MW USA staff and board attend Women Doing Theology Conference

By Ruth Lapp Guengerich

Mennonite Women USA was well represented at the February 20-22 conference, “All You Need is Love,” in Leesburg, VA planned by a committee from the Women in Leadership Project (WLP).  For a more detailed description and interpretation of the weekend, please see my other blog post.  In this one, however, I am providing a pictorial overview of MW USA staff and board members who attended, and some of the staff in action in their own seminars.

From left to right:  Carol Roth, Clinton, Mississippi, Native Mennonite Ministries representative to the board; Claire DeBerg, Minneapolis, Minnesota, editor; Ruth Lapp Guengerich, Goshen, Indiana, co-director; Rhoda Keener, Shippensburg, Pennsylvania,co-director, and Rhoda Charles, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, board chair.

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Co-director Rhoda Keener led a seminar on “The Impact of Patriarchal Beliefs” along with Carmen Horst and Cynthia Lapp, both of whom are pastors.  They shared personal stories of experiences with patriarchy in the church and looked at a theology of gender equality.

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Cynthia Lapp stated, “We are not trying to replace patriarchy with matriarchy. Our desire is for equality in relationships within the church.”

Presenters at the seminar, “The Impact of Patriarchal Beliefs.”

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Left to right:  Cynthia Lapp, pastor, Hyattsville Mennonite Church; Rhoda Keener, co-director, MW USA; Carmen Horst, associate pastor, James Street Mennonite Church.

MW USA editor Claire DeBerg, (below) Minneapolis, Minnesota, presented a paper titled “Choosing Love:  Adultery, Adoption, Abundance.”  Claire movingly shared “the jaw-dropping truth about how a single act transformed the choice to love into the creation of love” and offered “distinct windows into how God breathed into the moments of this stage of (my) life to embolden women to pay attention to opportunities where they can choose love in their own lives.”

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It was a delight that two recipients of MW USA’s International Women’s Fund (IWF) scholarships were able to attend this conference.  Priyanka Bagh, India, and Jeongih Han, Korea, both studying at Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS), Harrisonburg, Virginia were present to learn about “what it means to love in the midst of a world rife with struggle and oppression.”

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Above, left: Priyanka Bagh, India; right: Jeongih Han, Korea

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Above: MW USA board chair Rhoda Charles, left, and Priyanka Bagh, right, getting acquainted.

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Above:  Ruth Lapp Guengerich, left and Rhoda Keener, right, co-directors for MW USA, meet Priyanka Bagh, India, and Jeongih Han, Korea, for the second time.  Last fall Ruth and Rhoda met them on the Eastern Mennonite Seminary (EMS) campus.

“All you Need is Love” conference was held at the National Conference Center, Leesburg, Virginia.  This center is a former training site for Xerox Corporation, and is laid out in a very confusing manner, with the hope that individuals would need to ask for help to find their way around, and do some team building in the process.  Since women are accustomed to asking for directions, this was not a big problem.

As you can tell in the picture below, Ruth and Rhoda are still smiling, despite the confusing labyrinth of hallways, and are enjoying the soft ice cream provided in the dining hall. Rumor has it that Rhoda Keener typically enjoys a simple vanilla ice cream cone from one of America’s finest fast food chains, so it appears she went all out by adding chocolate topping to her ice cream.

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