This article was originally published by Mennonite World Review

Women’s leadership group charts future

The steering committee for Mennonite Church USA’s Women in Leadership Project is ready to plan a conference, create undoing-sexism training and find ways for men to assist after meeting Aug. 5-8 in Sarasota, Fla.


The group also hopes to strengthen the project’s web presence.

The committee, which formed in 2012, meets monthly via phone conference. This was its first face-to-face meeting.

WLP coordinator Jenny Castro of San Antonio, Texas, said that since beginning her quarter-time role in November after the departure of coordinator Joanna Shenk, she has been listening to women across MC USA. They have shared about how the project inspired or helped them and about continuing need. This feedback helped her discern areas of focus for the WLP leadership retreat.

WLP’s first Women Doing Theology conference was held in Leesburg, Va., in 2014. At the retreat, the group determined the second conference will be held in November 2016, with the theme, “I’ve Got the Power!”

“We’re really excited about the theme because there are so many different, interesting, compelling ways you can go with it — examining the power we have and don’t have and who has power in which context,” she said.

Forms of sexism

The WLP leaders discussed how to create an undoing-sexism training for pastors and denominational leaders. They plan to apply for grant funds to host a curriculum-writing weekend.

“Many people believe we’re past sexism, and it’s not true,” Castro said. “It exists in the ways we communicate with each other, the makeup of committees across the church and who holds power, for example. We say we believe in the inherent value of all people, but knowing how to live into that value is something different.”

The steering committee discussed strengthening WLP’s web presence. They decided the project will start its own Facebook group as a way of expanding the circle of people involved, sharing resources and creating a space for women across the church to connect with each other.

Castro has been increasing the amount of WLP-related posts on MC USA’s blog, Menno Snapshots, which she coordinates.

She said the project’s leaders frequently hear Mennonite women express a desire to connect with other women going through the same things and who have wisdom to offer.

Steering committee members decided to offer space in existing events, such as area conference gatherings, for women to make those kinds of connections.

Conversations also included ways to involve men, Castro said. WLP leaders recognize the limitations of being a movement exclusively of women inside a patriarchal system.

“In the same way as people of color need white people who have committed to work together with them in undoing racism, women also need men who have done their own work and understand what it means to operate counterculturally in our patriarchal institutions and contexts,” she said.

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