Bishop Libby Temple Lecture


undefinedGender and sustainable transformation:exploring the difference women make in society. I have been asked to give the William Temple Annual Lecture in Oxford. It got me thinking. As the charity Christian Aid has claimed, in the 21st century, "Poverty still has a woman's face."

If we are to talk about sustainable transformation, about change for good that will last, we also have to talk about gender and social justice and the powers that keep millions of women, and other groups, marginalized and disenfranchised.

Though I am a woman, I am not on the margins of my community and society. I am a well-educated white middle-class woman recently entrusted with senior leadership in the Church, and I don’t want to collude with the misuse of power, and be seduced by its idols. My own experience of exclusion and influence, my observation of those on the margins discerning and using their own capacities to be the change they want to see, and my reflection on the scripture and the wisdom of others brings me to suggest that sustainable transformation, indeed the Kingdom of God, is found in and from the margins.

How radical a ‘re-imagining’ does such an understanding demand of us? One that helps us look afresh at today by taking us back to the very beginning, to the heart of things, perhaps. The creation story reveals our humanity to come out of generosity and mutuality, ‘Adam’ complete in diversity and variety. Our common experience though reveals our tendency towards misuse of power, imposition of control, and desire for self-determination.

So, as I prepare for my lecture, I’ve been considering the Biblical threads of creation, sabbath, jubilee and exodus, reading the narratives of God at work in unexpected places, considering contemporary examples of those ‘standing in the margins’. I want to explore what it means today to follow Jesus, who worked out our salvation, the most sustainable transformation, by choosing to inhabit the most marginal place of all.