The WCRC-CWM Women in Leadership Roundtable Meeting held in Seoul, South Korea from 4-6 October 2022 was a time of mutual sharing, solidarity, advocacy, and reflection for women navigating patriarchal contexts. Participants from Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Argentina, Nauru, Kenya, Palestine, New Zealand, USA, Jamaica, Cuba, Taiwan, Switzerland, India, United Kingdom, Singapore, Jordan, Philippines, Nagaland, Zambia, Malaysia and South Korea collectively celebrated and honoured the legacy of the women pioneers who carved out spaces for female participation in church and ecumenical leadership; lamented that their journey towards justice is not yet over; but rejoiced that their story ended with the risen Christ.
The event commenced on 4 October with inaugural worship and communion by President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC) Rev. Najla Kassab, and the Moderator of the Council for World Mission (CWM) Rev. Lydia Neshangwe, female leaders from the Global South who birthed and spearheaded this initiative.
“We’re very excited about the roundtable because both our organizations preach communing together, partnering, fellowshipping and working together, and now we’re practicing what we preach by coming together to do all those things as women in leadership,” said Rev. Neshangwe. “As women we want to preach a message of collaboration, not competition.”
Rev. Kassab and Rev. Neshangwe had discerned the need for a space for women in leadership and emerging women leaders to support each other and engage with the issue of gender justice during this Kairos moment. In recent years, more women are in key leadership positions including global ecumenical bodies, enabling the promotion and continuity of this missional agenda. With a long history of engagement on the issue of gender justice, this programme is part of both organisations’ continued commitment to this cause.
Dr. Aruna Gnanadason, who had formerly directed World Council of Churches (WCC)’s global programme on Women in Church and Society, delivered the keynote address, followed by their exposure visit to Korea Peace Now! Women Mobilising to End the War, a global campaign to educate, organise and advocate for a Korea peace agreement. The women discussed white imperialism, peacemaking models, and making grassroots connections after watching Crossings, a film about a group of female peacemakers crossing the Korean border.
Over the next two days, the women gathered for worship, and bible study on biblical women such as Ruth, Naomi, Mary, and Miriam based on the themes “lamenting with our sisters” (Day 2), and “rejoicing for our daughters” . The event also integrated group spaces for sharing, time with their contexts, and papers from notable women activists, theologians, and ecumenists.
It was also a time for vision and imagination as they deliberated on what it means to be a female leader; important qualities that should be upheld; empowering and mentoring young women as the next generation of leaders; their areas and understanding of power, and lastly, how the ecumenical world should benefit from the divine gifts of women created in God’s image.
“It is important to honour women as leaders, but we could also not forget the pain that women face, especially in the transitional time of leadership between men and women,” said Rev. Kassab, “We hope this was a time of strengthening, of envisioning, of sharing, and of looking forward to a better tomorrow.”
After closing worship by the Presbyterian Church of Korea (PCK) and Presbyterian Church in the Republic of Korea (PROK) on 6 Oct, participants departed the meeting rejuvenated by bonds of friendship created and a stronger sisterhood enabled by a shared vision.
Dated 6 October 2022