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Justin Welby has already signalled his faith in women’s ministry

By Miranda Threlfall-Holmes, Guardian

In appointing a female chaplain, the new archbishop of Canterbury makes clear that a priest's gender is not an issue

I long for the day when we don't note that an important appointment is given to a woman. But we're not there yet, so the news that the archbishop of Canterbury's new chaplain is to be the Rev Dr Jo Bailey Wells is very good news indeed.

Bailey Wells has an impressive CV for the role, and it is not hard to see why she has been appointed, regardless of her sex. Her interest in conflict and reconciliation clearly overlaps with Justin Welby's own interests. Indeed, they were both speaking this week at a conference on Faith in Conflict. Moreover, she has detailed and recent experience of the church in America and Africa, as well as in England, which will be a significant asset in this role.

So she would probably have been appointed even if she were a man. But it is certainly also possible to read this appointment as a statement of intent. Welby has been very vocal in his support for women's ministry. He spoke strongly in favour of having women as bishops last November, when the legislation to allow that was so narrowly defeated. But actions are more revealing than statements. In this appointment, the new archbishop has put his soul where his mouth is, and shown – not just said – that he trusts women as priests.

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