Cuttack, India—Indian and Asian women theologians officially formed two networks on October 26, 2012, at the All India Mennonite Women Conference (AIMWC) in Cuttack, India.
Twenty women theologians participated from India, Indonesia, Japan and Nepal. Following the declaration of formation, Rev. Yukari Kaga of Hokkaido, Japan, preached about hope and self-confidence in the midst of suffering and loss.
Rev. Rachel Bagh, assistant professor at Union Biblical Seminary, Pune, India, initiated the formation of an India Mennonite Women Theologians network, while Cynthia Peacock, with the approval of the MWC Asia Caucus, initiated the Asia Anabaptist Women Theologians network. Both Bagh and Peacock took the opportunity to form these networks at the time of the All India Mennonite Women Conference, where women theologians from India, Nepal, Japan and Indonesia would be present.
Peacock explained, “While the program was conducted in a manner where all were present together, in reality they are now two networks that will begin working separately, though Indian women will be part of the Asian network.”
Bagh noted, “It is high time that theologically trained women get organized in India. Africa and Latin America have women theologian networks, but we have not had one. We want to learn from other women in the world.”
“Our dream needed a channel to be fulfilled,” Bagh said. While studying in the peacebuilding program at Eastern Mennonite University, Harrisonburg, Va., Bagh received support through Mennonite Women USA’s International Women’s Fund for church leadership training for women. When MW USA co-director Rhoda Keener visited with her in Virginia in 2008, Bagh shared with Keener her dream of establishing a network for Indian women theologians.
In 2010, Mennonite World Conference commissioned Cynthia Peacock, chair of the MWC Deacons Commission, to promote a network for Asian women theologians. Peacock and Keener both contacted Bagh in 2008, encouraging her to begin the formation of a network.
A steering committee then developed the mission, vision, criteria and activities of the proposed networks. Elisabeth Kunjam, youth leader and former student at Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary in Elkhart, Ind., said, “The birth of these networks is a dream come true for me in working toward empowerment of women.
Rev. Wara Adiati of Indonesia said, “If women theologians can connect with each other, we can support each other and be better equipped to serve.”
Peacock stated, “I believe and hope that this is opening doors for women to become more involved in the church and to use their gifts for the extension of God’s kingdom and to help people experience spiritual growth.”
The mission of the Indian and Asian women theologians: to empower, enable and utilize gifts and skills of theologically trained women; and to equip, edify and build the body of Christ in God's reconciliation and healing ministry in and through the church, to the society.
To be part of the networks, women must have had theological training or studied for a minimum of six months through any recognized college or seminary either by residential study or extension. The organization will seek recognition as a group from Mennonite World Conference in the near future.
News release by Mennonite Women USA