Lutheran Women Theologians’ Network on the Move in Africa
By Rev. Dr. Elaine Neuenfeldt, LWF Secretary for Women in Church and Society (WICAS)
The meeting of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) “African Lutheran Women Theologians and the Regional Workshop on Gender Justice, Hermeneutics and Development” from 8-15 November in Johannesburg, South Africa, was aimed at:
- Raising the visibility of local theological work and awareness of the interrelationship between biblical interpretation, gender justice and development.
- Increasing capacity and strengthening networking among African theologians in the LWF communion.
- Deepening the knowledge and understanding of Lutheran hermeneutics.
Four African women, who attended the meeting and took part in the workshop, reflect on their experiences of doing theology in their churches and contexts:
Rev Rachel Axwesso – Deputy Secretary General for Social Service and Women’s Work in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT)
“I am involved in the diaconal work of my church. The workshop on gender justice, hermeneutics and development has helped me to better understand the importance of sensitizing both men and women to issues related to gender mainstreaming, gender equity, gender justice and equality. These issues are crucial and need to be dealt with seriously.
“As a result of this workshop, I am now more sensitive to the contextual background—the cultural and social norms—of my church and society. While I recognize that gender justice will not become a reality overnight, I firmly believe that it will eventually as half the work is already done. Together we must advocate for equal rights for all.
“I will use what I have learned from this workshop to create awareness among church members and groups, women and men, by facilitating workshops, seminars and meetings. The workshop gave me new ideas on how to incorporate men in reflections on gender justice.
“The campaign to change the prevalent mindset and to advocate for more just and dignified relations can easily be integrated into the regional and local diaconal work of the church, and it is important to include such activities in the budget of the church.”
Rev Solange Yumba wa Nkulu – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Congo, Democratic Republic of Congo
“Much of what I learned during the meeting of the African Women Theologians’ Network can be applied to my pastoral work as well as my duties as national women’s coordinator. I learned that women of faith can do something for themselves and for others in church and society. I learned that gender justice is a hermeneutical, exegetical as well as a diaconal issue. Important for me was to learn more about Martin Luther’s Ninety-Five Thesis, the Lutheran theology of Grace and the authority of scriptures seen through the lens of gender. The Bible study on the nativity story (Matthew 1 and 2) inspired me to read other biblical texts from a gender justice perspective. I shall share new insights with the women and men with whom I work in the church in the DRC.
“One of the challenges I envisage is how to communicate my church work on gender justice because the structures of my church and society are very patriarchal and women are suffering and affected in their dignity and self-esteem. Moreover, women and girls have no access to formal education and there are still many obstacles that hinder our development in church and society.
“The workshop gave me the idea to incorporate men in the gender programs I coordinate in my church. Men and women need to be exposed together to gender justice reflections in order to be empowered and jointly to promote change in the church and their daily lives. In future, I shall increasingly work on violence against women and conflict resolution in my church.”
Rev. Tseganesh Ayele – Director of the Department for Women’s Ministry, Ethiopian Evangelical Church Mekane Yesus
“The African Women Theologians’ Network has empowered me to walk—together with men and women, church leaders, theologians, lay and clergy—on the road toward gender justice. The workshop helped me to unpack the concept of gender justice from a biblical perspective.
“As we embark on this journey, we must challenge ourselves and positively influence our families, churches and societies. Several challenges lie ahead of us, including the deep-rooted belief that gender issues concern women only. We must work to overcome stereotypes and if we are committed to cooperating among ourselves we will soon see the positive effects with our own eyes. The number of women in leadership positions and in the ordained ministry will increase significantly, as will books produced by young and mature women theologians. The church must assign positions to women and men according to their gifts because God entrusted women and men equally, and gives diverse gifts and blessings on the journey.”
Rev Elitha Moyo – Evangelical Lutheran Church in Zimbabwe
“The meeting of the African Lutheran Women Theologians was inspiring and educative. Sharing our experiences on gender mainstreaming and collectively reflecting on ways in which we can improve and expand our network was very timely. Each participant produced a text reflecting theologically on her experience and work, which was discussed by the group. This methodology was very helpful since the comments I received were constructive and helped me to improve my text. Hopefully, we can compile our African theological reflections as Lutheran women on the move commemorating 500 years of Reformation in a book.”