Holy Eucharistic Service at the closing of AEWA led by Bishop Genieve Blackwell from Australia. Photo: CCA

Holy Eucharistic Service at the closing of AEWA led by Bishop Genieve Blackwell from Australia. Photo: CCA

The Ecumenical Women's Assembly recently ended a weeklong meeting in Taiwan with calls to repent from greed and for Asian women to become advocates and catalysts of reconciliation, renewal, and restoration in the world, communities, and in churches.

Organized by the Christian Conference of Asia, the weeklong assembly agreed that the world would not experience justice and peace without repenting its sin of greed. It also wants the churches to promote justice.

Christians are a minority in Taiwan, but the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan is the largest Protestant denomination there and hosted the recent Asian Ecumenical Women's Assembly in Hsinchu City.

The assembly in Hsinchu in the northwest took place from 21-27 November, attended by more than 250 women.

Among them were Taiwanese Aborigines who have a strong presence in the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan.

Renewal and restoration

The women's assembly called for action to empower women as advocates and catalysts to ensure reconciliation, renewal, and restoration in the world, communities, and churches.

It was organized and facilitated by the Christian Conference of Asia. The assembly ended with an ecumenical Holy Eucharistic Service led by Bishop Genieve Blackwell of the Anglican Church of Australia.

"We are with one voice in asserting NO to a culture of violence and exploitation of earth's resources. We affirm that we need to stand together in solidarity towards realizing justice and peace at this Kairos moment of our planet earth," the participants declared at the end.

Blackwell was assisted by an intergenerational group of women with representatives from various churches across Asia.

In their message, the women's assembly noted that humanity is in a critical time "when the whole of God's creation is groaning due to irresponsible human action, greed and continuing discrimination, violence and exploitation of women and children."

"Without repenting from the sin of greed, and without reconciling and doing justice to God's creation, women and the marginalized communities, in particular, the world will not experience justice and peace," they said.

The participants expressed appreciation for the space the Asian Ecumenical Women's Assembly provided them to "recommit to God and affirm that the nurturing and sustaining roles of women are crucial, and our voices must be heard for the liberation of the whole earth.”

At the start, in his welcome address, Dr Mathews George Chunakara, general secretary of the Christian Conference of Asia, said: “Improvements in the status of women are evident in different fields, and these transformations have been made possible by strengthened institutions and legal systems, demographic transitions, and a more dynamic civil society. However, we are on the trajectory towards a less inclusive and more unequal world.”

The general secretary said, “The expected outcome of the Asian Ecumenical Women's Assembly is not merely to address or talk about gender representation within churches, but to reflect and strategize ways in which church and society can be further sensitized.”

The vice moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan, Rev. Abus Takisvilainan, delivered the homily at the closing worship.

Presbyterian Church in Hualien, Taiwan. Photo: Peter Kenny/WCC

Renewed faith

Abus encouraged participants to persevere and have renewed faith in God in pursuit of their tasks and goals.

She commended the Christian Conference of Asia for bringing together the diverse group of women to discuss the pressing concerns of the time.

The first woman to serve as vice moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Taiwan in its 154 years, Rev. Abus encouraged the participants to learn about the differences among people to respect and celebrate their diversities, but never to rebuke or discriminate against them.

Participants, in the closing session, echoed the comments for the need to work tirelessly for the realization of a better world for women, men and the whole of creation.

In the fifth panel presentation held earlier in the morning focusing on the theme “Towards Ensuring an Inclusive Leadership in Church and Society,” the women shared examples and experiences of their leadership from different Asian situations.

Dr Eun Ha Kim from Korea took the participants through the history of Asian women's participation in the ecumenical movement.  She called for new strategies for women's leadership to emerge in church and society.

Challenges in Pakistan

From Pakistan, Rev. Romella Robinson shared a moving testimony on the many challenges of Christian women in her country.

She shared the experiences of her denomination and said, although women are ordained, they are asked to "stay silent, as much as possible,” and their gifts are limited to volunteer work.

In most churches, women ministers are not permitted to administer the Holy Sacraments, she said.

Women have had increasing participation in her church, said Wellorich Anderson Sokhlet from India.

However, she noted male leadership always had the final say, even if women were "empowered" to make decisions. Despite her community following matriliny, she said that patriarchal customs had crept into church practice.

Wellorich's church has seen the decades-long struggle for the ordination of women, and she hopes to see this change soon.

"As women," she said, "we must voice our support for each other, and not criticize and bring down anyone. We must seek first the kingdom of God – righteousness and inclusivity will then follow."

Christian Conference of Asia