This is an excerpt from the Summer 2017 Issue of Timbrel, “Empowerment and Prophetic Voice”. Each issue of Timbrel includes Three Women, Three Mirrors, where diverse women respond to questions about Mennonite Women USA, their experience in the Mennonite Church and their faith.
How has MW USA empowered women?
Jantzen: Any faith group that gathers and abides in Jesus bears fruit. For women to gather means that we hear what Jesus speaks through women and what the Spirit nudges in women. That is different from hearing Jesus and the Spirit when men and women gather —not better or worse, but different.
We learn more about ourselves as women when we hear our sisters. We learn more about budgets and projects because we do them, rather than watching them being done. New ventures are set into motion for the whole church and all are enriched.
Guengerich: The Women’s Mission and Service Commission, Women in Mission and now, MW USA have been very significant in providing opportunities for leadership for women in the church, especially when there were no opportunities for women to serve on boards and committees.
Timbrel and the Bible study guides are important in providing inspiration and guidance based on our Mennonite/Anabaptist beliefs; they are professional, high quality materials of which we can be proud.
Sister Care continues that trajectory by guiding women to identify their strengths, recognize their uniqueness as God’s beloved daughters and in finding healing from wounds that have prevented them from flourishing as individuals.
Wilder: Beyond representing Mennonite women as an institutional power, MW USA has also done great work through their Bible study resources, Sister Care and the International Women’s Fund. I see MW USA working to unify women through one of the most intimate parts of our existence — our relationship with God, which I think is pretty amazing.
What are your hopes for the future of MW USA?
Jantzen: Most deeply, I hope that women come to know the saving character of God, the bold leading in Jesus and the ever-present voice of the Spirit. In our fumbling and in our exquisiteness, women on the journey learn uniquely with other women. I hope
MW USA gatherings flourish
for this reason.
Guengerich: In short, it is my hope that MW USA not only survive, but flourish as an organization, providing resources and opportunities for women to grow personally, emotionally, spiritually and professionally.
Wilder: The Bible has traditionally been interpreted and preached from the perspective of white men, which gives us a very limited perspective of who God is and how God is working. Thanks to MW USA, more women are becoming involved in ministry and the church, bringing their stories of faith with them.
My hope for MW USA is that it will continue to empower women to pursue their interest in ministry and inspire women to explore their spirituality beyond what they have been told is true. With more women taking leadership within the church, I think we will see a church that is more peaceable with both itself and the culture it seeks to impact, as well as new emerging theological discoveries.
What will hinder these hopes? What will help?
Jantzen: We like to have one identity for ourselves: Mennonite, female, family provider, Christian, introvert, extrovert. When we abide in
the vine, Jesus asks us to release having just one definition of who we are. This continual challenge can seem like the obstacle, yet it is Jesus’ real call.
Guengerich: The obstacles are money and finding women willing to continue to provide leadership. The strengths are the women of Mennonite Church USA, the mission and vision of the organization and the women committed to the mission of the organization.
Wilder: Change is always met with resistance, so as more women take their place at the pulpit or in elders meetings, there will be backlash. Though conflict is scary, it’s a powerful tool for growth that can leave all impacted parties strengthened and better off.
My hope is that MW USA will continue to be at the forefront of leading change within the church and will do so with grace and tact. One of the strengths of MW USA has been its ability to unify women across theological differences, and I think it is one that will persist into the future.
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