Our series of interviews with Thursdays in Black ambassadors highlights those who are playing a vital role in increasing the impact of our collective call for a world without rape and violence.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner is Geneva secretary of the World Methodist Council.
Q: How did you get involved with Thursdays in Black?
Bishop Rosemarie: It was because of the World Council of Churches, realising that you are supporting this important initiative and pushing member churches to join in. It didn’t take me long to engage because I really think it such an important sign of solidarity and of reminding ourselves internally that gender justice is so important. We need to be in solidarity with those who are raped and those who are suffering other violence.
Q: How is it taken up in your church?
Bishop Rosemarie: I’m working for the World Methodist Council where many, many Wesleyan Methodist and Uniting and United churches are part, 80 member churches in all, all over the globe. At our last council meeting in July we introduced all the council members to Thursdays in Black, and we asked them to take it home. At that time I realised that many of the churches had already dug in, for example Methodist churches in West Africa, where there are women’s divisions who took care of it. We have a women’s organisation within the World Methodist Council, the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women. They are committed to the initiative already; it didn’t start with me asking them. We now pay attention so that we really make use of all the possibilities of taking Thursdays in Black to the local communities.
Q: Have you seen any change in how people approach gender issues or violence issues?
Bishop Rosemarie: First of all I really think it helps to encounter each other in dialogue. I have had many questions because people only see me wearing black on Thursdays. I rarely wear black so people ask: ‘did someone die in your family?’ Then I can speak of suffering, pain and injustices happening to so many people in this world.
Secondly, besides reaching a greater awareness for the Thursdays in Black Campaign, I do not yet see many concrete steps in the church so far, but I do think that over time if it is a weekly thing people will rethink their approach. All of us in the churches, although we often claim that we are up front dealing with injustices in the world, we have difficulties to internally really look into our own systems, the systems in churches that often make abuse of women and girls, and also men and boys, easy because people trust one another. There are intimate talks about faith, about who you are, about your life. So we have to start internally to create safe places for all and to describe mechanisms where people who are abused can find open doors to look into these cases and to really work towards justice. There, I do think that many of the churches in the Methodist communion are starting amongst themselves and of course they engage in their societies. I do not know how much it really relies concretely to this initiative, but I see some good things happening.
In addition, I do wish we could look into our theology. Of course, we know of the biblical references that there is no male or female, and so on, however the church is still a patriarchal system all in all and there are not so many women in high leadership positions. There is not an equal representation, and starting there is also important. The church is a sign to the world of a different kind of relationship built on justice and equality and respect, no matter who persons are, and especially towards those who are very often marginalised.
Q: What is your message about the first step people should take?
Bishop Rosemarie: The first step is keeping your eyes open, seeing people. Look at what happens, be ready to interfere if needed, be ready to stand up for equality, for justice and don’t ignore the pain that is happening in this world. And, looking at rape, looking at violence, pain is so often hidden, so it’s really important to keep your eyes open and stand up for justice.
To learn more about Thursdays in Black ambassadors, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.