The United Reformed Church will make history tomorrow (Friday 2 July 2010) when it inducts two women - Ms Val Morrison and the Rev Dr Kirsty Thorpe - as co-moderators of the General Assembly of the United Reformed Church (URC).
The denomination has a long history of recognising both the lay and the ordained ministry of women. The inductions are being seen as a natural step on the path the URC has been following for decades. However, their induction also comes at a time when the role of women in the church is making national headlines.
Last weekend the Methodist Church inducted two women as president and vice president of the Methodist Conference and, in July, the Church of England will discuss draft legislation allowing for women bishops in the UK.
The first joint post holders say they are both looking forward to the opportunity to play to their strengths and have an impact, together and separately, on the United Reformed Church and the wider world.
Speaking of her hopes for her two years as moderator, Kirsty Thorpe said: “I want to encourage the Church to recognise itself as being part of the bigger world; to move away from too much introspection and to raise its head above the parapet and be seen to a be a radical voice in the world. God is out there, doing all kinds of things in all kinds of places. God is not limited to the Church and we shouldn't be either."
Val Morrisson added: “I am keen to champion the role of lay people both within the structures of the church but also in their Christian witness in the sometimes harsh realities of working and community lives and am committed to helping the URC be confident about all it has to offer the world through its lay people; its commitment to ministry in the very widest sense of the word, and to the people who live in the many local communities served by a United Reformed church.”
Speaking about having two women as moderators of General Assembly, as opposed to the more traditional lone male, Val Morrisson said: “Kirsty and I are not the first female moderators of General Assembly. The first, Mrs Rosalind Goodfellow, served in 1982/83 and since then there have been five more, but we are the first team, and as importantly, the first female team, and I’m sure this will have an impact on how we work as moderators and the causes we champion … I’m certain it will make a difference to the life and leadership of our Church. We’re both excited by the possibilities and challenges of this role and are looking forward to serving our church and the wider world in the next two years.”
The United Reformed Church comprises one hundred thousand people in 1600 congregations. It has brought together English Presbyterians, English, Welsh and Scottish Congregationalists and members of the Churches of Christ. Worldwide, more than 70 million Christians are members of the Reformed family of churches, the largest Protestant tradition. The name “Reformed” is used because the churches emerged out of the reform movements of the sixteenth century.