Huge thanks to Rev Canon Julie Bradley, Associate Minister at St Michael’s, Stoke Gifford, for her support for the Synod even from before the beginning. In July 2018, Pam went to chat with Julie about her being a speaker at a Parishioners’ Call gathering in Salisbury alongside Bishop Crispian Hollis. When Julie led Pam out of St Michael’s friendly cottage, coffee shop and into its magnificent state-of-the-art auditorium the seed of Root and Branch Synod was planted as Pam visualised the space full of lively, reforming Catholics. From that first inspirational moment right until now, even through the anxious time of the pandemic, Julie and St Michael’s team could not have been more encouraging, welcoming or hospitable to us. We are so grateful.
Big thank you also to the parishioners at St Nicholas of Tolentino Roman Catholic Church in Easton. All are welcome there. Rev Richard McKay has ministered in the poorest parts of Bristol for nearly fifty years. His parishioners say they see him, day in day out, rising to the challenge he puts to them — to exclude no-one from Christ’s love and care. Traumatised people, whether from inner city Bristol or from war-torn corners of the world arrive at St Nick’s doorstep and the community tries to patch them up with practical care and love, striving to be a ‘field hospital’ church. One of the founders of Root & Branch, Catholic Women’s Ordination, has been privileged to share in this kindly beneficence. We’re blessed to have St Nick's support, friendship - and magnificent music - in our Synod.
Tina Beattie is one of the familiar voices on Thought for the Day on BBC Radio 4. She is Emerita Professor of Catholic Studies at the University of Roehampton and an independent researcher and writer. She is also Director of Catherine of Siena College, an online college based at the University of Roehampton, offering courses in theology, gender and social justice. In addition to her many academic publications, Tina is the author of a novel The Good Priest, and a second novel Between Two Rivers is due for publication later this year. Her academic and media interests are in the areas of sacramentality, mysticism, gender and psychoanalytic theories of desire; Marian theology and devotion; theology and art, and women’s sexual and reproductive health and rights.
James Carroll was born and raised in America, studied to MA level, and following his vocation to become a Roman Catholic priest, was ordained in 1969. He served as Catholic chaplain at Boston University during which time he wrote passionately against the Vietnam war. Disillusioned with the church, he left the priesthood in 1974 to become a deeply thoughtful and incisive author. In 2001, he wrote a book, Constantine’s Sword, about Christian anti-semitism. His most recent book, The Truth at the Heart of the Lie is a deeply personal exploration of what he says has ‘broken’ the modern Catholic Church.
Christine Clinch trained as a Religious Education teacher in Bristol before teaching in multi-faith Birmingham, after which she taught in Africa, Nepal, Australia and Indonesia for about 30 years. She is now Lead Manager of Ammerdown Conference and Retreat Centre in Somerset. The Centre welcomes people of all faiths and none, providing a safe environment for dialogue, conversation and reflection, encouraging people from diverse backgrounds and experiences to meet and learn about one another, casting out fear and building bridges.
Miriam Duignan is Director of Communications at the Wijngaards Institute, and is a passionate advocate of its purpose in advancing Gender Equality, Sexual Ethics and Decision Making in the Catholic Church. The Institute focuses on cutting-edge theological research by coordinating leading academics worldwide to collaborate on reports tackling the Church’s officially uncomfortable, difficult and disputed areas.
Dr Ally Kateusz is a cultural historian specializing in the intersection of women and religion in Early Christian art and texts. She is Research Associate at the Wijngaards Institute for Catholic Research, and has published peer reviewed articles in the Journal of Early Christian Studies, the Journal of Feminist Studies in Religion, The Priscilla Papers, Theologia, and other venues. Her most recent book is Maria, Marianne, and Miriam: Rediscovering the Marys (Bloomsbury), co-edited with Mary Ann Beavis. Her 2019 illustrated book is Mary and Early Christian Women: Hidden Leadership (Palgrave Macmillan).
Baroness Helena Kennedy QC is one of Britain’s most distinguished lawyers and a Labour peer, renowned for championing civil liberties and promoting human rights. She has published two books on how the justice system is failing women. Helena is the founding force behind the establishment of the Bonavero Institute of Human Rights at the University of Oxford. She is currently Director of the International Bar Association’s Human Rights Institute, directing the Institute’s work in upholding the rule of law and human rights globally.
Rev Richard McKay is a Roman Catholic priest from Scotland. Richard has worked in the Bristol diocese for 49 years, most of that time in very impoverished parts of Bristol. At St Nicholas of Tolentino, where he is parish priest, there are more than 60 nationalities represented. The community is known for its active inclusivity. A major part of Richard’s pastoral work is in support of those seeking safe asylum and refuge in this country. When women were first ordained as priests in the Church of England in 1994 Richard spoke robustly and publicly for the same to happen in the Roman Catholic Church - and he has continued to do so. He finds the reality of oppression and poverty the source for theology and mission.
Rev Catherine Okoronkwo was born in Nigeria but brought up in Israel and has studied in the USA and Britain. She has a long history of teaching, in particular English and Literature, including a period working in a Muslim school in Birmingham. She became a Deacon in 2016 and was ordained a priest in 2017. She has experience of Arab World Ministries and her interest in interfaith dialogue runs deep. As well as being the Racial Justice Advisor to the Anglican Diocese of Bristol, she's Vicar of All Saints and St Barnabas, Swindon. Bristol is presently the only Anglican Diocese with a racial justice advisor and so her remit includes work outside the diocese. Her book Blood and Water/ obara na mmiri is available from Waterloo Press. ‘It draws you in to confront the subjects that no one wants to talk about and yet it is real and right in our midst. I dare you to read this and share its meanings to you with others.’ — Rev Dr Rose Hudson-Wilkin, QHC, Bishop of Dover
Thomas O’Loughlin is Professor Emeritus of Historical Theology in the University of Nottingham, and the Director of Studia Traditionis Theologiae. He is a presbyter of the Catholic Diocese of Arundel and Brighton. He is a sought-after speaker and the author of Eating Together, Becoming One, and The Rites and Wrongs of Liturgy - Why Good Liturgy Matters.
Christina Rees CBE is a writer, broadcaster and practical theologian, specializing in women and religion. She was a leading campaigner and spokeswoman for women bishops and Chair of WATCH (Women and the Church) for over 13 years. She was a lay member of the Church of England’s General Synod for 25 years and a founder member of the Archbishops’ Council, the body that advises the Archbishops of Canterbury and York on matters of policy and resources. She has sat on numerous national church committees and is an Honorary Fellow of Ripon College Cuddeson, a leading Anglican theological college. In 2016 the Queen awarded Christina a CBE (Commander of the British Empire) for services to the Church of England. She is a school chaplain and will be ordained in September 2021.
Eve Rose-Keenan has been a priest in the Church of England for 20 years. She is the Labour councillor for Rotherham West. She is a survivor of child sexual exploitation.
Virginia Saldanha is a woman activist, writer and theologian, living in Mumbai, India. She is the founder member of the Indian Women Theologians Forum and was executive secretary of the Commission for Women in the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India and Secretary of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences Women’s Desk. She has campaigned to bring attention to abuse of women within the Catholic Church.
Shanon Sterringer has been a member of the Association of Roman Catholic Women Priests (ARCWP) since 2019. She is an avid scholar with multiple degrees culminating in a PhD in Ethical and Creative Leadership focussed on the leadership example of Saint Hildegard of Bingen. Her service has included work as a certified lay ecclesial minister and master catechist in the Diocese of Cleveland, supporting missionary work in India, and giving seminars in India and the Holy Land on women and ecclesial leadership. She is author of 30 day Journey with St Hildegard of Bingen and her new book, Forbidden Grace, about her call to ministry is about to be published. Latterly, she has founded and is Director of Hildegard Haus and the developing Community of St Hildegard in Fairport Harbor, Ohio. She is a mother of 3.
Rabbi Alexandra Wright was appointed as the first female senior rabbi in England in 2004, as Rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John's Wood, London. She is a significant figure within British Liberal Judaism. She is active in the Council of Christians and Jews and for five years served as the North London Hospice’s Jewish chaplain on their multi-faith chaplaincy team.
Root & Branch Core Team - all volunteers
Colm Holmes is Chair of We Are Church International.
Francis Hunter is a late comer to the core team. A committed Catholic, the Church has been a huge part of his life, from excellent education for his 4 children, to incredible support when he lost his son Robert to Cystic Fibrosis. Sadly, he believes the current position of the Church on many issues is toxic and has resulted in his family rejecting it. The Root and Branch Synod presents a wonderful opportunity to encourage much needed change so future generations can benefit from the many things the Church does so well.
Maggie Mathews is another late-comer to the group. She’s a journalist who worked as a producer in BBC Current Affairs for the best part of 25 years. In 1994 she produced a documentary following some of the first women to be ordained as priests within the Church of England, at Bristol Cathedral. She remembers how the Anglican Bishop of Bristol, Barry Rogerson actively empowered some of those women as they prepared. The footage filmed at Bristol Cathedral that day went to news broadcasters around the world, reporting on the breaking of a centuries-old tradition. Maggie now asks her sisters and brothers in faith: In 2021, does it seem good to you to exclude women from any ministry in the Church?
Penelope Middelboe has a long career in film-making and script editing, and was CEO of large youth charity, Shakespeare Schools Foundation. She left in 2014 to write with her second husband Jon Rosebank, an historian. This has turned into a podcast HistoryCafe.org focussed on how and why we believe misleading narratives about important historical events. Brought up Catholic by her mother, she felt unable to bring her own children up as Catholics because she disagreed with too much of what was being said in her parish church. She is therefore immensely grateful that the combination of pandemic-lockdown and the internet has utterly transformed the ability of reform-minded Catholics to meet and support, explore and learn and pray together.
Pamela Perry joined the Church in 1962 after seeing God in the work of Abbé Pierre with the homeless of Paris. Life includes teaching, writing, running a business, chairing a property company and volunteering for CAFOD, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Make Poverty History and with refugees. Co-founded Parishioners’ Call which encourages discussion within parishes. Now a grandmother living in Salisbury with a loving husband.
Kerry Poole is a retired English teacher who has been involved in leading music in parishes for most of her life. Having believed she was part of a silent minority lamenting the injustices of the Catholic Church, she was thrilled to find Root and Branch and to take her place among the vociferous growing majority who are now actively working for much-needed reform.
Mary Ring has led an ordinary and uneventful life as a mother, grandmother and teacher. Her earliest memories recall her brothers being petted and praised as altar boys by the sacristan nuns, whilst girls were taught obedience and self-sacrifice. She works for a healthy, safe and welcoming Church, where deep institutional damage to its own members - not only women - is addressed and redressed. She currently serves on the Leadership Circle of Women’s Ordination Worldwide.
Katharine Salmon is a Theology teacher and lecturer in Sheffield, Yorkshire. She was involved in the campaign for women priests and women bishops in the Anglican Church, and is a long-time campaigner for women's ordination in the Roman Catholic Church. She has served on the Boards of Women's Ordination Worldwide and Catholic Women's Ordination. She writes and conducts liturgies for life events.
Rhiannon Parry Thompson is a former National Childbirth Trust Trustee and Honorary Secretary. She’s an active environmentalist: a Green trade union branch rep and a member of Catholic Concern for Animals. She has a strong commitment to interfaith relations and is the Catholic Church representative on her local Christian Aid Committee. She has an interest in regional and indigenous languages and cultures and is a Welsh and Cornish languages learner. She is a university and an adult education teacher.
Mary Varley is a recent recruit to the core team and a former social worker who is appalled by the extent to which the abuse of power is endemic in the worldwide institutional church.
She is deeply ashamed to be part of a church where the betrayal of children, young people and adults violates everything that Jesus teaches us. She joined Root and Branch to work for the transformation of structures and culture to make the church a place of safety for all.
Sue Williamson is a retired prison and university tutor. Her specialism has been working with those who struggle with basic literacy skills in schools and prisons and with those who have neurodiversity issues at university. Sue felt called to priesthood in her teens, being heavily influenced by radical theological friends and Therese of Lisieux who also felt called to priesthood. Her particular interest is in feminist theology, participative liturgy and in the theology of the Eucharist, and her spirituality is now focused around the Lay Fraternities of Charles de Foucauld. She has been an editor of All Year Round, an ecumenical worship publication funded by Churches Together in Britain and Ireland, is a founder member of Catholic Women’s Ordination (CWO) and their delegate for Women's Ordination Worldwide (WOW). Having attended various national and international Women's Synods, she believes strongly in synodality and in working ecumenically. She welcomes the way in which Root and Branch has opened so many avenues to so many who feel on the fringes of the Church.
And our huge thanks to all those who’ve donated so generously since we began our Journey of Discernment back in October 2020, and to all our families for supporting us.
Particular thanks to Penelope’s husband Jon Rosebank, also to Geoffrey Thompson and Tony Ring and to the few core team members who feel too humble to be on this programme.
We wouldn’t have managed to get this hybrid Root & Branch Synod off the ground without our technical wizard:
Peter Agius has a life-long connection to the Benedictines of Downside and Worth Abbeys, and a family connection going back to the monks in Ramsgate in 1870. In the 1970s he discovered the Worth Abbey Lay Community and at the same time started a near 50-year friendship with Mary Ring. He was a resident in the community 1976-77, leaving to settle in Havant after marrying in the Abbey Church. Then he rediscovered the Lay Community in the 90s before it became the Lay Community of St Benedict (LCSB) in 2003. A career in electronics and software, coupled with being webmaster for the LCSB for 8 years, has taken an unexpected direction through lockdown as he helped develop an ecumenical and inclusive on-line saying of the Divine Office for the LCSB, which now sees many members meeting four times a day on-line for prayer. He is now Administrator for the LCSB and currently balancing that role with IT Management of the Synod. After 40 years in electronics he is looking forward to taking the message of St Benedict to the world and working in conference and website management in his twilight years.
Designer Valentina Ring, website manager Vanessa Labrie, video editor Annie Edwards. Jade Strain’s assistance with Mailchimp and Jillian Dempsey’s eye on accounting have also been invaluable. Nikki Gwatkin at the Holiday Inn, Filton, has been supportive throughout.
Finally thank you to the many, many people (far more than we realise we’re told) who have been praying for us. We will continue to need your prayers as we take The Bristol Text forward and as Root & Branch continues to reach out, to listen and to grow. It’s been a privilege.