Just Community of Women and Men

Building just communities of women and men is a priority in all activities of the World Council of Churches as it sets out on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace. Just gender relations are essential for the transforming renewal of church and society.

The experiences, perspectives and participation of both women and men are equally needed for the transforming renewal of church and society. Just gender relations are essential as we respond to climate change, build an economy of life and promote just peace and human dignity.

Ecumenical theological education and leadership training are key in this process. This includes reflection on what justice and peace entail for men and women in dehumanizing situations – casualties of war, genocide and global acts of religious intolerance, and victims of casteism, racial injustice, refugees, trafficked and sexually violated women.

Building just communities of women and men became a priority of the World Council of Churches as it set out on a Pilgrimage of Justice and Peace in response to the call from the WCC 10th Assembly in 2013. In the programme report, the 10th Assembly recognized that divisive issues, such as gender, have a place in the WCC since it functions “as a safe space to enter into dialogue and moral discernment on matters which the churches find challenging.”  This is a cross-cutting approach in all WCC programmes, promoting the building of a culture of justice and peace with no violence or discrimination against women in church and society.

The focus is not new. Since its birth in 1948, the World Council of Churches has promoted women’s rights in close collaboration with religious and civil-society partners around the world. In 1953 the programme of Women in Church and Society began with the proclamation that the renewal of dignified life after World War II was only possible if women were an active part of every initiative of justice and peace by the churches in society.

The emphasis today remains on women, and the work reaches across gender lines. It is in community that change is possible, and it is in working together that violence and discrimination are eliminated.

WCC trainings empower religious women to use United Nations advocacy tools for women’s rights and gender justice. Their voice is strengthened by networking among Christian women’s organizations and those participating at the annual sessions of the UN Commission on the Status of Women.

A gender advisory group involving representatives from member churches has been set up to develop a gender justice policy for the WCC and to provide gender expertise to the general secretary.

Ongoing work on transformative masculinities continues, especially through collaboration with the Ecumenical HIV and AIDS Initiatives and Advocacy programme.

Women’s pilgrim team visits have helped us better understand issues affecting women in situations of conflict and to discern better ways in which to accompany them and advocate for their rights and human dignity. 

The programme works with member churches, regional ecumenical organizations and affiliated networks to provide support, advocacy and training (as requested). Its theological and Bible study methodologies provides space for conversations and decisive action on eliminating sexual and gender-based violence. The WCC encourages the inclusion of gender justice in the curriculum of theological colleges and seminaries.

It is hoped that a global database of prepared material to combat violence will soon be available as a resource for churches, faith-based organizations and civil society.

There are many ways to get involved:

  • Join Thursdays in Black, a growing movement for a world without rape and violence. Demonstrate your commitment to overcoming rape and violence and show solidarity and respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence. The campaign is simple but profound: Wear black on Thursdays. Wear a pin to declare you are part of the global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence. Encourage others to join you.
  • As a next step,  take stock of your context and whether there are cases of inequality or overt acts of violence which require your intervention.  Identify ways in which you (or someone you know) might become an agent of transformation. 
  • Share what you are doing to foster transformative masculinities and/or end sexual and gender-based violence in your context.  Invite the WCC to join you in training and/or advocacy. 
  • Learn more about sexual and gender-based violence, human trafficking, transformative masculinities, and efforts to address change in your context.  Share with others.  Know the whereabouts of a shelter or faith-based organization site which offers support to victims and survivors of violence. 
  • Contribute an article, blog or prayer to the WCC Thursdays in Black Toolkit  or comment on your use of an item in the toolkit.
Thursdays in Black

Towards a world without rape and violence

Thursdays in Black

Towards a world without rape and violence

Rev. Nicole Ashwood

Programme executive, Just Community of Women and Men

email: [email protected]

phone: +41 22 791 6037