Women’s History Month
Ends on a Positive Note
the Rev. Ann Tiemeyer
Advocacy Days (EAD), held from March 25 to 28 in Washington, truly provided
a positive note to the end of Women’s History Month throughout ecumenical
Through worship, plenary sessions, workshops, and advocacy training, the men and women at EAD found the answer to the theme question to be – “A Lot!”
The Rev. Peg Chemberlin, president of the National Council of Churches (NCC) and executive director, Minnesota Council of Churches, preached a powerful sermon calling us all to be as persistent in our advocacy to Washington representatives as were the women in Mark 7:24-30, who challenged Jesus to live out justice from the conviction of abundance, sharing the food from the table with all.
Ritu Sharma, Co-Founder and President of Women Thrive Worldwide, during the plenary session entitled Women and Girls Aren’t the Problem: They’re the Solution, provided stories, statistics and testimony to the fact that gender based violence harms the whole community – both men, women and children. A 2003 report from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the costs of intimate partner violence in the United States alone exceeds $5.8 billion per year: $4.1 billion is for direct medical and health care services, while productivity losses account for nearly $1.8 billion due to absenteeism. Sharma praised EAD’s legislative tasks as a powerful cross cutting request. EAD advocates for re-authorization and full funding for the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and co-sponsoring of the International Violence Against Women Act (IVAWA). Sharma indicated that gender-based violence relates to poverty, war, food security, and what ever other issue you raise domestically and internationally.
Over 60 workshops highlighted the theme, including: Maternal Health and Millennium Development Goal #5: How can the Church Respond?, Consequences of a Broken System: Gender and Immigration in the Untied States, Women, Agriculture, Climate and Food Sovereignty, Our Bodies Are Still Trembling: Haitian Women Continue to Fight Against Rape, Women and the Economy / Eradicating Poverty, and many more.
Although March – Women’s History Month – has ended, the full participation of women and positive partnerships of men and women working together for justice in and through the ecumenical community will not end. The inspiration, the new things learned and powerful legislative advocacy accomplished through Ecumenical Advocacy Days will have positive effects on into the future.
For more information about
To honor a women and financially support gender justice work in the ecumenical community through the NCC go to:
Photos of Tiemeyer and Chemberlin by Kathleen Cameron
It’s A Wonderful Thing to Honor the Women Who Made All the Difference In Our Lives:
“A very exciting evening of
amazing women gathered at Pilgrim Place in Claremont, California for wine
and cheese and to celebrate the lives of women and the ‘herstory’ of our
past struggles and accomplishments,” said
Convener of the local steering group responsible for organizing the
Claremont Circles of Names Gathering on Tuesday, February 15, 2011.
Twenty-eight women were named as part of the Circles of Names Campaign which
will sustain and energize the future for ecumenical women’s ministries,” she
went on to note.
of Names Campaign, (www.circlesofnames.org)
a project of the National Council of Churches USA, (www.ncccusa.org)
is designed to create a circle of support for women’s ministries by asking a
thousand persons to give $100 in the name of a woman who has helped shape
their walks of faith. The Circles Campaign seeks to build a foundation
towards long-term sustainability of Women’s Ministries and gender justice
work through the 37 member communions of the National Council of Churches.
“When the Claremont community
stepped up and first offered to host a Circles of Names Gathering, we knew
the event would take on an exciting life
of its own and that probably it
would be most effective if staff would just get out of their way and let
these amazing friends of the NCC shape and implement the occasion in their
own inimitable style,” said the Rev. Deborah DeWinter, Director of Donor
Relations for the National Council of Churches USA.
“The local steering committee, led by Jerri
Rodewald, chair of the Feminist Agenda Network (F.A.N.) and a member of the
Advocacy Committee for Women’s Concerns of the Presbyterian Church USA,
included seasoned activists and organizers, prominent theologians,
educators, ordained ministers and retired staff of national denominational
offices and international church agencies, some of whom had already
themselves been named to the Circles Campaign,” DeWinter said.
Which is why, on the evening of
February 15, 2011, more than 70 friends and constituents of the three
(which since 1915 has been a home to thousands of
retired persons who have
served as leaders of religious and charitable non-profit organizations
throughout the world),
School of Theology gathered at Decker Hall
on the Pilgrim Place campus to express their commitment to the future of
women’s ministries and gender justice work of the National Council of
program, entitled, “A Salute to Pilgrim Women in the Circles of Names,”
honored the 10 women within the
the Circles of Names at this gathering were special honorees the late
Nelson, former Academic Dean at the
Claremont School of Theology, introduced by The Rev. Dr. Kathy Black,
professor of Homiletics at the Claremont School of Theology;
Powell, introduced by Rev. Dr. Jane
Heckles, Minister for Our Church’s Wider Mission, United Church of Christ,
(and surprised by a special video greeting delivered by her daughter, The
Rev. Loey Powell, Executive for Administration and Women’s Justice, Justice
and Witness Ministries of the United Church of Christ);
Scott Meyers, former President, Pacific
School of Religion introduced
by Rev. Dr. Lynn Rhodes,
Professor Emerita, Pacific School of Religion;
Troxell, former Director of Field Education
and Spiritual Formation at Garrett-Theological Seminary and Dean of Students
at the Pacific School of Religion introduced by Judy Fiske, Chair of Women’s
Perspectives at Pilgrim Place;
former member of the national staff of Women's Ministries, National
Ministries Division, Presbyterian Church (USA)
former pastor of
United University Church at the University of Southern
California at Los
Angeles introduced by Jerri Rodewald,
chair of the Feminist Agenda Network and Moderator of the Claremont Circles
of Names Gathering Steering Group.
Ann Tiemeyer, Director of Women’s Ministries at the NCC, gave an overview of
the current projects of the Women’s Ministries that promote gender justice.
Words Matter, a new project initiated by the
on the shoulders of such great women, I could see beyond the mountains
Mr. Wesley (“Pat”) Pattillo,
Secretary for Justice, Advocacy and Communication,
provided a brief overview of the National
Council of Churches today, particularly highlighting the work of the Justice
and Advocacy and Communications Commissions. The Rev. Deborah DeWinter,
Director of Donor Relations for the NCC concluded the evening by inviting
those gathered to tell their friends about the Circles of Names Campaign
“….so that the circle of support for gender justice work can be expanded and
women’s ministries at the National Council, sustained well into the future.”
the start of the program which took place at Decker Hall, on the campus of
Reflecting on the experience, reception co-host Rev. Susan Craig commented, “The event was inspiring to us and to all who took part. It’s a wonderful thing to take the time, and make the financial sacrifice to honor the women who made all the difference in our lives. Without them many of us wouldn’t have had the nerve – and the faith – to answer the callings we were so sure were ours. Pilgrim Place is so progressive and feminist that we’re a natural source of support for the Circles program.
Those serving on the Steering Committee for the Claremont
Circles of Names Campaign Gathering, included: Bear Ride and Susan Craig,
honorary hosts; Jerri Rodewald, Convener; Jane Dempsey Douglass; Rev. Dr.
Jean Audrey Powers; Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether; members of the Feminist
Agenda Network (FAN): Ann Hayman, Carolyn Kingshill, Donna Lee Merz; Bery
Smith, Jo C. Smith, and Annie Wu King.
gatherings are now in development for
Call for Submissions!
The Justice for Women Working Group (J4WWG) of the National Council of Churches, USA (NCC), is issuing an open call for art to help expand our imagination of ecumenical cooperation reflecting on Luke 24:48, “You are witnesses of these things.” (NRSV)
Submissions will be displayed at the Justice for Women Working Group meeting during the Centennial Ecumenical Gathering and General Assembly of the NCC and Church World Service November 9-11, 2010 in New Orleans.
Submissions must be
Submissions may be accompanied by an artist’s statement of no more than 500 words.
Submissions become the property of The National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA and may be used in connection with the expansive language project as well as for other publicity and educational purpose at the NCC’s discretion, always providing credit to the submitting artist.
For more information
Fistula Stories announces
Stories, a project of Women’s Ministries at the National Council of the
Churches of Christ,
A new section of www.fistulastories.org features the Multi-Faith materials. Currently Jewish and Islamic Supplements are available at www.fistulastories.org/multi-faith, with Buddhist, Native American Spirituality, Sikh, and Hindu resources projected for this fall. The Supplements include text studies and prayers, and can be studied individually or together.
Obstetric Fistula, a childbirth injury that leaves women bereaved, incontinent, and shunned, is estimated to affect more than 2 million women worldwide. For more information on the causes of fistula, its cure and prevention, and ways to get involved, visit www.fistulastories.org.
Ecumenical group explores the power of language
participants represented a broad spectrum of ages, races, cultural
backgrounds, gender, sexual orientations, abilities,
denominations/communions, and professional fields.
“Our vision,” said the Rev.
“This vision is grounded in the Gospel mandate to affirm life and carry
forth the healing love of God found within the gospel of Jesus Christ in the
face of the death-dealing effects of sin in our world,” Tiemeyer said.
gathering approached language issues using a descriptive rather than a
proscriptive method. The
conversation was grounded in relationship and listening to each others’
stories of experiencing the power of language and the breaking through of
Each person at the August gathering responded to the prompt:
Share with us an experience when you
noticed the power and/or importance of language (words, symbols, or images)
and the impact of that language on your life, your faith community, or your
relationship with God. This
experience may have helped you embrace the Divine more fully or it may have
been destructive, harmful, or painful to you in your personal and/or faith
After listening to one another’s stories and noting their own responses,
participants met in small groups to discuss what they had learned from the
stories, led by co-facilitators Virstan Choy and Aleese Moore-Orbih.
stories told by the group called for language expansion—expanding the way we
think and talk about ourselves, others, and our God.
Instead of restricting language, the stories called for adding more
Chris Lewis, a student at
called for a breaking down of the “cliques” of our own communions to foster
an expanding vocabulary and imagery for who God is and how God is revealed
in our lives.
stories told by the group called for expanding the understanding of how
language is tied to systems of power and has been and can be harmful,
oppressive, and death-dealing.
Ray Hill, the pastor of an urban United Church of Christ congregation in
Other participants also noted that when “inclusion” or “political
correctness” is the goal, the dominant culture continues to be held up above
culture is not demeaned in my church,” said Teresa Chavez Sauceda, a
Presbyterian who describes herself as Chicana, “but it certainly is not
lifted up.” The
internalizations of descriptions created by dominant groups for “others” --
even experienced through the lack described by Sauceda -- can reinforce
stereotypes, ignorance, and oppression.
stories told by the group called us to expand contextual cultural
attentiveness --understanding that language speaks differently in different
Officer for Racial Justice and Human Rights, a
joint staff appointment
with the United Church of Christ who is affiliated with the American Baptist
Churches and Progressive National Baptist Convention, Inc., described the
huge cultural difference she often moves between, calling for more
understanding of one another’s contexts.
“Truth be told, there are those who are opposed to language like ‘God the
Father’ because they never had a father, or they had a distant or abusive
father,” Blount said, using a common example in discussions of language.
“But truth be told, there are those who would deeply grieve the loss
of ‘God the Father’ because they never had a father, or they had a distant
or abusive father.”
stories told by the group showed that in an environment created through
respectful intentional listening, compliance to rules about specific words
was not as helpful as commitment to understanding the impact of the power of
“There was no list of forbidden words created; rather, we pursued a
consciousness of how language shapes our own experience as well as the
experience of others – precious wisdom,” said Inez Torres Davis, Director
for Justice of Women of the ELCA.
This kind of commitment can lead to real, meaningful analysis of systems of
power that oppose the Gospel; extending a life-affirming hospitality within
the church and community.
Hedahl, Professor at Gettysburg Lutheran Theological Seminary, characterized
campus discussion around language there as revolving around the difference
between “compliance” and “commitment,” and agreed that understanding what it
at stake in the language we use is more valuable than simply following a
list of rules.
stories told by the group also called for spreading this conversation to as
many different places as possible.
In beginning to think about how to spread these conversations, the
participants acknowledged the need for a variety of methods that might
include listening, dialogue, liturgy and hymnody, humor, story-telling, art,
and social media networks.
What was learned at this gathering will be shared with the NCC
Said Torres Davis, also a member of the working group, “Our hope is to have
such conversations occur in congregations, pericope studies, classrooms,
forums, Sunday schools, pulpits, and so forth…The scholarship on expanding
language has been done, including liberation, mujerista, womanist, feminist,
GLBT, ableist, patriarchal, and other analyses of power within the faith and
within those who hold the faith. It is now time to begin applying this
Among the 25 participants, eight were men, six were under 30, three openly
identified as LGBT, eight were clergy, nine were lay, five were seminary
professors, three were seminarians, Ph.D. candidates or recent grads.
Three participants identified as Latino/a, seven as African American,
three as Asian, one as Native American, eight as Caucasian, and three as
Participants came from the following communions:
the African Methodist Episcopal Church,
NCC group to meet in
The National Council of Churches
symposium, “Language Matters,” will discuss how to talk about God and faith
in ways that respect the sensibilities of people from a variety of
Christian traditions and viewpoints.
The conversation will focus on the language, images,
and symbols used in worship and everyday life to talk about faith and God.
by the NCC’s Justice for Women Working Group, this conversation is a first
step in a larger project designed to create resources for congregations and
groups to assist their own conversations.
The term “expansive language” has been used in some
circles to describe respectful language that honors all of God’s people and
is more than just “gender inclusive”.
As communions seek to become genuinely inclusive as
well as multiracial communities of faith, planners say, the conversation
about the use of language in churches becomes more critical, and more
women in the United Church of Christ and Christian Church (Disciples of
Christ) held a joint event, we prepared guidelines around expansive language
which asked preachers, speakers and workshop leaders to bring consciousness
to the language they were using out of the traditions from which they came,”
said the Rev. Loey Powell,
executive for Administration and Women’s Justice in the UCC.
Sensitivity to gender inclusive language, particularly
religious language and metaphor, emerged in the 1970’s with the advent of
feminist theology and feminist biblical exegesis and hermeneutics.
Many denominations began
the process of developing gender inclusive worship materials, protocols for
publications, and even biblical translations that offered metaphors and
names for God and humanity that reflected this inclusiveness.
In 1988 the General Convention of
the Episcopal Church first approved Supplemental Liturgical Texts, now known
as Enriching Our Worship, as an alternate to the Book of Common Prayer for
Part of the impetus to have a meeting on language is
the impression of some observers that the use of gender inclusive language
throughout our NCC member communions has declined.
insights have emerged within our churches about language that reinforces
harmful stereotypes around the realities of race, disabilities, sexual
orientation and gender, planners say.
The August gathering will explore
dimensions of language, images, and symbols for God through multiple
approaches that reflect the diversity of the group.
The 30 participants, both lay and ordained, come from
a wide diversity of NCC member communions and religious traditions.
Explore faith in action, educate your community about maternal health, and walk in solidarity with your global sisters
article in the medical journal
revealed that global maternal mortality is on the decline.
This is good news, but much progress remains to
It is still estimated that a woman dies in childbirth
or from pregnancy-related complications every 90 seconds—and that for every
one woman who dies there are 20 who live with childbirth-related injuries.
One of those injuries is Obstetric Fistula.
A hole between the vagina
and bladder and/or rectum that leaves women incontinent and shunned, fistula
affects more than 2 million women worldwide.
Fistula Stories is a 4-session
curriculum for use in church bible studies, campus ministries, and other
Through education, Bible study, and advocacy
planning, Fistula Stories invites you to take a stand on Global Maternal
Studying the specific issue of fistula provides a
tangible framework in which to explore the connections between faith and
action in our own lives.
All of the participants in
our pilot program during Fall 2009 reported that they understood the
connections between faith and action in their own lives in new and deeper
ways, and they felt empowered to be advocates for this and other issues!
curriculum is closely linked to a website,
www.fistulastories.org, where you can read
more stories of faith in action, find out more about fistula, and learn
about what is being done to improve life for women worldwide.
fistulastories.org to download the free
curriculum, complete with a leader’s guide and supplemental resources!
Interested in Fistula Stories?
Stay in touch!
download the materials and provide us with your contact information—we will
keep you in the loop with anticipated supplemental materials, including a US
Maternal Health Supplement (did you know that the
Explore faith in action, educate your community about maternal health, and walk in solidarity with your global sisters! Check out Fistula Stories today!
Promote Maternal Health this Mother’s Day!/span>
· Download Worship Resources to recognize maternal mortality and morbidities from a grassroots educational campaign for Mother’s Day from the Rachel Sabbath Initiative at the Religious Institute, Bulletin inserts, Prayers and more!
· Sign A Petition to send to Kathleen Sibelius, urging her to start an Office of Maternal Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.
This action is urgent, as a study recently released by Amnesty International reported that maternal mortality has increased by 42% in the United states since the 1980’s—at the same time that Maternal Mortality worldwide is decreasing.
· Coming Soon:
Fistula Stories Re-launch,
featuring an expanded curriculum and re-vamped website!
Are you still scratching your head over “fistula?” or wondering why a Maternal Health Initiative would be called “The Rachel Sabbath?” Take heart, there is much to learn—and what better time to be educated and raise awareness about maternal health than Mother’s Day? Visit www.fistulastories.org to find out more.
first two panels for the specially commissioned
Circles of Names Campaign work of
art by Mary Button were unveiled during Women’s History Month (March) at
both the Ecumenical Women’s Reception and the Ecumenical Young Adult
Leadership Experience related to the Commission on the Status of Women at
the United Nations.
Circles of Names Campaign)
which was inaugurated in November 2009 at the joint General Assembly of the
National Council of Churches USA and Church World Service is well on its way
to reaching the goal of $100,000 raised and 1,000 women named.
Funds raised will support the broader vision of
the Campaign: “Bearing witness to a
broad base of support historically, currently and into the future for gender
justice work in and through the faith communities to sustain, coordinate and
extend the work of women’s ministries.”
Within the circles of the painted
fabric designs, I have drawn silhouettes of important historical and
contemporary women church leaders.
Women like Ida Wells Barnett, Dorothy Day, and
women whose dedication to the church inspires
and moves us . . . I then began to encircle
these portraits with the names of one thousand
more women who inspire and move.
In the end, I hope that these paintings will
stand both as a personal thank you to the women of my church who taught me
to love color as a child and as a testimony to the work of women in all our
churches. (Circles of Names Artist –
To see the women already named go to
read what has been said about some of them go to
To name a women of faith that
inspires you go to
Donations or pledges may be made on line or alternately a
Circles of Names brochure may be downloaded and checks mailed to the NCC
The NCC will send a note to women
named when their contact information is provided.
It is also possible for the donor to download a
gift card in order to express more personally how the woman named has been a
source of inspiration to the donor.
To name a woman in honor of Mother’s
Day, a special Mother’s Day Circles of
Names gift card has been designed especially for this occasion.
It can be downloaded at
By the beginning of March, $45,525.00 had been donated or pledged to the Circles of Names Campaign. All funds for this Campaign are to be received by December 31, 2010 and are placed in the Claire Randall Sustaining Fund (see the Frequently Asked Questions section of the website at http://circlesofnames.org/faq/) to support the ongoing work of Women’s Ministries at the NCC and in addressing gender justice in the church and in the world.
Click here for updates: Women's History Month, Making aid work, A Walk to Beautiful, Domestic Violence Month, the Fistula Project and more.