As a Global Consultation on the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women opened on 2 October, World Council of Churches (WCC) leaders offered words of encouragement and determination for the future.
WCC general secretary Rev. Dr Olav Fykse Tveit spoke of how gender justice is a vital element in the journey toward justice and peace.
“Here, now, on the 20th anniversary of the Ecumenical Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women, 1988-1998, we pause on this long, inspiring yet often arduous pilgrimage toward gender justice to acknowledge the courage, faith, and achievements of these pioneers of a fully inclusive ecumenical movement,” said Tveit. “We owe them so much.”
The gathering is not only about celebrating the past, Tveit added. “It also in an invitation for us to shape together the future vision for a just community of women and men and to further develop the strategies how we can promote that together.”
The Decade reminds us how long the arc of progress is, he said. “The long journey of the churches on this crucial issue of the inclusion and dignity of women in their life has given us a key measure of authenticity and accountability not only as churches but also as Christians, indeed as humans,” he said. “But it is not finished.”
Dr Agnes Abuom, moderator of the WCC Central Committee, also offered a welcome.
“We are here to critically reflect about churches, solidarity, women – and justice,” she said. “What we will be discussing this week – violence against women; full and creative participation of women in the life of the church; economic crisis, racism and xenophophia and their impacts on women – these issues were were raised twenty years ago at the end of the Decade of the Churches of Solidarity with Women.”
What must be new from this point, she said, is how we together address the challenges of a just community of women and men. “This is an important moment for the entire ecumenical movement,” she said. “As we look back we should recognize and celebrate what has changed and what has been achieved.”
We are still on a journey, Abuom noted. “A journey has hurdles, it has bumps, it has stones, it has thistles,” she said. “As we reflect back on what was raised twenty, thirty years ago, let us also ask ourselves – what will our children say of us here, twenty or thirty years from now?”
The event, hosted by the Jamaica Council of Churches, is being held in the context of the WCC’s 70th anniversary, its ongoing Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace, and the 2030 United Nations Sustainable Development Agenda.
By the end of the gathering, participants will share a vision statement for moving towards a just community of women and men in church and society.
The consultation will focus its activities around ‘celebrating the gifts’, ‘visiting the wounds’ and ‘transforming injustices’ in the relationships between women and men in the church since 1998.