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Women in ministry Tag

“90% of people in the Solomon Islands believe in God. When a message about women comes from the Bible, their eyes are open, they feel it has more weight. And that’s why we will see a reduction in gender-based violence and increased respect for women in our society.”

If anyone has the insight to comment on what might make a difference to violence against women in the Pacific, it’s Pastor Lima Tura. 

The sole female lecturer at Seghe Theological College in the Solomon Islands, Lima has a Bachelor of Theology from Pilgrim Theological College in Melbourne, she is a single parent and now teaches theology and biblical studies in her home country. It’s not been an easy journey.

Feeling the call to pastor several years ago, Lima was offered a scholarship in partnership with UnitingWorld and the United Church of the Solomon Islands to study at Seghe. A trailblazer, she literally burnt the midnight oil or read under lamps powered by generators, studying third-hand textbooks from Australia as she worked her way through her Certificate. She completed a Bachelor of Theology in Melbourne and has now returned to her college determined to overcome its many challenges.

“We are lucky right now – we have power connected and two light bulbs in most of the homes,” says Lima.

“Our library is small, and we have no Wi-Fi for internet research – we can sometimes use data on our phones but it is very expensive.”

Despite scarce resources, Lima describes her lecturing position as wonderfully inspiring.

“There are fourteen gentlemen and one woman in my classes,” she laughs.

“The men are really great, very open to equality. I mean, sometimes it is probably hard for them. I’m not sure if they have been taught by a woman before except in school when they were younger.”

The first woman to lecture at the college, Lima is bringing new perspectives to students and existing clergy both by example and through her teaching, which draws on gender equality theology work developed by UnitingWorld as part of the Partnering Women for Change program.

Pastor Lima with Solomon Islander Theologian Rev Dr Cliff Bird

“For both the men and the women here, this message of equality and dignity is so liberating,” Lima says. “We held a workshop to teach from the Bible about respect for women and to share what the scriptures have to say about women and men’s roles. People are very excited. When they hear messages from secular women’s rights organisations they can be suspicious and confused. But when it comes from the pulpit, from the church who they trust, it has much more power and influence.”

In July, a group will meet in Fiji to discuss how Bible study material can be brought alive for students in colleges and within church circles. Lima will be among the attendees.

After years of groundwork, our theological workshops with church partners in the Pacific have attracted funding from the Australian Government.

“The Australian Government recognises that overcoming poverty and ending violence against women in the Pacific is about working to see women’s rights and gifts recognised,” says UnitingWorld Associate Director Bronwyn Spencer. “They’ve also realised that in cultures where Christianity is central, churches hold the most influence and authority to create change. As a result, they’ve been funding our work with partners to explore biblical gender equality, so that local leaders are equipped to preach and teach it and help to open opportunities for women in church leadership. That’s actually pretty radical.”

Leaders of women’s fellowship groups at a Gender Equality Theology workshop in Fiji

For Lima, the support of people here in Australia through UnitingWorld is incredibly precious.

“I can’t thank you enough for the scholarship to study and for the prayers you have offered for me,” she says. “Without you, I could not have answered this call. My dream for the students is that they go back to their communities with the wisdom to address through a theological lens all the challenges they face – social, economic and spiritual. We experience so much good here, but so many difficulties as well.”

THANK YOU for supporting our church partners to lead this transformative dialogue among their communities. Pastor Lima’s story is one thread in a fabric we see being woven from country to country, where God’s powerful message of freedom and dignity for all is shaking and sheltering lives.

Notes from the National Director

When Australia was asked to choose a new federal government last month, my husband Chris and I found ourselves investing time and energy into helping our children think about the decision we were facing as a nation, even though they’re not yet old enough to vote.

We talked about what it means to be part of a democracy and the responsibility it places on us. We explored their hopes for the future, using the 2019 Vision Statement of the Uniting Church, which dreams of a nation with a heart for our First Peoples; a thriving and equitable economy for all; a loving and hospitable attitude toward all races, genders and sexualities; stewardship for all of God’s creation and commitment to our global neighbours. We also used the ABC’s Vote Compass to discuss our voting options.

Most of all, we wanted our children to value the privilege and power it is to have choice in a world where so many are voiceless and shackled by their gender, poverty or the corruption of their leaders. In my work each day, I’m encouraged by the many ways your love and determination are putting power back into the hands of men, women and children who are created, like you and I, with the capacity to achieve so much if given half the chance. Thank you for choosing to use this power for such great good!

Recently, the team and I at UnitingWorld have been reviewing our programs, working out our focus areas for strengthening our work in the next financial year and beyond. There is always more great work we could do than we have resources, but we’re always guided by our partners within our five priority areas of Poverty Alleviation, Gender Equality, Strong Leadership, Climate Change/Disaster Preparation and Emergency Response.

What we’re hearing from the women and men who lead this work, is that they want trained staff and robust organisations that can support themselves long-term. They don’t want handouts or short-term fixes, they want the lasting skills to create the changes they know they can bring about on their own. This allows them, too, to share in the power of choice, making choices about how and where they invest without the need to rely on external partners.

This means we’ll be investing more in our partners to transfer knowledge, training them in good governance and risk management. It may not sound exciting, but it’s what makes the difference long term! It means you can rely on their accounting skills, their child protection policies and their long-term impact. In short, when you choose us as your partner, you’re choosing an investment of skills and knowledge for lasting change. Thank you! I’ll be writing more about this in future editions of Update, so stay posted.

With gratitude for the power of choice,

Dr Sureka Goringe
National Director

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Middle East Desk, Sydney Office
7 April 2017

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon is celebrating the the second female minister to be ordained in the Evangelical Church in Lebanon. 

Preacher Najla Kassab was ordained on 24 March, 2017 at a ceremony held at the Presbyterian Evangelical Church in Rabieh, Beirut.

Dr George Sabra, President of the Near East School of Theology (NEST), gave a sermon at the ceremony entitled ‘A day created by God’. “The fruit of the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Righteousness that has brought us so far… has led us to open all doors to this woman … for we can see her service to the Church and society as a whole,” he said.

Dr Sabra called on Preacher Kassab to persevere and never give up, irrespective of the circumstances.  He told those present that perseverance, no matter what, along with the love of Lord Jesus, represent the qualities of leadership needed to serve the church.  Addressing Kassab directly he said, “I am confident, as well as everyone else, that you possess these two qualities.”

Dr Sabra then presented Preacher Kassab with a Holy Bible, in the name of the Synod.

To conclude the ceremony, Kassab gave her first blessing as a Pastor, which was greeted with warm applause and congratulations by members of the Synod.

This historic event follows the ordination of Preacher Rula Sleiman, almost a month earlier in Tripoli, as the first female Evangelical Minister in Lebanon and the Middle East.

Middle East Desk, Sydney Office
March 2017

The National Evangelical Synod of Syria and Lebanon has announced the ordination of the first two women as ministers in the Evangelical Church in Lebanon.

Rev. Rola Sleiman is ordained at the National Evangelical Church of Tripoli

As the Evangelical Church celebrates the 500-year anniversary of the Reformation this year, Rev. Joseph Kassab, General Secretary of the Synod, has announced that two women Preachers in the church will be ordained “to serve the Word and Sacraments.”

The two women are Preacher Rola Sleiman, who was ordained at the National Evangelical Church of Tripoli on Sunday 26 February 2017, and Preacher Najla Kassab who will be ordained at Rabieh Church in Beirut on 24 March 2017.

The ordination of Rola Sleiman has been hailed as an historic milestone, as she is the first woman to be ordained in a Middle Eastern Church. After her ordination service she told journalists, “Christ’s justice has been finally fulfilled.”

Reverend Joseph Kassab acknowledged that this event was an important step in the life of the Evangelical Church in the Middle East. He gave thanks to the Lord “for opening our hearts and minds while we celebrate the 500 years of the Reformation Movement by fully opening our arms to women in ministry.”

Read more:

Arab World’s First Ordained Female Pastor is Historic