Women Without Walls by Mary Cotes

‘A remarkable book that graphically elucidates the gospel’s call to women to be present in the world’

A review of Women Without Walls – How God Shapes Ordinary Women for Extraordinary Kingdom work by forum member Mary Cotes
Graceworks
ISBN: 9789811471568

Reviewed by Anthea Sully

Baptist minister, Mary Cotes, was inspired to write Women Without Walls with a passionate conviction that grassroots women should have access to the empowering stories of women in the Bible. The outcome is a remarkable book that graphically elucidates the gospel’s call to women to be present in the world.

Taking the parable of the yeast as its starting point and rooted in Matthew’s gospel, the stories of biblical women are woven and paralleled with some remarkable historical Christian women. As Cotes says, “The action of the yeast is nothing short of amazing. Mixed with flour and water, it starts to work and becomes, as if miraculously, a dynamic agent of change”. I feel this book will give all seekers of the Kingdom, and especially women, the confidence to step out and become people of transformation.

Mary Cotes

We find the Canaanite woman and Sojourner Truth hand in hand, the relationship bringing both their stories to life. Cotes relates the Bible narratives, and then very gently challenges our assumptions, suggesting we may want to look at them a different way, one which puts women and their agency at the centre. I found this approach profoundly refreshing – I was meeting with women I thought I knew and discovering they became relatable to my life and my own challenges.

This effect was amplified by the counterpoint with other women’s stories. I was aware of some of these, such as Betsie and Corrie Ten Boom who are paired with the Marys at the tomb. Others were less familiar including the French religious, Alice Domon, who stood with the mothers of the disappeared in Argentina. By weaving her story with that of the mother of James and John we see how Jesus is present in the midst of suffering and that women can respond to a call to serve.

There are some overarching themes. One is that women can indeed ‘work the yeast’ throughout the flour and in doing so engender whole community transformation. Another is that women are not only doing this work within their homes, for they are called out into the public space to witness. I have been a politician, a church leader and in senior leadership of organisations, and Women Without Walls made me think of what my calling might be both now and in the future.

I am also aware of my responsibility to encourage other Christian women in finding and living their calling, and Women Without Walls is a tremendous resource for doing just that. This is a book that is deserving of a wide and diverse audience. I hope very much that men will also come to read it.

Anthea Sully is the free churches National Coordinator for the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women and Chief Executive of White Ribbon UK

This review first appeared in the Baptist Times https://www.baptist.org.uk/Articles/613299/Women_Without_Walls.aspx

Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women – statement on the war in Ukraine

The Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women affirms solidarity with the Ukrainian people and calls for an immediate end to the abuse of power displayed by Putin.


The Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women is a network of women from all Christian traditions. The Forum is active in over 30 European countries.As members of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women we strongly condemn the invasion of Ukraine by Russia. This is in contravention of International Law and a violation of the UN Charter which puts the foundations of our peaceful interdependence and shared humanity at grave risk.
We stand against the abuse of power by one man who has launched an unprovoked attack against the Ukrainian people, including communities of women and children. Such politics that brings death and destruction must end.
Our movement is one that seeks peace, emboldened and driven by our belief in the life and example of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Our mission is to reach out across cultural, geographical and national divides and, in solidarity with one another, seek the peace and justice that is demanded by our faith.
We therefore stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian sisters and all Ukrainian people and make the following commitments:

  1. To call for an immediate end to the current invasion.
  2. To uphold in prayer the people of the Ukraine and our Ukrainian sisters.
  3. To demand of our governments determined action to bring about a peaceful and just resolution to this war.
  4. To welcome and support refugees and all those displaced because of the conflict.
  5. To support the desire of the Ukrainian people to be fully established as European members.

    On behalf of the EFECW Coordinating Committee

Global Theologies of Gender Based Violence

An event to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence 2020. Christian Aid Scotland, Side by Side, the Scottish Episcopal Church, Act Alliance, and the World Council of Churches are delighted to invite you to an event to mark the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence 2020.

We will hear from inspirational speakers on the importance of faith communities and leaders speaking out on gender-based violence, and share some of the creative ways people are challenging gender-based violence in countries and communities across the world.

This event will be held on Zoom – the Zoom link will be sent by email 24 hours before. Please familiarise yourself with the Zoom App on your chosen device.

Register on Eventbrite or contact Fiona (fbuchanan@christian-aid.org) for more information.

https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/global-theologies-of-gender-based-violence-the-role-of-faith-leaders-tickets-128839278751

A happy Easter in difficult times

In such difficult times we are very aware of our sisters across Europe.  We are all living with the strains and worries of the Coronavirus pandemic.  Usually at times of stress it where coming together to mark the major festivals of our faith can offer some comfort and hope for the future.  This year it is different for nearly all of us and many will not be able to be with their friends and loved ones.

We are suggesting that you may wish to join with the Swiss Church in London. Reverend Carla Maurer, its pastor, was a board member of the European Forum of European Christian Women (EFECW) from 2010-2014 where she coordinated the first Pop Up Monastery.

Here is the link to the Easter Sunday service https://swisschurchlondon.org.uk/downloads/

May peace be with you this Easter.

bruno-van-der-kraan-v2HgNzRDfII-unsplash
Photo by Bruno van der Kraan on Unsplash

 

 

‘Reconciled with creation: a call for urgent action on climate and biodiversity’ – Assembly of European Christian Environmental Networks

Response to climate change and efforts for sustainable future are linked to an ethical dimension and to broader questions of individual and collective freedom, pursuing of justice and responsibility for future. Churches and faith communities have been increasingly aware of these challenges.   

In pursuing these challenges, European Christian Environmental Network announces its next Assembly, which will take place under the title: ‘Reconciled with creation: a call for urgent action on climate and biodiversity’ from 29 August – 2 September 2020 in Evangelical Academy Bad Herrenalb ( Germany). 

An essential aspect of the ECEN conference 2020 will be relating work of European churches in ecology and care for creation to the 2021 Assembly of the World Council of Churches in Karlsruhe. Partnership and close cooperation between ECEN and WCC has been successfully developing for years. The WCC Assembly in Europe, first after more than 5 decades, offers a unique opportunity for manifesting close link and support of European churches to the Assembly through many ways. ECEN has an ambition to emphasise this link in highlighting a joint efforts of churches in Europe and WCC in works on care for creation and ecological justice, and through the conference contribute to a meaningful way leading to the WCC Assembly 2021.

ECEN Assembly will offer a space for highlighting churches’ efforts for practices leading to sustainable future and to the governance supporting these practices. Particular attention in preparation as well as in programme of the Assembly will be given to involvement of youth and specific youth’s concerns related to care of sustainable future. Close cooperation with Ecumenical Youth Council of Europe and World Student Christian Federation – Europe will be an essential part of the process.

New website from our sisters in Germany

Our sisters in Germany are pleased to announce their new website.  https://www.oekumeneforum.de/  They describe their themes to include climate, refugees, women,  governments  and more.

Segen in die vier Himmelsrichtungen

Gott des Friedens, segne den Osten dieser Welt,
wo du die Sonne aufgehen lässt Tag für Tag,
wo Menschen einander lieben und dich loben;

Stärke den Frieden im Osten der Welt.

Gott, durch deine Gerechtigkeit segne den Süden dieser Welt,
wo die Sonne am Mittag ihren Lauf nimmt,
wo die Menschen bauen und bewahren;
Stärke das Recht im Süden dieser Welt.

Gott, in deiner Barmherzigkeit segne den Westen dieser Welt,
wo mit der Sonne das Licht des Tages vergeht,
wo Menschen singen und lachen;
Stärke die Barmherzigkeit im Westen der Welt.

Gott, die du uns zueinander führst, segne den Norden dieser Welt,
wo die Sonnenwende beeindruckende Schönheit schafft,
wo die Menschen einander begegnen und bergen;
Stärke die Gemeinschaft im Norden der Welt.

Rochester Diocese calls on men to stand against domestic abuse

Rochester Diocese has been working in partnership with specialist agencies to deliver workshops and raise awareness and understanding in churches across the Diocese, about domestic abuse.

Their work around Domestic Abuse began in 2018 with the ‘Setting the Captives Free…freedom from Domestic Abuse’ campaign.

From June 2019 the diocese is continuing to stand up to domestic abuse by supporting the White Ribbon UK Campaign and encouraging churches to get involved too.

White Ribbon UK is part of the global movement to end male violence against women. It invites men to make a pledge never to commit, excuse or remain silent about male violence against women.

Twenty per cent of all women in the UK have experienced sexual assault
More than half of the women in the UK have experienced sexual harassment in the workplace.
An average of two women a week are murdered by a current or former partner in England and Wales.
It is therefore essential that men take responsibility in ending male violence against women, as it is still often labelled as a ‘women’s issue’.

For more information see https://www.rochester.anglican.org/mission/domestic-abuse/

Bishop Simon, Bishop James and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby

Meeting of EFECW Coordinating Committee

The second meeting of Coordinating Committee of EFECW was held in Corfu, Greece 27 Februrary to 3 March 2019. This meeting was a good opportunity to the CC to continue to work together and to develop activities on different areas, as well as to join  the neighbourhood meeting organised by the Greek Forum for Mediterranean countries and to share the CC message on the topic of violence against women.

During these three effective days, the new CC members, after sharing news from local forums and other activities undertaken by the CC since the last meeting in Vienna and being presented of different aspects of the work of the CC and determined the future activities, including, communication among and with the member forum organisations of EFECW, new effective ways to develop “inter-forums” relations and to be well informed about each other, the empowerment of young and active women in EFECW, by continuing  to commit ourselves to the young women’s strategy. A larger visibility and presence of EFECW especially in churches, religious, and civil organisations both at national and European level and developing  spiritual guidelines for EFECW.
Marianna Apresyan, EFECW Co-President

Final Message Xth General Assembly

7-12 August 2018, Soko Grad, Serbia

If You Remain Silent in this Time… (Esther 4:14)

Thursdays in BlackOver 100 members of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women gathered together from 24 countries and from all traditions of the Christian family to share in prayer, fellowship, discussion and pilgrimage. We met at the Orthodox Monastery Sveti Nikolaj, Soko Grad, Serbia. We thank the local women who have welcomed us, and the people of the Monastery who have been such generous hosts.

With prayerful reflection on the book of Esther and guided by the text “if you remain silent in this time”, we discussed what it means to speak out as women in our churches about the issues we face within our contexts.

We will speak out:

  • About the invisibility of women within our churches
  • About the importance of women’s social, political and economic empowerment
  • Against rape, abuse, torture and violence against women
  • About the importance of ecumenical and inter-religious dialogue
  • To support the human rights of everyone, especially migrants and those seeking asylum
  • Against populist propaganda
  • About the role of women in peace-building

We stand together with our sisters to achieve the recognition and meaningful participation of women within our churches.

We will continue to develop and support projects that contribute to the social, political and economic empowerment of women.

2018 marks the 20th anniversary of the end of the World Council of Churches’ Ecumenical Decade in Solidarity with Women. We regret that there is still a need to address its original priorities, and urge all churches to recommit to these. In particular we call for the support of governmental ratification of the Istanbul Convention, as well as the Thursdays in Black and White Ribbon campaigns, which demand an end to violence against women.

We walk together with women of all Christian denominations and all faiths on our journey towards equality and celebrate our participation as members of the Side by Side Movement for gender justice.

We will challenge current European and national laws and policies which lead women to undertake unnecessary acts of survival, resulting in a loss of human dignity. We will work in solidarity with women who are at the mercy of traffickers and smugglers.

We provide a platform for women to share knowledge, raise awareness, and to develop an informed opinion on issues women face today.

We seek to be voices for peace and reconciliation within our churches, communities and the wider world.

We have been on pilgrimage together and created a space to share and express our spirituality. Renewed by our gathering, may God lead us on our way with joy and peace as signs of Christ’s love on earth.

First report from the EFECW General Assembly – Serbia

The 10th General Assembly of the Ecumenical Forum of European Christian Women took place in the Monastery Sveti Nikolai, Soko Grad, Serbia from 7-12 August 2018. The conference theme was taken from the book of Esther 4:14 ‘If you remain silent at this time …’

We will be posting our reports from the Assembly over the next few weeks. T

Kathy Galloway gave a keynote speech on the first day.

She described how a few years before she had been given the Esther text to preach from – it had become clear that the woman reading the lesson had not read in advance as her voice gradually became higher in pitch as she became more indignant. Ancient stories may be heard differently by modern woman – Esther is a horror story of misogyny and violence – three women speak within it.

Vashti – we are not told what she said – we are told what she did – she is perceived by men to be great threat to all men. The second woman to speak – Esther herself who has to be seen to be the most beautiful – after a year of becoming groomed in the harem. The wife of Haman also speaks – she builds him up – and tells him to raise the gallows.

We are presented with the bad wife, the complicit wife and the good wife.

Vashti is used to show asolute male dominance. The wife of Hamam brings disaster upon her family and Esther is the great tactical heroine.

But the saved people go on to kill 75,000 it is not a comfortable story. In a continuing struggle against patriarchy what does it mean to speak truth to power?

There are many biblical women to encourage us.

It is always important to speak to those around us – look at the Samaritan woman who risks to speak to Jesus. We can volunteer, post on bulletin boards, offer hospitality, meeting spaces in churches or homes, partner with existing resources and speak without words through our physical presence. Look at Rizpa sometimes all that remains is to bear witness and call to account the rulers of the world. We can become a resource like Mary in her home. We can give voice by supporting professional training like Lydia in her agency as a successful business women. In readiness to listen and act in faith

Our leadership is important – in Scotland – the Side by Side movement for gender justice -coordinated by Christian Aid to encourage male faith leaders to speak out on issues of gender justice especially violence – and especially violence within faith.

We can never give up

Politely and patiently – with determination- as women we are ensuring the silence breaks on gender injustice.

We can say no. We can resist everything that distorts the image of God in human beings. And we can be the one who says yes – like Mary the mother of Jesus.

The women in the bible are there because they broke the rules

To need to move from personal comfort to solidarity – we are not alone – in the midst of our struggles is Jesus saying do not be afraid.

Kathy Galloway