With an expected 150 registered delegates, the Women’s Pre-Council is gathering both women and a few men from the entire world here this week.

The gathering was prepared by women from the North American member churches of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches (WARC) and the Reformed Ecumenical Council (REC).

The Pre-Council, being held at Calvin College, precedes the Uniting General Council (UGC) that opens Friday (June 17), marking the merger of WARC and REC into the World Communion of Reformed Churches.

The Pre-Council began Monday under the theme, “Come With Jesus to the Streets.” It offers women from Reformed churches and traditions for the first time an opportunity for a global discussion, addressing themes of particular interest to women in their various churches as well as in their social and cultural contexts.

They will examine ongoing differences about the ordination of women as ministers and the appointment of women to positions of leadership and decision-making in churches. And they will explore to what extent the recognition of the gifts and capacities of women could have transformatively on common worldwide problems such as the implications of the economic crisis, environmental destruction or respect for human dignity and rights.

The churches of WARC can point to decisive progress on the part of women in all areas of church leadership.  They see it as significant to expand such progress to all spheres of life. Their concern is to strengthen their communion on the basis of the Reformed tradition and in light of the contemporary challenges confronting Christians.

A planned visit on a “Jesus bus” to the central city of Grand Rapids highlighted internal problems so deeply revealing for a rich nation: poverty, drugs, psychic burdens, unemployment, homelessness, trafficking in women and prostitution.

Rev. Charlotte Ellision, pastor of Heartside Ministry, looked forward to the encounter. “We know that women in different contexts have to cope with diverse challenges,” Ellison said. “Women are connected by a shared heart for the situation of other people through the gospel.”

She said she hoped to gain much from an encounter in which women would be able to learn from each other and share their experiences. Ellison expected delegates would be confronted in a profound way, and will get involved with all the tasks awaiting them in their own context.

The June 18-28 Uniting General Council marks the merger of the World Alliance of Reformed Churches and the Reformed Ecumenical Council to form the World Communion of Reformed Churches. Jerry L. Van Marter of the Presbyterian News Service will be serving in Grand Rapids as English language reporter.