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15 December 2015 | Budapest, Hungary [Patrick Johnson] Women in leadership across the south-eastern part of Europe have some strong but kindly advice for the leadership of the Seventh-day Adventist World Church. During meetings at the Airport Hotel in Budapest, Hungary on Thursday, 3 December they called for four things: Invest in your women leaders, provide them with equal opportunities, promote an attitude of respect, and provide support.

Opening the session, Pastor Raafat Kamal, Trans-European Division (TED) President stated, "It is a privilege to be in a room full of leaders where the women outnumber the men!" It was the third and final consultation meeting regarding Women in leadership within the TED. Following similar meetings in the UK and Denmark that covered most of northern Europe, this final meeting drew together 24 women and 8 men from the Adriatic Union, the South-East European Union, the Hungarian Union and Cyprus Section.

Raafat Kamal was joined by the TED Ministerial secretary, Patrick Johnson, along with the presidents and leaders of the three Unions and Cyprus. Their aim was to continue the listening and supporting work that the TED had started in the British Union on Wednesday, 28 October. [See: Church Leaders Affirm Women in Ministry]

In his morning devotional Pastor Johnson spoke about the importance of having a good self-image. Using John 2:13-22 he suggested that we would do well to learn from Jesus who saw himself as a temple of God (vs 19). The consequences of such a self-image would be that we would see ourselves as a place where God continually dwells; that is primarily devoted to devotional practices; that needs Jesus' work of cleansing; and that needs zealous effort to promote unity.

As with the two previous meetings, the discussion in Budapest gave opportunity for the women in the southern part of the TED to express how their ministry had been affected since the vote in San Antonio. Again it highlighted the stalwart work that women have been doing in pastoral ministry. Their faithful and committed service has made the Church what it is today.

Also highlighted, and perhaps significant, was that in some parts of this region, women in leadership is nothing new. It has been a natural occurrence for many years. However, the discussions leading up to and then the subsequent vote at the General Conference session had made this into an 'issue' where previously there had been none. Consequently, several of our women leaders reported increased incidences of verbal abuse by members.

Pastor Kamal not only facilitated group discussions on how life had changed since the vote in San Antonio, but he also bravely gave opportunity for some creative feedback: "If you could give our General Conference President, Elder Wilson, some advice about how to move our church forward now, what would it be?" The resulting answers focused on four areas.

Invest – Invest in your women leaders. Help support them in their education, in their need for mentoring and in looking at creative ways of doing team ministry together with their spouses. One very practical suggestion was the need for some sort of financial assistance with child care that would help to make continuing in ministry financially viable.

Equal opportunities – Give your women equal opportunities to serve in leadership positions. More women should be included on decision making boards. For example, to have more women on the Ministerial Training and Advisory Committee (MinTAC). There is also a need for men to champion the cause of women wherever they can so that it is not just women advocating for themselves.

Attitude – Promote an attitude of respect for your female workers. There is a need for active listening to take place at all levels of our organisation, and for co-workers to know that disrespect for a colleague will not be tolerated.

Support – Be known for your active support of women. Help train members not to differentiate between male and female workers and do not be afraid to discipline those who verbally abuse. The participants actually concluded that would be good if seminars could be developed on how to deal with abuse in all its forms.

Had Elder Wilson been present during these consultations, he would have been pleasantly surprised at the support that he has from the women of this region. The overwhelming desire of these workers is to work within our church structure and to support the programmes and initiatives of the leadership. In return, all that is being asked is that the world leaders be known for supporting the whole Church in all its complexity and diversity. They say to the World Church administration, "Please be the leaders for both male and female workers."

The TED leadership endorse this desire and have made a commitment to continue to support and equip all their workers and members in fulfilling the God-given mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. [tedNEWS]

SEE ALSO
TED Female Pastors Affirmation Meeting in Copenhagen


tedNEWS Staff: Victor Hulbert, director; Deana Stojković, editor
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