In , an anticipated 250 women from as many as 100 countries will meet in Grand Rapids, Mich., to take part in an event which will precede the Uniting General Council (UGC), the gathering at which the World Alliance of Reformed Churches will merge with the Reformed Ecumenical Synod into what will be called the World Communion of Reformed Churches.
The Christian Reformed Church in North America, which is a member of both WARC and REC, the organizations being merged, is one of the hosting denominations.
The UGC will bring about 1,000 delegates and others from around the world to the campus of Calvin College in Grand Rapids, for the June 18-26 meeting. A variety of public events, including mass worship services and an effort to match and link area churches and delegates, are part of the program.
For more information on the UGC event, its schedule and to learn of ways that you can participate in it, especially as a volunteer or observer, visit: http://reformedchurches.org/.
The new World Communion of Reformed Churches will bring together some 75 million Reformed Christians in 214 churches in 107 countries—united in their commitment to making a difference in a troubled world, says Rev. Setri Nyomi, WARC general secretary and a minister in the Evangelical Presbyterian Church, Ghana.
The event for women in Grand Rapids is the "Women's Pre-Council" event. Prior to each WARC General Council, it has been traditional for women to gather to explore the theme of the General Council as well as their own concerns. Attendees include both UGC delegates and people who are there only for the Pre-Council event.
The women, members of Reformed and Presbyterian churches, will be meet June 14-17 in Grand Rapids, which has been hit – like many communities in Michigan—by job loss, homelessness, and hunger. The theme of the event is: "Come with Jesus to the Streets." REC and WARC are co-sponsors of the event.
The women will spend a day visiting sites in Grand Rapids, which offer ministries that focus on helping women in various ways. Also part of the gathering will be a chance for women to participate in a Bible study that looks at Luke 19:28-34.
"Inviting women to witness and to engage with the Grand Rapids reality is in keeping with women's responses to WARC's Accra Confession, which emphasizes the importance of connecting the realities of economics and our different locations in any conversation about faith and gender justice," says Paulette Brown of the Presbyterian Church in Canada, one of the event organizers.
Fifteen years ago, women who gathered for the fourth Women’s World Conference in Beijing, China, issued a Declaration and Platform for Action, calling governments to accountability regarding their commitment to the advancement of women. While this has further strengthened the work of governments and civil society with more women in political positions, gender justice is still a long way from reality.
"For many women, freedom from hunger, rape and other forms of violence, atrocities of war, conflict and natural disasters as well as the right to justice, security, wellness, self reliance and life in fullness remains a significant struggle. Climate change is also taking a heavy toll on women, particularly in poor countries," says Patricia Sheerattan-Bisnauth, WARC’s executive secretary for gender justice.
Women's experience, knowledge and survival strategies need to be recognized, valued and celebrated as a determined resistance to the forces of the global economic system and its consequences of ecological destruction.
"Women have been a source of strength in broadening the agenda of the ecumenical movement, including the struggle against all forms of discrimination, sexism, racism, caste-ism, tribalism and religious intolerance," says Sheerattan-Bisnauth.
"We need to build on this legacy, following the example of Jesus, who not only denounced injustices against women, foreigners and those marginalized by the dominant power in his society, but also lived out the hope of God’s reign as he brought new life, by healing souls and bodies, by proclaiming and building peace on earth, and by anticipating the restoration of all creation."
Nymoi, WARC general secretary, says WARC strongly supports the effort of the women to work for equality and justice. "The Alliance has begun a process of gender awareness for men, to enable them to be partners with women and to promote positive masculinity. This is essential in effectively addressing gender injustices and to building partnership," says Nyomi.
For more information on the UGC event, visit: http://reformedchurches.org/.