledgement that God calls specific people into specific roles for a specific time, and we seek to discern the will of God over the fulfilment of an inflexible target.

The Diocese does not wish to be accused of only appointing an individual in order to fulfil a particular target so strong, robust recruitment is essential to recruit the best person into a particular role regardless of their sex.

However, having a goal of 30% of ordained women in these groups provides a focus for our collective thinking and a way in which we can measure the success or otherwise, of the Diocesan commitment to mutual flourishing.

The table below shows the current percentage of women to men in key groups in the Diocese


Percentage of women %

  2022 2023

Senior Clergy



Bishop’s Leadership Team*



Assistant Archdeacons



Area Deans









Training Incumbents



Ordinands in Training



Ordained Members of General Synod



Ordained Members of Diocesan Synod



Lay Members of General Synod



Lay Members of Diocesan Synod



LLMs (Licensed Lay Ministers)



ALMs (Authorised Lay Ministers) 



Diocesan Board of Finance Directors*



Diocesan Board of Education Directors*



Self Supporting Clergy in any role



* Consists of lay and ordained members.

Whilst there are some areas for improvement, specifically the number of training Incumbents and the ordained members of General Synod, the current position as of September 2022 provides much encouragement as the Diocese is currently meeting the target of 30% in the majority of key groups.

Each individual group within the Diocese is to be required to assess their membership on an ongoing basis and to use co-option where necessary to create a more positive balance if required.

Women in senior leadership roles

It is important that women are represented at all levels in the church, however nationally there is a disproportionately low representation of women in senior roles, despite women having been ordained in the Church of England since 1994.

It is the aim of Blackburn Diocese to identify, encourage and provide training opportunities for women to undertake senior roles in leadership both in our own Diocese and across the Church of England.

This strategy places the responsibility for the identification of potential future leaders in the hands of the senior leadership team, assistant archdeacons and area deans.

Family Positive Vocational Development

Recognising that God calls women from all different walks of life; some are called to remain single, some to marriage and others to motherhood.

It is our understanding that the combination of ministry and motherhood presents a unique challenge along with great opportunities.

Blackburn Diocese is striving to create an environment that is family positive and allows women to develop both in public ministry whilst balancing parenting responsibilities. 

It is the Diocesan belief that for both women and men to flourish in ministry they must also have a stable homelife. Therefore, Blackburn Diocese are keen to support those combining ministry and motherhood.

To this end there is an updated maternity policy, which seeks to provide more than the legal requirements. The Diocese will also provide paid maternity cover for all in Incumbent positions to allow those who find themselves in such a position to fully focus on their child. The maternity cover will be appointed by the Bishop of Blackburn in consultation with the Incumbent.

Mutual Flourishing

Blackburn Diocese acknowledges and accepts the Five Guiding Principles and seeks to live out the principles in all areas of ministry. It is the understanding of the Diocese that mutual flourishing only works when all parties flourish, and the Five Guiding Principles are not a way for one party to curtail the ministry of another.

To enable those within the Diocese who hold different theological positions on women in ordained ministry to work together and flourish, an episcopal advisory group, chaired by the Bishop of Blackburn is to be created. The membership of which will be decided upon by the Bishop but is expected to include clergy and lay from a range of differing theological beliefs and churchmanship.

Changing the narrative

The senior leadership team acknowledges there is a negative perception of the ability of women in the Diocese of Blackburn to flourish within the remainder of the Church of England.

This is at odds with many women’s current lived experience.

This results in difficulty when trying to recruit women into positions of leadership from outside the Diocese. The majority of women in leadership positions across the Diocese are ‘home grown’.

This strategy seeks to change the narrative and the perception of the Diocese across the wider Church of England. To this end an emphasis is to be placed on the Diocesan media communications to celebrate and advertise where women are flourishing.

The Dean of Women’s Ministry will work alongside the Communications Officer to create a social media campaign publicising women’s vocations. The Conference for Female Incumbents took place in May 2023.

Diocesan policies

Please also refer to the following Diocesan policies ...



Date of Publication: September 2022

Date for review: September 2024

Produced on behalf of the Diocesan Vision and Strategy Group


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