THE global Church has “too often ignored the voices of women in its communities”, and must repent of its mistakes, empower its women, and seek reconciliation, a group of female Christian leaders have said.
Sixty women from 18 nations gathered in Amsterdam this month to celebrate women in the Church and to make a commitment to giving women a voice in its communities.
During three days of prayer and worship, organised by the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and the Lausanne Movement, leaders in business, faith, theology, charity, and the media called on the Church to recognise gender inequality and injustice.
Elke Werner, who has been a leader of the Lausanne Movement for more than 25 years, said: “It is so important to recognise the contribution of so many women in the different nations for the Kingdom of God. These women are heroes. But we also need to stand up for women and girls who cannot fulfil their God-given potential because of barriers in their church culture.”
Rise in Strength 2019Women leaders at the Rise in Strength conference mark on a map where they and their organisations work
A survey of 500 women leaders, commissioned before the event, suggested that sexism in the Church and “cultural obstacles to women in leadership” were among the main hurdles to women being able to follow their calling.
The director of the WEA Women’s Commission, Amanda Jackson, said: “If the Church says that women are only fit for certain roles, this can be very damaging. We want to acknowledge the pain when women’s voices are silenced, single women are ignored, or when the Church tolerates abuse. But we also want to be positive about what we can achieve when we work together using our gifts.”
The women issued a call for action for the Church, which included starting “a positive dialogue, mourning and repenting of mistakes and the pain we have caused, and seeking reconciliation”.
The women committed to celebrating, supporting, mentoring, and working with other women, as well as “being attentive . . . especially [to] those living in extreme poverty, or with disability, those endangered by human trafficking, persecuted for their faith, denied education and legal rights — and so at greatest risk of gender-based violence and discrimination”.