Positive change for women

“Women leaders hold gospel conference” (May 7), with a photo of the Ethiopian women, took me back to 2002 when 13 African female church leaders gathered in Zimbabwe. They had planned to meet in Ethiopia for an African Women Theologians conference. But male leaders of the Meserete Kristos Church decided that the meeting should not be held in Ethiopia and that Ethiopian women should not participate. The meeting was moved to Tanzania.

A month later, 13 women representatives came to Bulawayo, sponsored by Mennonite World Conference. Several empty chairs represented missing Ethiopian women. The women wrote a letter expressing their sadness and support for their Ethiopian sisters. Nancy Heisey, then MWC president-elect, sent the letter to the chair of the Executive Committee of the Meserete Kristos Church. “Meeting with these African women theologians was breathtaking. They . . . are seizing every opportunity to lead,” she said.

In 2009, the African Caucus of MWC’s General Council, which included male leaders from Ethiopia, for the first time elected a woman, Mawangu Biavula Ibanda from the Democratic Republic of Congo, as its representative on the MWC Executive Committee. How things have changed!

Ferne Burkhardt, Kitchener, Ont.

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