During a plenary session at its meeting here Aug. 28-Sept. 5, the World Council of Churches (WCC) Central Committee explored emerging issues that hinder gender equality and the building of a safe community for women and men in churches and societies around the world.

The plenary took place on Sept. 3, during the WCC Central Committee meeting currently taking place at the Orthodox Academy of Crete here. The Central Committee is the council's primary decision-making body between assemblies and meets approximately every 18 months.

Itayi Ndudzo, a Central Committee member from the Methodist Church in Zimbabwe, pointed out several trends that instigate discrimination and violence against women.

“Our world today remains a place of inequity to many women. Women experience prejudice in accessing employment opportunities, equitable remuneration and just conditions of service in the workplace,” said Ndudzo.

“Gross human rights abuses are perpetrated against women in war and conflict zones,” he continued, “including torture and rape as a weapon of war.” Speaking in reference to global realities of gender injustice, he said that “even in relatively peaceful zones women are victims of human trafficking and are commodified in the prostitution and drug smuggling businesses.”

He stressed that the “challenge for the ecumenical movement is to go beyond achieving balances in apex forums, and beyond globally, academically and theologically sound programs” and to create safe communities of women and men in mutual partnership.

Responses from the floor affirmed the presentations and called on the WCC to continue its work in order to include the perspectives of women in addressing issues that directly affect women.

Among the presenters were the Rev. Aaro Rytkönen from Finland, the Rev. Leonard Kinda from Burkina Faso and the Rev. Ofelia Ortega Suárez, the WCC president for Latin America and the Caribbean, who mentioned several discussions the WCC initiated in relation to the lives of women in the church.

The Rev. Bernice Powell Jackson from the United Church of Christ in the United States, the WCC president for North America, also reflected on the issues of gender justice concerning the churches.

She emphasized that while “we talk about gender justice issues for women of today’s world and the future world, it is important to say that these are not just questions of equality in the church or even not just questions of equality in the world.”

“These are life and death issues. They cannot be pigeon-holed into one area. And it is important to say that these cannot just be the work of women,” added Jackson.

These discussions are also a contribution to the theme of the WCC's upcoming 10th Assembly “God of life, lead us to justice and peace.” The assembly will take place in 2013 in Busan, South  Korea.