The term “Anabaptist Women Theologians” describes a growing network of initiatives, each with unique goals and objectives, but all inspired to empower women in their contexts, in part, by encouraging leadership training for women in the church.
The initiatives so far include:
- Inspired by the presentations from African women theologians at the 2003 MWC Assembly in Zimbabwe, Mennonite women USA and the African women in church leadership began to explore ways of encouraging women in the church to use their gifts. In 2004, a unique Sister-Link (a program of Mennonite Women USA) began between Mennonite Women USA and a group of African women in church leadership, known as “the African Anabaptist Women Theologians.” This partnership was formed in order to pursue a goal to increase the number of African Mennonite and Brethren in Christ women trained in theology by the next Mennonite World Conference Assembly in 2009, when the Sister-Link formally concluded.
- In 2006, Latin American women saw that the African Anabaptist Women Theologians had organized and were empowering women in church leadership. The Latin American women met for the first time for biblical and theological reflection. This meeting provided a forum to explore women’s roles in the church. As a follow up, Latin American Women Theologians began intentional Bible teaching about using women’s gifts in the church.
- In 2007, Mennonite Women USA helped to sponsor three women’s theological gatherings on three continents in which women met to support theological training for more women in their contexts. Throughout these years, Mennonite Women USA’s International Women’s Fund, begun in 1997, has continued to provide scholarships to women in Africa, Latin America, and Asia for training in church leadership. All of the women come from MWC member and associate member churches.
- In hopes of empowering more women, the Latin American Women Theologians hosted a gathering of women theologians just prior to the 2009 MWC Assembly in Paraguay. This gathering inspired women in attendance from Netherlands to establish the Anne Zernike Fund in honor of the first Mennonite female pastor in the Netherlands and the first female pastor ordained in any church in the Netherlands. To mark the centenary of Zernike’s ordination (5 November 1911), the fund was established 6 November 2011, to encourage the ordination of women in churches throughout the world.
- In October 2012, Asian Women Theologians will meet with representatives from Japan, India, and Indonesia. Their meeting stems from what they have observed in the other women theologians’ organizations.
(From a report by Mennonite Women USA, June 2012)