unofficial cm page


World Council of Churches Women's Festival Acknowledges 'Painful Reality' "Ecumenical Decade"  Not Supported by Churches, Speakers Admit

Jubilee Journal: A North American Evangelical Voice at the WCC Jubilee Assembly


December 2, 1998 IRD - 202-986-1440

Last week, more than a thousand women and about 30 men gathered in Harare, Zimbabwe to celebrate the end of the "Ecumenical Decade: Churches in Solidarity with Women."   While the event was called a "festival" and the African surroundings were festive, the celebration was strained.  Both the "Decade" and the festival were projects of the World Council of Churches (WCC). 

Speaker after speaker noted that the churches were not committed to the Decade and that the Decade might more aptly be named a "decade of women in solidarity with church."   Indeed, the primary successes were identified as increased networking and solidarity among women.  According to Aruna Gnanadason, Programme Executive, Women's Programme, Justice, Peace and Creation Unit, World Council of   Churches, "Not much was done by men in the churches.  That's why WE are celebrating our energy and solidarity and accomplishments."

The Festival amply illustrated why the Ecumenical Decade failed.  As one participant said, "It was a downer - too much sorrow and not enough joy."   Janice Shaw Crouse, Director of the Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society, said, "The so-called Festival relentlessly focused for four days on women's agonies and struggles.  Women brought vials of water to symbolize their tears.  They participated in liturgies that cited numerous 'politically-correct' reasons for weeping.   The primary hope offered was the possibility of women 'changing what they touch.'   The transforming power of Jesus Christ was largely ignored in favor of calls to redouble 'efforts for women's empowerment' and assurances that women can

heal each other. " Diane Knippers, President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, said, "The theology expressed from the podium was vapid or non-existent.  The worship services contained isolated elements of historic Christian faith.  The liturgies focused on women's experiences and potential rather than on God."  Knippers added, "There was the usual predictable and unrelenting advocacy from the platform of left-wing political causes - unconditional international debt cancellation, opposition to global markets, de-militarization, lesbian rights, gender quotas.  Important issues such as poverty, racism, or violence against women were discussed, although typically the solutions were highly politicized.  Some issues were missing altogether - including persecution of the church, evangelism and family breakdown."

Meeting on the campus of Belvedere Technical Teacher's Training College, the Decade Festival precedes the Eighth Assembly of the WCC, which begins later this week   (December 3-14) at the University of Zimbabwe in Harare.  A major plenary session of the Assembly will be devoted to discussions of a letter and declaration from the Decade Festival participants. 

Articles and information about various aspects of the Festival are available on-line, at

<Back to News