Newsletter :

2003 November & 2004 April - Newsletter

Newsletter Contents
From the Circle Office
Call for Papers
Coming Consultations, Workshops and Conferences
Circle Publications
News from Circle Members
Circle members at Yale Divinity School’s (YDS) Women HIV/AIDS Initiatives and Center for Interdisciplinary Research in AIDS (CIRA)
Yale University Research Fellowship in Theology and Public Health: 2004-2005
News from the Circle Chapters
Conference/Seminar/Workshop Reports

From rom the Circle Office
A blessed 2004 to all sisters in the Circle!

Professor Isabel Apawo Phiri, The General Circle Coordinator
Let me begin by thanking you all for your positive response after the first newsletter was sent out last year in June 2003. I received a lot of feed back from most of you. The same happened when we sent out the 2003 Circle directory. We received corrections of addresses from some of you. I was overjoyed to make this initial contact and I am looking forward to more interaction. Please share with us what is happening in your life.

This issue combines information and news items, which cover the November 2003 and April 2004 Circle newsletters. It was supposed to be compiled by Dr Helene Yinda, the Research Coordinator-French. This has not been possible because of unforeseeable delays in transferring Circle administration funds from South Africa to the regional coordinators.

The Circle office is now settled in the School of Theology and Religion of the newly formed University of KwaZulu- Natal. The School has provided the Circle with office space and part time student assistants. Rev. Dr. Beverley Haddad worked in the Circle office at the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003 and was very helpful as she was responsible for the initial setting up of the office. Rev. Dr. Haddad left to take up a full-time job. The School of Theology and Religion pays for the services of two assistant students, who are dedicated to the Circle work. Lilian Siwila, a Master of Theology student, is responsible for compiling the annotated bibliography of the Circle and the profiles of Circle members. Bridget Masaiti, a third year Bachelor of Theology student, is responsible for updating the Circle Directory, mailing and secretarial duties. I have found both Lilian and Bridget to be hard workers who go beyond the call of duty. The Circle work can become very demanding at certain times and I have benefited from the services of the two assistants who have used their own time, especially over the weekends, to do Circle work.

I now realise that there is still a need for a full-time Circle Administrator to deal with correspondence with the Circle members and compiling the Circle newsletter. Efforts are being made to raise funds for a full-time Circle Administrative Officer.

Recently, Lilian and Bridget posted a Circle book, African Women, HIV/AIDS and Faith Communities to all the English speaking Circle members who participated in the Pan African Women Theologians conference, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, from August 4th to August 8th 2002. If you have not received your copy it may be because we do not have your recent address. Please help us to update our Circle address book. For easy communication, send information to your regional coordinators who are:

Research Coordinator - French
Ms. Hélène Yinda,
World YWCA, 16 Ancienne Route, Ch- 1218 Grand Saconnex, Geneva, Switzerland,
Tel: (41-22) 929 6053 (Off). Fax: (41-22) 929 6044 (Off).

Research Coordinator - English
Dr. Dorcas Olubanke Akintunde,
Department of Religious Studies,
University of Ibadan, Ibadan, Nigeria,
Tel: 080 232 44616.

Research Coordinator - Portuguese
Rev. Felicidade N. Cherinda,
Avenida Abel Baptista No 593, Matola Hanyana- Maputo, Moçambique,
Tel: (258-1) 72 08 27. Fax: (258-1) 72 08 46.

Plans For 2004
  • To make sure that all the publishable papers from the 2002 Circle Pan African Conference are published.
  • To update the directory and continue with the publication of the Circle newsletters.
  • To solicit papers for the book in honour of Prof. Mercy Amba Oduyoye.
  • To publish a book profiling Circle members.
  • To publish an annotated bibliography of Circle members.
  • To publish a manual from the Engendering Theological Curriculum in Africa workshop.
  • To publish a book from the 2003 conference “On Women’s Church: Voices and Visions from Africa.”
If you do not appear in the book of Circle profiles nor are your publications included in the annotated Circle bibliography, it is because you have not yet sent me your information. Please do so as soon as possible.

Visits to Circle chapters
I visited Kenya towards the end of January and beginning of February 2004 as part of my participation in the All Africa Conference of Churches and the Africa Bible Commentary Project. Inbetween the two meetings, I had an opportunity to visit two Circle chapters, at Kenyatta University in Nairobi and at St. Paul’s Theological College in Limuru. Thanks to Ms Ruth Muthei, Dr Dianne Stinton and Dr Esther Mombo for helping to organize the meetings at short notice. Since my visit, a follow-up Circle meeting was held in Nairobi. The reports of my visits and the follow up meeting will be in the next newsletter. Towards the end of February and beginning of March 2004, I was in Swaziland attending a meeting of the Southern Africa Regional Reference Group of Ecumenical HIV/ AIDS Initiatives in Africa. On 2nd March Ms Sonene Nyawo and Ms Maria Mbelu helped me to organize a Circle meeting. I was greatly surprised when forty-two women turned up for the Circle meeting. From 28 March to 1st April I attended a Conference on Mission in the 21st Century: New Models and New Strategies in Livingstone, Zambia. On one of the evenings we had a session on Women in Ministry chaired by Ms Aruna Gnanadason, Team Coordinator for the Unit on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation of the World Council of Churches. At this session I had an opportunity to talk about the Circle. I also gave a paper at one of the plenary sessions on HIV/AIDS: A Theological Response. I have plans to visit Zimbabwe, Malawi and Lesotho later in the year. In case you are wondering why your country has not been mentioned, I am taking advantage of other meetings and conferences that are happening in these countries where I have already been invited and they are paid for by the organizers of these meetings and not the Circle.

If the Circle had a big budget I would have liked to visit as many African countries as possible because the vision of the Circle during my term of office is to strengthen the Chapters to implement at grassroots level intervention in HIV/ AIDS programmes. Our writings should also be based on evaluation of what we are doing to stop the spread of HIV/ AIDS, as per our Plan of Action at the Addis Ababa conference of 2002. (See the 1st Newsletter for the Circle Plan of Action).

Let me take this opportunity to request much prayer for the unity of the Circle and for all of us to take the work of the Circle seriously, even if it is done on a voluntary basis.

Yours in the Circle
Professor Isabel Apawo Phiri
The Circle General Coordinator

Call for Papers

You are all invited to submit articles for a book in honour of Prof Mercy Amba Oduyoye, the founder of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians.

The theme of the book is Women and Health. The sub themes are as follows:
  1. The role of women and religion in sexual health education.
  2. Powerlessness, empowerment and health: implication for health promotion programmes.
  3. Promoting mental and emotional health in Africa.
  4. Poverty and inequalities in health in Africa.
  5. Ethnic conflicts and violence against women.
  6. Women as traditional healers in Africa.
  7. Women, family and health in Africa.
  8. Children and women’s rights in Africa.
  9. Women and ethno-religious conflicts in Africa: Issues, role and impact.
Length: 4000-5000 words including footnotes and bibliography
Line Spacing: 1.5
Program: Where possible, MS Word.
Font: 12 point
Language: British English

Please send your abstract to by 1st August 2004 and the final paper by 30th October 2004.

Coming Consultations, W Workshops orkshops and Conferences

Engendering Theological Education in Africa Workshop

The Circle has embarked on a project that seeks to engender theological education systematically, through curriculum development. This project seeks to develop a gender-sensitive theological curriculum for its members, supporters and those who are interested. The project would seek to design gender sensitive courses, for every area, at different levels—that is, introductory, intermediate and advanced levels. The curriculum would be both ecumenical and inter-religious—one that would have to be adapted by different users to the institutions, communities and contexts, or used as it is by those who find this possible. The project will of necessity involve different Circle scholars, from different disciplines and specialization, to design the actual courses. Educational specialists, either from the Circle or from outside will have to be engaged to ensure that the goals and objectives of each course are professionally formulated to measure and deliver what they set out to do. Once the curriculum has been designed, it will be printed and published, both in print and electronically. It will also be sent to all members of the Circle and any other interested parties.

The areas that will need course designs, at introductory, intermediate and advanced levels, are as follows:

Systematic Theology:
  • Ethics
  • African Theology
  • Missiology
  • Practical Theology:
  • Pastoral Counselling
  • Christian Education
  • Biblical Studies:
  • Old Testament
  • New Testament
  • History of Christianity:
  • Mission History
  • Religious Studies:
  • African Religion
  • Islam
  • Judaism
  • Hinduism

  • It is important to note that this list is not exclusive but typical.

    The process of drafting the curriculum will be done mainly through consultations via e-mail. 15 Circle members, representing the above listed courses will meet in South Africa from 16th to 22 May 2004 for final evaluation of the draft curriculum.

    Linguistic Regional Conferences

    The Circle will hold regional conferences during 2005. The theme of the regional conferences will be: “Women and Health in Africa”. This theme will allow the Circle to continue dealing with HIV/AIDS in the context of women’s health. The Essays in honor of Mercy Oduyoye would be launched at each Regional Conference. Suggested dates, venues and number of participants are as follows:

  • 50 participants (10 Diaspora) Malawi second week of July 2005
  • 30 participants (5 diaspora) Cameroun first week of August 2005.
  • 20 participants (5 diaspora) Maputo first week of September 2005.

    Local Chapters will be encouraged to help shape and plan the papers to be presented at the conferences. This will help to improve the quality of researched papers to be presented at the conferences.

    Since places are limited, start working on your papers now! First come, first serve. Only well researched papers will be accepted. Please send the papers to your regional linguistic coordinators.

    From left to right: Ms Patricia Bruce, Prof. Gerald West, Prof. Isabel Apawo Phiri, Prof Mercy Oduyoye, Dr Sarojini Nadar at the launch of the Gender and Theology Programme, School of Theology, University of Natal, 2003

    Circle Publications

    African Women, HIV/AIDS and Faith Communities.
    Edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri, Beverley Haddad & Madipoane Masenya (ngwana’ Mphahlele)

    About the book
    This is a book of theological clarity, courage, and hope! The writer’s detail first hand how women have become the most affected and infected as HIV/AIDS moves like a plague across the African Continent. They challenge Christian and cultural traditions and provide concrete suggestions for change in the teaching and practice of the church.
    Letty M. Russell, Yale Divinity School.
    About the authors
    • Haddad, Beverley, is an ordained Anglican priest and an independent gender consultant. She is currently working for the Centre for the AIDS Programme of Research in South Africa, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She is the author of many articles on gender and theology from a South African perspective.

    • Masenya, Madipoane (ngwana’ Mphahlele), is a minister in the Assemblies of God Church in South Africa. She is also an Associate Professor in Old Testament at the University of South Africa. She has authored many articles on women and Biblical Studies from a South African perspective.

    • Phiri, Isabel Apawo, is the Current Coordinator of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians, Director of the Centre for Constructive Theology and Professor of African Theology in the School of Theology, University of KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa. She has authored numerous articles on women in religion and culture. She is also the author of Women, Presbyterianism and Patriarchy, co edited Her Stories: Hidden Histories of Women of Faith in Africa and editor of Journal of Constructive Theology.
    There are three books that will form a series.
    • The first one is the above-mentioned book.
    • The next two books coming soon are:
      • Dube, M. and Kanyoro, M. (ed.) Grant Me Justice! HIV/AIDS & Gender Readings of the Bible (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications and Maryknoll: Orbis)
      • Hinga, T. Kubai, A. Mwaura P, Ayanga, H. (eds.) HIV/AIDS, Women and Religion in Africa (Pietermaritzburg: Cluster Publications).
    • The fourth book is Ankitunde, D, Amoah, E. and Akoto, D. (eds.) Cultural Practices and HIV/AIDS: African Women’s Voices (Accra: Samwoode).
    There is also a French book being prepared for publication.

    Price: R70.00 or $14.00 excluding postage.
    To order contact:
    After the Locusts: Letters from a Landscape of Faith
    By Denise M. Ackermann

    About the book
    This unique collection of six “letters” written by Denise Ackermann to family and friends both living and dead is one woman’s account of her life, faith and work as an Anglican theologian during South Africa’s apartheid years and afterwards.

    In these letters, which are intensely personal memoirs as well as reviews of the theological and political issues that have marked her career as a feminist Christian in a deeply wounded society, Ackermann discusses such issues as identity and difference, her struggles with sexism and racism, the power of naming, the evils of the apartheid years, the scourge of AIDS, and the function of faith in the midst of misery and conflict.

    After the Locusts will interest a great range of readers; few will fail to find insights of profound relevance to the task of living as a person of faith in today’s trying world.

    About the author
    Denise Ackermann has published numerous articles on feminist theology from a South African perspective and has edited three books, namely, Women Hold Up Half the Sky: Women in the Church in Southern Africa (with J. Draper and E. Mashinini), Liberating Practices: Feminist Practical Theologies in Different Contexts (with R. Bons Storm) and Claiming our Footprints: South African Women Reflect on Context, Identity and Spirituality (with the Cape Town Chapter of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians).

    She holds a Doctor of Divinity degree honoris causa from the Episcopal Divinity School where she was also a Procter fellow in 1996. In 1998, she accompanied Njongonkulu Ndungane, Anglican Archbishop of the Church of the Province of Southern African, to the thirteenth Lambeth Conference in Canterbury, England, as his theological adviser.
    Words of Fire, Spirit of Grace
    by Rev. R. Grace Imathiu, the prominent Bible study leader, preacher and Bible scholar.

    About the book
    “Words of Fire” contains 12 of her most popular sermons, and includes interviews with leading preachers and teachers from America, Africa and Europe. The foreword was written by Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader of the Wisconsin Conference.

    “This book puts Bible scholarship in the pulpit,” writes Rev. Imathiu. “As far as I know, it is one of the few, if not only, book of sermons by an African woman preacher to be published in the United States.”

    Bishop Rader writes of Grace Imathiu, “When Grace preaches, people listen and are changed. Perceptions about the world, about the Scriptures, and about God’s claim on the life of individuals and the community are challenged and transformed.”

    Words of Fire, Spirit of Grace, by Rev. R. Grace Imathiu, is published by True North. ISBN 0-9720841-0-X. 112 pages including front matter. Order from Price $17. The book is shipped anywhere in the United States at $3 per book. Worldwide delivery is also available. Special terms for bookshops, seminaries, divinity schools, African and other countries (Price in Kenya sh. 900).

    About the author
    Rev. Imathiu was born in Nairobi, received her higher education in Britain and the United States, and is currently senior pastor of Brown Deer United Methodist Church in Wisconsin. She continues to speak and preach at venues all over the world.
    In Her Name: Women Doing Theology
    by Susan Rakoczy, published by Cluster Publications, 2004.

    About the book
    Women are now actively engaged in the work of theology and their insights are reshaping the Christian theological tradition. In Her Name: Women Doing Theology presents an overview of the theological contributions of women around the world with special attention to those of African women. Beginning with a discussion of the origins and development of feminist theology and its interpretations in Africa and other continents, the book then engages with the key themes of Christian theology: woman as person, God, Christology, biblical hermeneutics, church and ministry, ethical issues, ecofeminism, Mariology and holiness, spirituality, and eschatology and hope. Each chapter contains reflection questions and suggestions for further reading to assist in small group and class discussion.

    Janet Trisk of the College of the Transfiguration writes: “This is a much-needed introduction to feminist theology through the writings, primarily, of women in Africa as well as the rest of the two-thirds world. Susan Rakoczy writes out of a profoundly scholarly position, but in language that is accessible to those who have not had the benefit of the same background. Her own deep spirituality permeates the work, lending it an engagingly personal dimension.”

    About the author
    Susan Rakoczy, IHM, PhD lectures in spirituality and systematic theology at St Joseph’s Theological Institute, Cedara. She edited Silent No Longer: The Church Responds to Sexual Violence (SACBC, 2000) and Common Journey, Many Paths: Spiritual Direction in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Orbis, 1992). She has published in South African, European and North American journals in the areas of spirituality, mysticism and feminist theology. Forthcoming from Paulist Press is Walking on the Two Feet of Love: Mysticism and Social Commitment.

    Price: R70.00 or $14.00 excl. postage.
    To order:
    Publications on the Circle
    Circle Thinking African Women Theologians in Dialogue with the West by Carrie Pemberton published by E.J. Brill. Mercy Oduyoye and Christina Landman have written reviews of this book which will be posted on the Circle website ( In summary, this book has caused a lot of pain for Circle members who have read it, as it does not present the Circle accurately. Mercy Oduyoye’s review points out where the factual errors are.

    News from Circle Members

    Gertrude Kapuma’s ordination
    ‘To God be the glory great things God has done’. It was a very emotional experience for me when the Church of Central African Presbyterian, Blantyre Synod affirmed my vocation on 1st June 2003 after 20 years of waiting. From this experience I have decided not to look back to the past but to focus to the future. I still have questions of what God wants me to do now. I know that God’s time is not our time, but why has God allowed it to happen now? I have mixed feelings because I now have many challenges ahead.

    Looking at my ordination and what I have gone through for this to happen (see Her Stories: Hidden Histories of Women of Faith in Africa), I can’t stop joining Mary in her song saying: “My soul magnifies the Lord and my spirit rejoices in God my savior, for he has looked with favor on the lowliness of his servant…He has brought down the powerful from their thrones and lifted up the lowly”. Gertrude is currently teaching Practical Theology at University of Fort Hare in Alice, South Africa.

    Prof Mary Gitui
    Mary has been promoted to Dean in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences, Kenyatta University, Nairobi, Kenya.

    Dr Lilian Dube-Chirairo
    “I assumed the post of Assistant Professor of Theology at Lee University, Cleveland, TN in the USA in August 2003 after having spent a year at Birmingham University teaching and researching.” Lilian is originally from Zimbabwe.

    Dr Sarojini Nadar
    Sarojini graduated on 17th December from the School of Theology, University of Natal with a PhD in Old Testament. Her thesis title is ‘Power, Ideology and Interpretation: Womanist and Literary Perspectives on the Book of Esther as Resources for Gender-Social Transformation.’

    Prof Musa W Dube
    Musa is New Testament assistant Professor at Scripps College in Clemont, USA and a part-time HIV/AIDS theological consultant for the World Council of Churches programme on Ecumenical HIV/AIDS Initiatives in Africa.

    Rev. Peggy Kabonde
    Peggy graduated from University of Cape Town with a Masters in Theology. The title of her dissertation is “Gender Justice: A Theological Challenge to the Church in Zambia in the 21st Century.”’ Peggy is a pastor in United Church of Zambia congregation.
    Prof Mary Gitui
    Dr Sarojini Nadar
    Prof Musa W Dube

    Circle members at Yale Divinity School’s (YDS) Women omen HIV/AIDS Initiatives and Center for Interdisciplinary Research in AIDS (CIRA)
    January 13- April 30, 2003 (One Semester)
    Brief Reports

    Yale and the Melding of Two Sciences
    By Sylvia Kadenyi Amisi, Kenya

    From left to right: Dr Vuadi Vibila, Sylvia Kadenyi Amisi, Prof Letty Russell and Prof Isabel Apawo Phiri, Brisbane, Australia, July 2003
    I was honored to be among three African women selected to attend a research program at Yale University through the initiative of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians and the Yale Divinity School’s Women’s Initiative in collaboration with the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health.

    The objective of the program was to meld issues in the domains of public health and theology in order to come up with all-inclusive, holistic HIV/AIDS research projects, which we would then implement in our respective countries. In order to achieve this task, courses in sexual ethics, feminist liberation and feminist pastoral theologies, research methods, epidemiology, community health (planning and evaluation), prevention and ethics in human investigation research were offered. They were complemented by seminars and conferences that brought together leading scientists, researchers and donors as well as forums for us to give progress reports and get peer reviews on our projects. Yale University also came up with a good mentoring program run by the two schools where we had the opportunity to get to know each other, strengthen our networks, discuss and develop our projects at length.

    I chose to focus my research on evaluation methods for various reasons. First, I had worked as a volunteer with the World YWCA during which time I got acquainted with the organization’s interventions including its HIV/AIDS Program for Africa. During my discussions with staff, we spelt out a need for evaluation of their interventions. Faith-based organizations, like the YWCAs, are strategic in curbing the spread of HIV/AIDS especially considering that the pandemic has exposed issues that fall within their jurisdiction such as poverty, genderbased violence, power relations, social injustice and human rights. It is therefore imperative that they regularly conduct evaluations to assess the process, impact and efficacy of their projects. Second, although FBOs have documented the achievements of their AIDS prevention interventions, evidence is minimal that evaluation of these interventions has been conducted. In addition, existing evaluations have not been discussed much, neither have the results been properly disseminated. In order to nurture growth and learning and replicate projects, it is important that organizations carry out evaluation geared at assessing the effectiveness of projects as well as their efficacy.

    I will be conducting a process evaluation of an intervention known as the Young Women’s Skills Training Project. The intervention comprises a collaborative venture between the YWCA, the Forum for African Women Educationists-Kenya Chapter (hereinafter FAWEK) and the African Inland Church (hereinafter AIC) Primary School in Kajiado located in the southern part of Kenya, near the border with Tanzania. The YWCA of Kenya has been implementing programs on sexual and reproductive health and HIV/AIDS for youth since the inception of the Young Women’s Health and Integrated Services Program in 1995. The Young Women’s Skills Training Project falls under this program and has been in existence since August 2000. It has been working with approximately 100 Masai girls aged 8 to 13 years, the latter victims or near-victims of culturally embedded discriminatory practices like early or forced marriages, prepubescent sex and female circumcision also called Female Genital Mutilation.

    The girls in the Young Women’s Skills Training Project, who attend school and reside at the AIC Primary school, receive training on sexual and reproductive rights, HIV/AIDS, human rights and vocational skills through use of formal (books, manuals, etc.) and communicative (posters, poetry, drama, songs, etc.) methods. This fits in with the raison d’être of the YWCA movement which is “to enable women and girls to claim their self-esteem and demand their human rights including sexual rights, by addressing the root causes of social, cultural, political and economic problems through its interventions.”

    It is hoped that the evaluation will provide an insight into the lives of these young girls as related to their current self-esteem and self-worth, and the influence of faith in their lives. It will also enable us to assess the girls’ knowledge on sexual and reproductive rights and HIV/AIDS. I look forward to sharing what I learnt at Yale University with other sisters from Africa within the YWCA and the Circle through training and discussions and hope that out of this research will emerge recommendations on how to strengthen similar programs and sustain evaluation research within the two movements.

    My Experiences at Yale
    By Fulata Lusungu Moyo, Malawi

    Fulata Lusungu Moyo
    The Yale training equipped me to better contribute effectively as an African women theologian on a journey especially in the area of sexuality empowerment in the fight against sexually transmitted infections (STIs) including HIV/AIDS.

    My meetings with my mentors (Joseph Hellweg and Margaret Farley) were insightful and inspiring. I learnt that the things that I have been passionate about are not trivial but real and it is possible to put them into a scientific inquiry. I can continue doing the things I love to do and work them out through research and publications so that they benefit many instead of just a few within my local surroundings.

    The courses in Sexual Ethics and Feminist Liberation and Feminist Pastoral Theologies have helped improve my teaching at Chancellor College, University of Malawi and contributed to my future PhD work.

    The workshops and other academic activities have brought in new perspectives about research and involvement in my community.

    My involvement in the New Haven HIV/AIDS projects has challenged me to be involved even more in the fight against HIV/AIDS with the hope that together, the infected and affected, we can defeat the pandemic.

    Post-Training Aids-Related Activities
    • The implementation of the research developed at Yale “Women, Faith, AIDS and Sex Education in Southern Malawi” as part of my contribution to the ideals of the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (research and publishing).
    • Continue contributing to a non-credit HIV/AIDS course to Chancellor College students, University of Malawi, currently organized by Prof. Moira Chimombo.
    • Coordinate a process of developing a multi-disciplinary course (Theology and Religious Studies, Education, Sociology, Biology, Psychology) in HIV/AIDS as asked by Department of Theology and Religious Studies.
    • Continue to offer my services to wives of pastors in training, if called upon, offering a course titled “Violence Against Women” at the ecumenical theological seminary of Zomba Theological College.
    • Continue to be available to work with women in different Church traditions on HIV/AIDS education at opportune moments.
    • Continue integrating HIV/AIDS component in African Theology of Liberation (TRS 401), Systematic Theology (TRS 101 and 302) and Conflict Resolution (PAS 382) courses that I am offering next semester, November 2003.
    • I wish I had a chance to do psychology and counselling, African studies and drama as part of my training.
    I had wonderful and hardworking mentors (Margaret Farley and Joseph Hellweg) and co-mentor (Nalini Tarakeshwar). Their guiding wisdom Fulata Lusungu Moyo and patience have been effective for my development of critical thought and sense of being. They were very supportive, challenging and involved in my entire well-being. They said the right things at the right time and gave me the most effective expressions and most importantly, they made time for me. Every moment I spent with them was a lesson - not always easy but always worthwhile. I would like to recommend a system of mentoring as part of role modeling as important for the academic and professional development of women in the Circle.

    My peer reviewers, Kathleen Sikkema and Kari Hartwig, were very helpful together with some students and researchers especially those at YDS. The system of peer reviewers is very important for university institutions where research is an important part of the academic life.

    Concluding Remarks
    The above are some comments I can make about some things I did in my 4 months at Yale University. My hope is that this is just an opening of more meaningful future collaboration between YDS and the Circle especially in the area of HIV/AIDS research. It is good to learn that our experience at YDS has not closed the doors but rather opened more and better opportunities for more African women theologians.

    A Vote of Thanks
    To YDS staffs that were instrumental in the process of having us (Vuadi Vibila and Fulata) at Yale for 4 months, we are so thankful. May the Loving God bless you. For the student body at YDS, thanks for making our experience fuller and more challenging- you have become our sisters and brothers in the struggle for a better tomorrow.

    To the Circle coordinator and all the sisters in the Circle who kept in touch and showered us with words of blessing and encouragement, ‘we shall indeed overcome some day for God is on our side. Keep up the fire!!’ Meanwhile Aluta continua!

    Report from Professor Vuadi Vibila
    Democratic Republic of Congo

    After having been selected by the Yale Divinity School’s Initiative (YDS) Women’s Initiative and the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (CCAWT), we received the necessary support to travel to New Haven, USA to attend training on HIV/AIDS at Yale University. It is within this context that we attended courses in the School of Medicine’s Department of Epidemiology and Public Health and the YDS for a semester.

    As you are well aware, teaching was conducted only in English. I must admit that at the beginning of the training, difficulty in language was a challenge. I had to make tremendous efforts to understand lectures in English. The courses at the Faculty of Theology were easy to comprehend despite the language problem. However those at the Faculty of Medicine were more difficult for me especially given the technical terms that I had to deal with.

    Apart from this major difficulty, I must mention the cold during our stay. This year, the winter cold that we experienced killed more than one person in the USA. It was not easy to get out and go to class in the wind and snow that often interfered with traffic.

    As for the courses we attended, all lessons had a practical component to them that I had to do either individually or in a group. In addition, the tradition is that every researcher presents her research project and defends it at the end of the training. Once the project is accepted, it is to be implemented. In my case, the theme addressed will be the subject of a course to be offered at my institution of theological formation. It will enable me to hold discussions with female and male students, members of our respective communities, on their knowledge in relation to the reality of HIV/AIDS. I propose to begin a course in my Faculty of Theology during the 2003-2004 academic year so as to try and implement the project that I defended at Yale University last semester with my students.

    The time spent at Yale University was useful in terms of the wealth of experience and lessons. We were able to participate in several seminars. Through our own initiative, we visited organizations that assist people living with HIV/AIDS and their families. Our visits revealed to us that compared to other groups, the African American Community in the USA is most affected by HIV/AIDS. However, personal initiatives supported by the US government and churches are trying to provide assistance to accept their situation and to care for other members of the community. An individual living with HIV/AIDS who has ill intentions could be a time bomb in her community if she is not aware of her responsibility towards others.

    In the course I propose to offer my students, I will organize into themes issues concerning our faith traditions in relation to contexts but will also try to focus on our context that is current, that of a world (without borders) infected by the AIDS pandemic. Both female and male students will first have a discussion with me as well as among themselves in preparation for discussion and collection of information from parishioners that go to churches that we will select together. This exercise will be preceded by a questionnaire to assess the level of knowledge my students, who are future pastors, have on HIV/AIDS.

    Preoccupation and Wish
    The big question is where I will get financial support. Fortunately, Yale University is ready to support the implementation of this project in order to better follow up on the fieldwork I am supposed to carry out following my training. However an institutional review board must study the project and approve it to see that it meets the ethical considerations in my country, DRC. The objective of these formalities is to ascertain if the course and its content will be of benefit to the Congolese society in general, and the student community, in particular. This is where things seem to be grinding to a halt as there is no information available on the existence of such an institution in the DRC Ministry of Public Health. I am of the opinion that future servants and servers of God need to understand what they are confronted with in their local churches, and need information for their own prevention. The Church is called to help its members make a sound choice and must include the HIV/AIDS question in the curriculum offered by various institutions of theological formation.

    Before concluding this report, I would like to thank the authorities of the Protestant University of Congo that willingly accepted my attending this training for a whole semester in New Haven, USA, and took care of my family during my absence. My prayer is that God Almighty who has given each of us responsibility in important protestant formation institution helps us make this institution an example to others in my country.

    I would be ungrateful if I did not thank the authorities of Yale University that welcomed us and accepted my comments so that other theologians who might go through a similar program do not go through the same problems I experienced. I also thank them for the support they gave while at Yale, that is the per diem given during my stay there and promises made to assist me in implementing my project on my return home. I also thank the Yale Divinity School’s Women Initiative and the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians for having given me this opportunity.

    Yale University Research Fellowship in Theology and Public Health: 2004-2005

    Yale University Divinity School and Yale School of Public Health, together with Yale’s Center for Interdisciplinary Research on AIDS, announce the availability of a 2004–2005 Fellowship for women theologians addressing HIV/ AIDS in Africa.

    This post-doctoral research fellowship aims to combine theology, faith-based initiatives and empirical research. Research proposals must focus in some way on HIV/AIDS prevention and/or care in Africa, and they must incorporate both theological research and empirical research (whether qualitative or quantitative). Any proposals not meeting these basic criteria cannot be considered.

    This fellowship is open to African women theologians who have earned a Ph.D. degree in theology or a related discipline.

    History of this Research Fellowship
    In Africa, faith plays an important role in individual and community life and can influence social and health behavior. Despite this fact, very little empirical, scholarly research has been done to examine the actual or potential impact of faith-based prevention initiatives on the African continent. In 2002, the Yale Divinity School began a project entitled Gender, Faith and Responses to HIV/AIDS in Africa. Participants in this project established a partnership with the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (Circle), one of whose goals is to improve awareness and effectiveness of faith-based organizations in areas related to HIV prevention.

    In the spring of 2003, the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies at Yale (CIRA), in collaboration with Yale Divinity School (YDS) and the Yale School of Epidemiology and Public Health (EPH), and with support from the Fogarty International Center, began a program to provide research fellowship training grants to African women, members of the Circle. Three women received these grants in spring, 2003; two women are current recipients of these grants for the academic year, 2003-04. Grantees work with mentors and colleagues from YDS, EPH, and CIRA. The goal is primarily to develop research proposals for implementation in their own countries. It is essential that they have approval of their home institution (university, college, seminary) and that upon their return to their countries, work with their home institutions.

    Provisions of the Fellowship
    This Research Fellowship provides funds to cover travel to and from Africa to the U.S., lodging and living expenses while at Yale, and implementation of a research project upon return to Africa. While travel and living expenses are fully covered, there is no stipend provided that is in addition to these. Each research fellow is expected to be at Yale during the academic year, August of 2004 to May of 2005. Questions for further information may be addressed to:, or to:

    APPLICATIONS: Below are the details of an application form which must be filled out and accompanied by a resume and an outline of proposed research. These are to be sent to Dr. Isabel Phiri at the University of Kwa- Zulu-Natal and to Dr. Margaret Farley at Yale University Divinity School. Email addresses: and Applications must be received by May 1, 2004.

    News from the Circle Chapters

    South Africa Circle Report
    By Susan Rakoczy IHM

    The Cape Town and Pietermaritzburg Circles have initiated a joint project, which will lead to the publication of a book in 2004. In August, members of both Circles participated in a weekend workshop in Pietermaritzburg, which focused on diverse methods of learning from experience.

    The process of including gender issues in reflecting on the Scriptures was explored and included the contextual approach of the Institute for the Study of the Bible (ISB) of the School of Theology of the University of Kwa- Zulu-Natal. Ways to use interviews and questionnaires were enhanced by a video showing the strengths and pitfalls of these approaches. Brainstorming on methods of story-telling surfaced many ways women’s experience can be included in our writings. In a “fish-bowl conversation” three women explored the meaning of mentoring and the possible forms it can take in our Circle projects.

    Ideas and themes for the book emerged through discussion and brainstorming.

    The book will focus on five themes: Women and Sexuality, Women and Culture, Women and Faith Communities, Biblical Hermeneutics and Spirituality. Each theme has a theme-coordinator who will assist the writers and do the first editing. The over-all editors are from both Circles. The title is still in the process of emerging.

    The process of mentoring is key to the dynamic of creating this book. There are various forms of mentoring, which are evolving as more established writers assist emerging writers through working in pairs or small groups, offering expertise in a specific area, and sharing resources. It is hoped that this synergy will produce a publication, which will reflect the richness of the insights and experience of the women of these Circles.

    St Paul’s Chapter Circle Report
    By Esther Mombo

    Above: The St Paul’s Circle, January 2004
    In 1989 about seventy women in the field of theology and religious studies and from different parts of Africa met in Trinity College, Accra, Ghana. At that Pan African meeting the ‘Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians’ was officially inaugurated. In that meeting the Rev. Emily Onyango now a Lecturer at St. Paul’s, was present.1 As a Chapter we feel that we were there from the beginning.

    In October 1999, Rev. Emily Onyango and Esther Mombo were hired as lecturers at St. Paul’s. Mrs Diane Ray was already on the staff and had tried to get together the women students to share about their place and role in the study of theology. Rev. Onyango and Esther Mombo joined Diane Ray in this by just organising meetings for women round a cup of tea and doing Bible Study together. Rev. Onyango and Esther attended meetings of the Circle in Nairobi, organised by members of Kenyatta University and through discussing and sharing, they felt that there was a need to start a chapter at St. Paul’s which would have the same aims as the Circle but also be able to deal with specific issues that women who study theology and work in the church face. These included issues of employment, housing and in some churches ordination. At the theological college they felt that the Circle would deal with the increase in women’s enrolment in the study of theology, and the number of women lecturers.

    On the 20th of October 2000 the St. Paul’s chapter of the Circle was inaugurated. It was composed at the time of the women staff and students within the college. The aim of the Circle was to give support to each other while working and studying theology, to share experiences about ministry in the church and to introduce women’s perspectives in the study of theology, and to do research and writing on issues of theology, religion and the church.

    Today the membership is not only of students and staff of St. Paul’s but it includes alumni, and women from church organisations in various capacities. These are theological educators, women pastors and priests and those women who work in the church and church-related institutions. It is multi-racial and multicultural and reflects our community and our society at large. Some of the members are in the Diaspora and we value their visits and contributions of ideas when they are able.

    Circle Activities

    The aim of the chapter was to create a meeting point for women students and staff in the college to share information and experiences, to have speakers talk on various topics of interest. For the years 2001, 2002 and part of 2003 we had such meetings, some in the context of farewell to those completing studies and welcoming new members to the community.

    Increase in the number of women students at St. Paul’s
    Through the spirit and conviction of the Circle, the number of women students has steadily increased. Today the number of women is forty. This is tiny compared to the number of women who attend church. But it has taken efforts of individuals and groups to sensitize the women and encourage them to study theology. On one level it has meant defying some of the laid down rules by the churches for women who choose to study theology. It has meant admitting women who would not have come through the so-called ‘right channels’ of the church. In some cases it has meant challenging some of the rules and regulations laid down to admit students which bar women from coming to the college. It has taken efforts in fundraising to bring women to the college. In this area we are grateful to the efforts of Nyambura Njoroge. She has been and continues to be a mentor to many women in this country.

    Circle theological resource centre: at St. Paul’s Limuru
    In order to make the women’s perspectives known in the teaching of theology and life of the institutions, it was important to develop the library resource. In 2001, the Circle through the then leader Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro became pro-active in responding to the issue of library resources on women and theology in Africa. The Circle became instrumental in setting up a collection of books by the Circle members and others who have written from the perspective of women. The resource centre has become very important for teaching gender and theology, African women’s theologies and other theologies by women. We are grateful to individuals and groups who have continued to send us books and journals and would value more support in this area.

    Teaching of women’s theologies and women’s perspectives in theological education
    Based in a theological college and having members of the Circle as lecturers has brought into the teaching of theology some of the women’s perspectives. This is evident in a number of units and more so in the study of Women’s theologies, Gender and theology and HIV/AIDS. The resource centre mentioned above has also been very helpful. The Circle gave birth to the Square, which metaphorically is the ‘Square of concerned male theologians.’ These are men who are willing to support the cause of women’s perspectives in the study of theology. The Circle is still nursing the Square as it deliberates on what it means to be a man.

    Members of the St. Paul’s Chapter have attended various conferences organised in the continent as individuals and as a group. The most recent is the October 2003 consultation ‘On Being Church: Women’s Voices and Visions.’ Rev. Mary Tororeiy attended this conference and gave a paper.

    Women in Ministry Seminars
    While St. Paul’s chapter embraces the overall aim of the Circle, the chapter also tries meeting the needs of its context within the church. Most members work within the church and the chapter has tried to share ideas with women in the churches by either engaging in speaking at the women’s conferences and/or organising seminars for women.

    Two of these have taken place in 2001 and 2003. These seminars bring together 100 women from different church backgrounds and work experience. For two weeks the women stay together, share experiences, worship together, study the Bible, and listen to various speakers. In both women are given a lesson on how to write. In the first seminar, women wrote down their stories and in the second seminar some of them read papers they had prepared around the theme of violence. Since the Circle’s aims to research and write, we hope these will be our first publications.

    Research and Writing
    A number of the Circle members are involved in research and writing, many of them at the level of dissertations for completing either their Master’s level or Doctoral theses.

    St. Paul’s chapter is still in its early stages and it faces challenges of
    • Co-ordination, as most of the women are full-time students and workers.
    • Financial constraints to meet more often and share
    • Serious research and writing
    • Patriarchal challenges and how they impact on both individuals and group.
    St. Paul’s Chapter of the Circle: Publications Report
    By Caroline Wickens

    The St. Paul’s Chapter of the Circle takes seriously its responsibility to write and publish in the area of African women’s theology. We should like to congratulate two of our members on recent publications: Dr. Esther Mombo on articles in various journals including the Journal of Anglican Studies, and Rev. Emily Onyango on the centenary history of St. Paul’s which she edited (ensuring that it included her-stories as well as his-stories).

    Women and Violence
    The major project currently undertaken by the St. Paul’s Circle is a contextual study of women and violence. When we met in August 2003 for the latest Women in Ministry seminar, some of the participants were invited to prepare and present papers reflecting on whatever aspect of this theme seemed most significant to them. Over the ten days of the conference, this group met in the evenings and listened to twenty-eight papers. This preliminary reading was followed in each case by comments and critique from the participants. Apart from the women attending the seminar, CB Peter also attended most of the meetings. As an experienced author, editor and publisher, Peter was able to provide professional comment on the suitability for publication of each paper.

    The next stage is to organise a day’s meeting for the second reading of papers from those who still wish to be involved in the publication. Arrangements for this are being handled at St. Paul’s. Following this stage of peer review, the process of editing for publication will begin, with a view to publication hopefully early in 2005. However, funding for publication is not yet available and this presents a major hurdle. In view of the quality of many of the papers presented in August, it would be well worthwhile to seek for funds so that the St. Paul’s Chapter of the Circle can publish its first book and make our reflections on the issue of violence available to a wide audience.

    The Malawi Circle
    By Fulata Moyo
    The Malawi Circle met in August 2003. The following women attended: Martha Chirwa, Lusubilo Mwakalagho, Linda Dembo, Chisomo Ekesi, Fulata Moyo, Rachel Nyagondwe Fiedler and Priscilla Chunda.

    Acknowledging that this was the 4th attempt for the national Circle since 1990, the following were given as some of the reasons for the early failures: There has been no interest in women theologians, who know about the Circle, in becoming part of the Circle; most of these women are not aware that the Circle exists; partly because Malawians lack a culture of reading to get information about the Circle; there is also poor publicity of the Circle in Malawi; there is a general fear among women theologians to identify with the Circle (the Circle is identified with extreme feminism); the few women who are members of the Circle lack zeal and passion to sell the Circle to other women theologians. Moreover there are still very few women studying theology because of lack of job opportunities in a very patriarchal Church and society. Some people still look at Theology as a discipline not challenging enough academically.

    How do we sell the Circle in Malawi? We visit colleges and schools and contact media and in all contacts, to emphasize the aims and objectives of the Circle. We have decided to take up the challenge to host the Circle’s Anglophone Regional Meeting. We feel it is one way of making our Circle here vibrant as it will boost the women theologians here and it will bring publicity, as it will attract media.

    The Circle in Rwanda
    Dear Isabel,

    As I said to some of the Addis Ababa participants, being in Rwanda is a unique experience. When I was researching for my paper for the Circle conference, I was horrified by some of the testimonies that I heard from my informants. Some of their experiences are, “unprintable” if I may say so!

    Consequently the subject of women and AIDS in Rwanda, has become a pet subject for me. It goes beyond mere research interest for me and I have been toying with the idea of a book on the subject. So I would be keen to work with the “remnants” of the Rwanda Circle, if they are there.

    I have tirelessly contacted numerous women with the aim of restarting the Circle, but as you might know, the majority of people here have “more urgent” matters to attend to and the trauma of genocide is quite a stumbling block.

    Nevertheless, if the Limurutrained Rwandans minister is keen to work with me to resuscitate the Circle here, I will do everything possible to achieve that.

    I will send her a message of encouragement. Warm regards,

    Anne Kubai

    Conference/Seminar/Workshop Reports

    On Women and New Society In Africa: The Role of Women Theologians: Conference 11-24/8/03, Porto Novo
    World Young Women’s Christian Alliance International Women’s Summit
    By Isabel Apawo Phiri
    As the Circle Coordinator, I represented the Circle at the World YWCA International Women’s Summit, which was held in Brisbane, Australia from 5-10 July 2003. The theme of the summit was ‘Women Leading Change, the Power to Act.” One thousand women attended this conference. I presented a paper at one of the workshops. The title of my paper was ‘Religious and Theological Education for women: A Tool for Advocacy and Empowerment in the Context of Religious Fundamentalism.’ I found this conference to be very empowering because apart from networking, I also participated in some workshops where I learnt a lot about running a faith-based organization and fundraising.

    Dr Musimbi Kanyoro, the former Coordinator of the Circle, is the current General Secretary of the World Young Women’s Christian Alliance. Dr Helene Yinda, who is the Circle Research Coordinator- French, also works for the World YWCA.

    On Women and New Society In Africa: The Role of Women Theologians
    By Hélène Yinda
    The World Council of Churches, Ecumenical Theological Education (ETE) in collaboration with the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (Co-ordination of the Francophone wing) (translated from French by the WCC Language Department), held a seminar from 11-24 August 2003, Porto Novo, Benin. This seminar was also supported by the Africa Office of the United Churches of the Netherlands and the Africa Desk of the United Evangelical Mission. The seminar brought together around thirty women theologians and ten male theologians from a number of African countries: Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Congo- Kinshasa, Côte d’Ivoire, Madagascar, Togo and Rwanda.

    The goals of the Porto Novo seminar, falling within the context of awakening women’s movements in the African churches to face up to the main problems confronting them today, were as follows:
    • To allow theologians of both sexes in French-speaking Africa to exchange information about the current position of the Circle, its activities, its plans, its hopes and its place in the field of global and African feminism today;
    • To consider the mission of African women in general, and women theologians in particular, faced with the requirements of the profound transformation of African countries and the construction of a new society;
    • To inject some dynamism into the Circle’s re-organization and networkbuilding in the theological training institutes and in the hub of African churches;
    • To set up an overall action plan for the coming years on the scale of Frenchspeaking Africa.
    For two weeks, the women and men participating in the Porto Novo seminar considered these goals. This summary presents the broad outlines of their discussions, pending the appearance of a publication about the results in the near future.

    The Third International Interdisciplinary Conference of the African Diaspora in Europe
    By Betty Govinden
    The Third International Interdisciplinary Conference of the African Diaspora in Europe was held in Berlin, from 11-15 September 2003.

    The theme of this conference was The Berlin-Congo Conference 1884 – The Partition of Africa and the Implications for Christian Mission Today.

    The different sessions focused on the various aspects related to the overall theme. These included Historical Aspects, Socio-Political and Gender Aspects, Missiological Aspects and Practical Missiological Consequences.

    Among those who presented excellent keynote addresses were The Revd Dr Abraham Akong, from Ghana, who spoke on “Deconstructing Mission – New missiological perspectives in African Christianity”, and Dr Deirdre Crumbley from the USA, who spoke on the Aladura church community in Nigeria, and its gender practices.

    Betty Govinden, a Circle member, presented a paper on one of the First African Woman Converts in South Africa [Eva/Krotoa], and the implications of such recuperation for mission today. She suggests that it would be good for the Circle to pursue an expanded project of this nature, collecting stories of early African women converts from the different parts of Africa. All the Circle members who would be interested in making a contribution to such a project please write to The Circle Coordinator, email address:

    The conference, with its wide ecumenical appeal, was attended by over a hundred delegates, with a good representation from Africa and Europe. Other countries represented were Mexico, India, the UK, the Caribbean, and the USA.

    The conference provided a very good opportunity for dialogue, confession and reconciliation, as well as reflection on the challenges of the past, present and future of our beloved continent. Interesting related experiences included meeting the local church community, a tour of Berlinas a colonial city, and a visit to the area of the infamous Berlin Wall.

    The Institute of Women in Religion and Culture’s Pan African Conference
    By Dorcas Akintunde
    The Institute of Women in Religion and Culture had its biennial Pan African conference at Trinity Theological Seminary from October 6, 2003 – 10th October 2003. The theme for the conference was “Culture, Religion and the Challenge of HIV/AIDS”. The conference was attended by Circle members from the West, East and South Africa, Churchwomen from Ghana, representatives of non-governmental organizations dealing with HIV/AIDS, representatives of the Federation of Muslim Women of Ghana (FOMWAG) and friends of the Institute from United States of America.

    Delivering the keynote address on behalf of the Ghana AIDS Commission was Mr. Boafo, who lamented that the percentage of People Living With HIV/ AIDS in Ghana had risen from the percentage it was in 1986. According to him one out of eight Ghanaians were victims in 1986, in 1990, one to three and in 2002, one out of two people are infected. He expressed the fear that the continent (Africa) might be wiped out if no urgent and immediate solution is adopted to control the spread. His fear was based on the fact that there are 37 million People Living with AIDS worldwide and 26 million are from Africa.

    Participants in their responses therefore, examined the ethical and theological resources to face the challenges of the HIV/AIDS pandemic from various perspectives. The issues raised during the discussions and which were discussed at the workshops included:
    • the effect of the epidemic on all facets of women’s lives particularly and on the continent as a whole
    • the role(s) of the three major religions in combating the pandemic
    • the need to discard some cultural practices which make women vulnerable while retaining those that uphold their dignity and worth
    • the role(s) of parents, the school, the community and the Church in sexual education
    • the use of traditional medicine in the cure for HIV/AIDS
    • the African practice of care giving.
    Dr Brigalia Bam
    On Being Church: Women’s Voices and Visions in Africa
    By Isabel Phiri and Sarojini Nadar
    The Jutice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Unit of the World Council of Churches initiated and sponsored a joint consultation with the Circle of Concerned African Women Theologians (hereafter the Circle) on the theme of On Being Church: African Women’s Voices and Visions. The consultation was held at Kempton Park Conference Centre in South Africa from 10 to 15th October 2003. Twenty-six Circle members and eight members of the International Steering Committee of ‘On Being Church’ attended the consultation. Dr Brigalia Bam, one of the founding members of the Circle, gave the Keynote address.

    This consultation gave the Circle the opportunity of exposing more young Circle members to the discipline of reflecting theologically in community and writing on the experiences of African women in the church and society.

    Crafting a new church and a theology that engages the challenges of our contexts brings to mind what Jesus said to his disciples in Matthew 10:16, “Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” This calls us to decide, given context, time, place and space what our language and actions should be, in transforming church and society and in ensuring that another Church is possible. In opening stuck drawers we can use a “hammer and axe” theology which is direct and to the point. Or we can use a Malake-le theology, which in the Ga language from Ghana is a phrase which indicates coaxing, gently tapping, or dialoguing in order to achieve results. This report of the consultation “On Being Church: African Women’s Voices and Visions,” reflects these two ways of theologizing. The papers presented at this consultation have shown that these two ways of bringing change need not necessarily be juxtaposed against each other, but that they are sometimes applied together, in varying degrees, in the same context to effect transformation. Bearing this in mind, the following is a summary of some of the key issues raised in this consultation: (Full summary report will be posted on the Circle website)

    The Africa Reformed Churches Mission Consultation
    By Isabel Apawo Phiri
    The Circle was represented at the formation of Africa Reformed Churches Alliance in Younde, Cameroon, from the 16th -21st November 2003. The main aim of the consultation was to reflect on Christian mission in Africa today. This consultation was organised by the World Alliance of Reformed Churches. The Circle Coordinator presented a paper entitled ‘A Biblical and Theological Reflection on Mission in Africa’.

    The All Africa Conference of Churches
    The Circle was represented at the 8th General Assembly of the All Africa Conference of Churches (hereafter AACC), which was also held in Younde, Cameroon from 21 to 27th November 2003. The AACC has 169 national member denominations and 27 national ecumenical councils, comprising 120 million Christians in 39 countries.

    Despite the initial difficulties in getting an official Circle invitation to the Assembly, there was a good number of Circle members present both at the pre women’s Assembly conference and the main Assembly. The Circle Coordinator, Prof Isabel Apawo Phiri and Dr Pauline Muchina, a member of the Circle and an employee of Populations Services International (hereafter PSI) gave a joint presentation. The title of the paper was ‘Church Women Leaders Address Cross- Generational Sex & it’s Risk for HIV Infection”. At the main Assembly the Circle members took an active role on 1st December, which was HIV/AIDS day. Prof Musa Dube organized the morning worship and chaired the evening session where delegates made a 10-point covenant on HIV/AIDS.

    In the 10-point covenant, delegates pledged to:
    • Undertake HIV prevention for all people - Christian and non-Christian, married and single, young and old, women and men, poor and rich, black, white, yellow.
    • Do all that is necessary to encourage both men and women to love, care, support and heal all those infected and affected in communities throughout the continent.
    • Undertake prophetic advocacy until antiretroviral drugs are available to all who need them.
    • Practice zero tolerance for stigmatizing and discriminating against HIV-positive people, and do whatever possible to eliminate the isolation, rejection, fear and oppression of the infected and affected in the community.
    • Work to empower the poor and denounce all laws and policies that have condemned billions to poverty, denying them quality care and treatment.
    • Denounce gender inequalities that lead men and boys to risky sexual behavior, domination and violence, and that deny girls and women decision-making powers in sexual matters, deprive them of property rights and expose them to violence.
    • Denounce gender inequalities that lead men and boys to risky sexual behavior, domination and violence, and that deny girls and women decision-making powers in sexual matters, deprive them of property rights and expose them to violence.
    • Empower and protect all children, denouncing laws and policies that expose them to sexual abuse and exploitation.
    • Become a community of compassion and healing, providing a place for all people living with AIDS to live openly and productively.
    • Test for infection, abstain from sex before marriage, be faithful in marriage and practice protected sex.
    • “Declare jubilee and proclaim liberty, for until justice is served to all people, until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream, HIV/AIDS cannot be uprooted.”
    The Younde trip was particularly important to the Circle because the Executive of the Circle met with some representatives of the PSI to form partnership in implementing interventions for crossgenerational spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. It was also an opportunity to establish contacts with the AACC. Since then, the Circle has been represented at other AACC meetings and contacts with Circle chapters are easily made through the national church councils. For example, the Swaziland Council of Churches, through its General Secretary, Ms Maria Mbelu organized the March 2004 Circle meeting.

    Background to the Circle
    For the sake of those who are not familiar with the Circle, the Circle for Concerned African Women Theologians (hereafter the Circle) was inaugurated in 1989. In the year 2002, the Circle registered over 500 members on the continent and abroad. The criterion for membership is the commitment to research, write and publish on issues affecting African women and women of African descent.

    The Circle is the space for women from Africa to do communal theology based on their religious, cultural and social experiences. It draws its membership from women of diverse backgrounds, nationalities, cultures and religions rooted in African Indigenous Religions, Christianity, Islam and Judaism. It encompasses indigenous African women and seeks to relate to African women of American, Asiatic, and European origins. These concerned women are engaged in theological dialogue with cultures, religions, sacred writings and oral stories that shape the African context and define the women of this continent.

    Mission Statement
    The mission of the Circle is to undertake research, writing and publishing on African issues from a woman's perspective.

    The vision of the Circle is to empower African women to contribute their critical thinking and analysis to advance current knowledge. Theology, religion and culture are the three chosen foci, which must be used as the framework for Circle research and publications.

    The Pan-African Conference of the Circle clearly showed that this movement has grown and expanded and put its roots deep in the hearts of many women in Africa. It was amazing to realise that since 1989, members of the Circle have written and published 31 books. The authors attribute their publications to motivation stemming from participation in the Circle. This implies that the Circle is fulfilling its mission: To undertake research and publish theological literature written by African women with special focus on religion and culture.

    Please share with us News from your chapter of the Circle!!

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