Rev Jemima Amanor, West Africa Area President, represented the World Federation at the World Council of Churches Global Consultation for the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women. Here is her report of an exciting and informative meeting in Jamaica.
Report on the Global Consultation for the Commemoration of the 20th Anniversary of the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women held on the 1st to 6th October 2018 at Knutsford Court Hotel, Kingston, Jamaica.
By Jemima Amanor, West Africa Area President.
I arrived in Kingston at 7:35 pm after a long haul via Miami and London from Accra on the 1st October 2018. The purpose of the trip was to participate in the Global Consultation mentioned above that forms part of the Commemoration of the 70th anniversary of World Council of Churches (1948 – 2018). There were 74 participants made up of member churches and ecumenical partners.
The objective for this consultation is for participants to reflect on the achievements and challenges in building a just community of women and men and to strengthen ecumenical collaboration. Activities centred around three areas, namely: Celebrate our gifts, visit the wounds and transform injustices in the relationships between women and men in the church and society since 1998.
- Celebrating our gifts as a community of women and men in the church. A thanksgiving service was held for God’s gift with the theme: ‘Thus Far the Lord has helped us.’ The preacher of the sermon Rev Merlyn Hyde Riley, President of Jamaica Council of Churches and Jamaica Baptist Union, highlighted on Genesis 1: 26-31 and Galatians 3: 25-29 where we find compelling basis for equality of women and men in status and honour. She said the church should be models for gender equality. Therefore the way forward should be to listen to what the Holy Spirit says and strive to emulate the love of God. There is the need for mutuality among God’s people and our differences should enrich our lives together. She also said women are empowered to address oppressive structures and not compete against each other. We should all be advocates for women. The church should begin by accepting the injustices going on within it and work on itself to address it. The men within the church need to be educated on and involved in the affairs of women.It was highlighted that in Jamaica, the Prime Minister is a woman, Jamaica Methodist church has a woman Bishop and the Jamaica Council of Churches has a woman President. The concern for that country is to bring up the boys and men.
- From Harare to Kingston (1998 – 2018) The decade priority themes were used as a guide for this discussion. These were: violence against women in various forms; women’s full and creative participation in the life of the church; the global economic crisis and its effect on women and manifestations of racism and xenophobia and their specific impact on women. Stories and struggles of women since Harare were shared in tears. There was the call for elimination of all forms of violence and injustice. The community insisted that all forms of violence against women and children is sin. Wounds were visited but in the end there was a sign of hope found in Nathan’s approach to David in the Bible. The church need to sit up and address gender-based violence within it and its communities.
- There were discussions on Gender in Unity and Mission, Gender in Ecumenical Youth Engagement, Gender and Climate Justice, and Gender and Racism.
- Thursdays in Black was observed at the Mandela Park in Kingston. The idea was born during the Decade of the Churches in Solidarity with Women from women’s agency and resilience demanding a world without rape and violence. Participants drew attention of the general public on Gender-based violence and the realities of sexual abuse and violence in all sectors. Public awareness was strengthened to change policies and practices to overcome sexual and gender-based violence. Through singing and dancing people were attracted to the park and the Word of God was shared with them. The black represents resilience and resistance to help break the silence around sexual harassment and abuse. Women all over are encouraged to speak up about the inappropriate and abusive behaviour they are faced with.
- Dr Mary Ann Swanson, Bishop of UMC in California spoke about the North America ‘Me Too’ campaign, a resilience and resistance narrative. She mentioned that it was started in Hollywood with movie stars. Celebrities wore black against sexual harassment to the Golden Globe Awards in January 2018 at the ‘Me Too’ Movement. Worship services were held with the Christians and that drew others to Christ.
- The community of women and men’s experiences in different church and ecumenical contexts. This discussion brought in various experiences of churches and ecumenical bodies. The message from the World President of WFMUCW, Mrs Alison Judd was shared with the gathering at this session. Participants were happy with the representation of WFMUCW and the part they are playing to improve the welfare of women. The Methodist members present at the gathering were very excited. There were members from Mexico, Korea, Italy, Germany, North America and Ghana.
- Finally there was the symbolic ritual of healing and transformation by repairing a broken basket that represented the life of a broken woman. Each participant sent in a basket with a piece of local cloth. These baskets and cloths represented the various lives of women. At the end we shared a vision of men and women coming together and treating each other equally, by tying our cloths together, singing and dancing to the Glory of the Lord.
I wish to acknowledge with gratitude the kind gesture of the World President, Mrs Alison Judd for nominating me to represent her at the Global Consultation in Jamaica. My participation in the consultation has educated me on the activities and functions of the World Council of Churches. Thank you very much.