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An inaugural “Ecumenical Women Church Leaders Initiative Consultation” took place from 17-19 May as a dozen African women gathered in Geneva and online to exchange experiences and critical reflections. Rev. Edna Navaya, Church of Central Africa; Moderator, Presbyterian-Blantyre Synod, Malawi


Can you describe your path to becoming an ordained pastor?

Rev. Navaya: I was the first woman to be ordained in the CCAP Blantyre  Synod, and I was ordained in the year 2001. I’m the first woman to be ordained and the first chancellor of the University of the Blantyre Synod. I have served for about 20 years in the holy ministry.  I was  a former Muslim and converted to Christianity when I was a youth. In the year 1997, I had my call to go through theological training. I have served in many positions in the church, and now I serve as the moderator of the Synod.

Was there a reaction when you became the first ordained female pastor?

Rev. Navaya: Indeed there was a reaction because I think previously the women were not allowed to be ordained. They were seen in lay positions, as church elders, deaconesses, and in other areas. There were certainly a lot of reactions from the members of the church, both men and women, because it was just a new thing. When I was conducting the sacraments, I could observe some of them were not happy to take the sacraments from me, a female minister. They were used to being given the sacraments—like Holy Communion—from the male pastors. But, by and by, I was welcomed, and now the situation is okay. They treat me just like any other minister in the holy ministry. And now there are about 30 women in the Blantyre Synod—so we are coming up for sure!

What was the best aspect of gathering with other African women church leaders?

Rev. Navaya: This gathering was very important because, in the first place, its a way for women leaders to meet and share experiences, and also to share some knowledge. We learn from each other. Whatever we get, we are empowered. We have more knowledge. When we go back, in our respective positions well be able to transform the entire church, focusing on the women, especially those who might have some powers to exercise but who are reluctant, are suppressed and dont use their potential, their skills, their  power. Potential, Through this training, I will try to influence these women to use their power. I will not got out from this meeting the same.

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