A gender advisory group representing member churches of the World Council of Churches (WCC) has begun working by developing procedures and policies to help the WCC in accomplishing gender justice in institutions, communities and societies – an objective lying at the core of its vision of a “pilgrimage of gender justice”.
This vision is inspired by the theme “pilgrimage of justice and peace” – promoted by the WCC Busan Assembly in 2013. The work of the group is founded in the biblical premise that both men and women are created equal in the image of God.
The gender advisory group which concluded its meeting on 29 November in Cyprus was assembled to strengthen the WCC’s 60 years of work towards establishing “just communities of women and men”. The group is comprised of theologians and civil society professionals from diverse backgrounds.
“Gender justice remains at the core of biblical texts which say we are created equal as men and women in the image of God. These are the basis of how we should exist in churches and societies, working together to achieve gender justice,” said Dr Ulysses Burley, member of the gender advisory group from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.
“As a group we want to achieve an effective gender justice policy for the WCC which will also inspire its member churches in their own work for gender justice. Not only do we want to draft a policy but we want to come up with ways to implement and enact that policy as well,” he said.
“We understand that more paper doesn’t necessarily change behaviours, but training and implementation do. So we have begun a process of discernment towards policy making through prayer and theological discussions to understand what gender justice truly is,” added Burley, also a member of the Central and Executive Committee – WCC governing bodies.
“Gender justice is integral for the pilgrimage towards justice and peace,” said Rev. Dr Gunilla Hallonsten, a member of the gender advisory group from the Church of Sweden. She called this an important consideration during discussions in Cyprus. “We not only want to bring women to peace negotiations tables but promote justice addressing sexual and gender-based violence,” she said.
“While heading towards the kingdom of God if we don’t see justice when it comes to gender, we will be faced with immense loss in our journey for justice and peace,” added Hallonsten.
Dr Eleni Kasselouri-Hatzivassiliadi, a Greek Orthodox theologian member of the gender advisory group, said that the Cyprus meeting has affirmed how “women and men must work together for gender justice as disciples of Christ”. She said the meeting featured reflections on varied issues of injustice and inequality related to gender relations in communities.
“To address violence against women, we are hoping to influence male identities through theology and Christian practice to create communities of love, mutual respect and common understanding of working together for peaceful and just societies,” she added.