Some 1,220 Christian women from Australia, China, Russia, South Africa, Japan, Canada and the United States converged on Milwaukee, Wis., July 26-29, 2001, for Church Women United's 60th anniversary celebration and assembly.
Highlighting the event was a sermon at the closing worship service from Sister Joan Chittister of the Benedictine Sisters of Erie. An international lecturer and autor of more than 20 books, Chittister preached that it is not enough to simply care for victims of an unjust system; we also must work to change the system.
The theme echoed throughout the four-day assembly.
Dr. Naomi Tutu, director of Race Relations at Fisk University and daughter of Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa, encouraged those in attendance to "listen and hear all women's stories behind the words and make sure these stories are used not just for political gain, but to heal the world." Tutu spoke about the U.S. involvement with the U.N.-sponsored World Conference Against Racism, held in Durban, South Africa, from Aug. 7 to Sept. 7, 2001. She called for participants to tell Congress and President Bush not to withdraw the support of the United States from the conference.
Summoning all Christian women to work cohesively, the Rev. Teresa Fry Brown led an inspiring Bible study. Brown, assistant professor of Homiletics at Candler School of Theology in Atlanta, reminded her audience that they "sometimes ignore the sisters who need help the most." She urged listeners to reach out ecumenically.
Several panels and luncheon speakers addressed key issues during the assembly.
UCC minister the Rev. Holly Whitcomb facilitated a global table talk that discussed such thought-provoking questions as, "How are you letting your life speak these days?" and "To make your contribution to the world, what unworthiness would you have to relinquish?"
Other panels included one on low-wage workers, led by Kim Bobo of the National Interfaith Committee for Worker Justice. Bobo urged churchwomen to actually march with workers and to stand by them.
Luncheon speakers included Yoshiko Isshiki, president of Kyofukai, the oldest Japanese Christian Women's Organization. Kyofukai was founded in 1886.
"We had good leaders during the assembly," said Deborah Bailey, Minister for Women's Concern for the UCC's Justice and Witness Ministries and the UCC's representative at the assembly. "Our keynote speakers had magnificent focus on global issues and justice. They were extremely well knowledgeable and received."