From rom the Circle
A blessed 2004 to all sisters in the Circle!
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.
|Professor Isabel Apawo Phiri, The General Circle Coordinator
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
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
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.
- 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
- 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
- To publish a book from the 2003 conference “On Women’s Church: Voices
and Visions from Africa.”
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:
- The role of women and religion in sexual health education.
- Powerlessness, empowerment and health: implication for health promotion
- Promoting mental and emotional health in Africa.
- Poverty and inequalities in health in Africa.
- Ethnic conflicts and violence against women.
- Women as traditional healers in Africa.
- Women, family and health in Africa.
- Children and women’s rights in Africa.
- Women and ethno-religious conflicts in Africa: Issues, role and impact.
||4000-5000 words including footnotes and bibliography
||Where possible, MS Word.
Please send your abstract to email@example.com
by 1st August 2004 and the final paper by 30th October 2004.
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
The areas that will need course designs, at introductory, intermediate and
advanced levels, are as follows:
|History of Christianity:
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
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
|African Women, HIV/AIDS and Faith Communities.
Edited by Isabel Apawo Phiri, Beverley Haddad & Madipoane Masenya
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
There are three books that will form a series.
- 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 is also a French book being prepared for publication.
- 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
- The fourth book is Ankitunde, D, Amoah, E. and Akoto, D. (eds.)
Cultural Practices and HIV/AIDS: African Women’s Voices
Price: R70.00 or $14.00 excluding postage.
To order contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.
|After the Locusts: Letters from a Landscape
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 www.worksofgrace.org. 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.
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
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: email@example.com.
|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 (www.thecirclecawt.org). 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.
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
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
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)
Yale and the Melding of Two Sciences
By Sylvia Kadenyi Amisi, Kenya
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.
|From left to right: Dr Vuadi Vibila, Sylvia Kadenyi Amisi,
Prof Letty Russell and Prof Isabel Apawo Phiri, Brisbane, Australia,
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
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.
|Fulata Lusungu Moyo
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
- Continue contributing to a non-credit HIV/AIDS course to Chancellor
College students, University of Malawi, currently organized by Prof.
- 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.
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
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.
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
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: firstname.lastname@example.org,
or to: email@example.com.
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: PhiriI@nu.ac.za and firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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.
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
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
St. Paul’s Chapter of the Circle: Publications Report
- 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
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.
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.
| 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,
World Young Women’s Christian Alliance International
|On Women and New Society In Africa: The Role of Women Theologians:
Conference 11-24/8/03, Porto Novo
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
On Women and New Society In Africa: The Role of Women
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:
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.
- 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
- 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.
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
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: email@example.com.
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
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
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
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
- 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
- the use of traditional medicine in the cure for HIV/AIDS
- the African practice of care giving.
On Being Church: Women’s Voices and Visions in Africa
|Dr Brigalia Bam
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
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
In the 10-point covenant, delegates pledged to:
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.
- Undertake HIV prevention for all people - Christian and non-Christian,
married and single, young and old, women and men, poor and rich, black,
- 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.”
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
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.
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.
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