Five years ago at the Conference of European Churches general assembly a vote was taken to remove quotas of women and young people that had been in place for many years. The EFECW voting place was also removed. Members of the forum strongly opposed this at the time believing that this would diminish the voices of women within CEC. When the subsequent CEC assembly begins on May 31st we will be watching to with interest to see the balance of women, men and young people looks the same as the last assembly with the quotas in place or whether there is a marked decline in the numbers of young people and women.
Within the forum, as we approach our assembly, we have also been discussing quotas. In England the forum inevitably reflects the demographics of many churches with a larger number of older women being active. Our newer ‘networking’ has been designed to reach out to younger women through this website , the use of social media and by working in partnership with other organisations in the promotion of events.
Despite our best efforts we do not have a younger woman to take the reserved place in the England delegation to the EFECW General Assembly in the summer. Even though we are beyond the deadline for registration we are still hoping we may find a delegate under 40 who would be able to take up a bursary place. If this is you or someone you know please contact us! After much consideration the national coordinators took the decision not to fill the place designated for a younger woman with someone older. Our experience, from many different settings, is that when quotas are not upheld it can be easy to lose sight of the need for change. When we return from Serbia we will be putting fresh energy into the continuing life and development of the forum. We know many are with us – please spread the word!
Related to the Istanbul Convention is the current consultation by the British Government ‘Seeking to transform the response to domestic abuse’.
There are four aspects of the consultation;
promote awareness – to make sure everyone understands what domestic abuse is and how to tackle it.
protect and support – to improve the safety of victims and the support available.
pursue and deter – to ensure that perpetrators are held responsible for their actions and that the response of police and the justice system is effective.
improve performance –to encourage all services and organisations working with domestic abuse victims or perpetrators to do so in the best way possible.
To read more and to participate in the consultation visit https://consult.justice.gov.uk/homeofficemoj/domestic-abuse-consultation-short-version/
We are delighted that our Free Churches National Coordinator, Anthea Sully, has been appointed as the new Chief Executive of White Ribbon UK. White Ribbon UK seeks to end male violence against women, once and for all, by engaging men in calling out violent, bullying behaviour amongst their peers, and spreading a message of equality and respect. You can find out more at https://www.whiteribbon.org.uk/
The UK has now ratified The Council of Europe Convention on preventing and combating violence against women and domestic violence. The ‘Istanbul Convention’ is based on the understanding that violence against women is a form of gender-based violence that is committed against women because they are women. It becomes the obligation of the state to fully address it in all its forms and to take measures to prevent violence against women, protect its victims and prosecute the perpetrators. We received an open letter from some forum members in Latvia after a group of church leaders had spoken against ratifying the convention. We have written our own letter in support of ratifying the convention believing that this is consistent with Christian values.
A call to women under 40
If you are under 40 and are interested in sharing ecumenically with other women across Europe and working with us to develop the forum in England, or you know someone who is, please get in touch! Our 10th General Assembly is taking place in Serbia in August 2018 and is a great opportunity to meet women from different traditions and countries – exchange ideas and be inspired.
As we explore new ways of participating in the forum in England we are particularly keen to find someone who would relish the challenge working with us to develop our virtual networking, social media, and this website!.We would like you to be involved!
please contact Anthea – at email@example.com
We partnered with Luther King House in February with a lecture from Sue Barclay, ‘View from the Mat – theological reflection on gender based violence in Uganda’. Sue opened by sharing some of the many stories in the bible that offer opportunities to reflect on gender based violence. Asking the question, ‘What if we use the life experience of the majority of people in the world ?’
Sue described her experience in Uganda where most women sit on the floor, in church and at other community gatherings. Reflecting on this, Sue described the change in attitudes towards the status of women that can come about from an understanding of Jesus’ compassion, his understanding of distress and his revelation that women are valued equally by God. We were offered three words to lead to structural change in the power dynamic; mourning, lament and resistance.
EFECW England National Coordinator, Anthea Sully, with shirts from -The Clothes Line Project. This moving community art work from the Baptist Union of Great Britain & Ireland was exhibited at the event. Each shirt is made by a woman survivor of abuse
Five years ago the Forum in the UK brought together a group of women in leadership positions in the church, and the resulting report with its recommendations, entitled ‘The Leading Question?’, was widely shared. We are considering if there has been any progress on the issues that the report highlighted and have developed a survey which we are hoping as many women who are, or have been, leaders in their churches will be able to complete.
The survey will inform a ‘Leading Question, five years on’, report that we plan to release on International Women’s Day, 8th March 2018. To complete the survey please follow this link https://www.surveymonkey.co.uk/r/K8HVDM5 We would be very grateful if you can also share the survey with women you know who are leaders. We hope to get a wide response.
The mermaid image was chosen to illustrate our original report – The Leading Question? because, whilst the mythical female figure of the mermaid is often seen as threatening and dangerous, luring sailors to their death, this has not always been so. At Zennor parish church in West Cornwall, there is a late 15th century carving of a mermaid on one of the pew ends. The mermaid was seen as a symbol of Christ. Her two natures, half human and half fish, echoed Christ’s humanity and divinity. The mermaid can still be seen as a beautiful symbol of our faith – of who Christ is. She speaks of living with ambiguity and mystery, of the importance of taking risk and calling us all out of complacency.
Are you, or a woman you know, under 40 and interested in meeting and sharing with women throughout Europe? Looking ahead to our General Assembly taking place in Soko, Serbia we are keen to meet with younger women who would like to join our delegation and help support the EFECW in England as we develop a new way of working through networking and partnership. The Assembly is a great intercultural opportunity with the experience of a large ecumenical gathering. For more information please contact Anthea at firstname.lastname@example.org
As part of a special module, ‘Theologies of the Body’, taking place at Luther King House in Manchester we are supporting a free evening event entitled Resisting Violence Against Women on Monday12 February 2018 from 18.30. It will begin with light refreshments, and there will be an art exhibition to see – including ‘Out of the Shadows’, the Manchester Mosaic; the ‘Bosnian Christa’ by Margaret Argyle, and ‘The Clothes Line Project’ from the Baptist Union of Great Britain & Ireland. At 19.30 there will be a lecture by Sue Barclay, ‘View from the Mat – theological reflection on gender based violence in Uganda.’ Booking is not essential but, for catering purpose, please let us know if you hope to attend by emailing: email@example.com. All are welcome!
This evening forms part of a 4-day Winter School, exploring themes such as gender and sexuality, ageing and disability, feminist, queer and eco-theologies. Led by Jan Berry and Clare McBeath, this is running from Monday 12th to Thursday 15th February and costs £150 per person. Interested in ‘Embodied Theology’? To register for the Winter School and for further information, contact: 0161 249 2504 or firstname.lastname@example.org. There are also details on the website: www.lutherkinghouse.org.uk
For both events meals & en-suite accommodation are available at Luther King House at an extra cost.
‘The Fellowship of the Least Coin’ is a worldwide movement of prayer and action by women and the Ecumenical Forum is the FLC’s presence in Europe. Several Forum members joined with the Methodist Women in Britain to hear from Cora Tabing-Reyes, the executive secretary of the Fellowship of the Least Coin at what was her final visit in this role. Cora was able to give us first-hand information about the projects FLC is currently supporting, their scholarship programme for young women, and the recently published book for children.