I was recently at a conference where Dr. Mary Lederleitner author of the book, “Women in God’s Mission” was invited to speak.
She talked about the metaphor of “sacred siblings” as a healthy way to view the mission workplace. I appreciate this perspective, because it reminds us to value both men and women, married and single, as children of God. Romans 8:15-17, reminds us that as believers, we have been adopted and are now heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ. As believers we should see ourselves as siblings with Jesus and “sacred siblings” with one another. Dr. Lederleitner’s presentation was respectful, thought provoking and extremely well-researched. I was so excited. At the breakout session, we had an opportunity to engage more deeply with the presenters, and although conference attendees were mostly male, not a single man attended Dr. Lederleitner’s breakout session. I was so disappointed.
I was asked to reflect on the question, “What is the role of women in missions and how do we best care for them?” I believe, the role of women in missions is to be a full participant in the body of Christ, so that together as “sacred siblings”, we are able to reflect the fullest image of our Lord to the world. The best way to care for women in missions is to care. In other words, we need to acknowledge that we do not know what we do not know and examine our underlying default values, attitudes and beliefs which in turn inform our behaviour at the individual level, and our policies and programs at an organizational level. Caring begins with listening and engaging with those that are different from us to understand their perspectives and needs. Caring continues with the willingness to admit that we haven't always gotten it right, and pluck up the courage to ask one another what we can do to make it better.
We are reminded of how important diversity is in the body of Christ. The diversity of our spiritual gifts, accented by our lived experience, gender and cultural differences is meant to be blessing to the body and bring glory to God. The apostle Paul reminds us, “Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.” (2 Cor 12:27). This notion of valuing the full body of Christ, through mutual respect and interdependence, can easily be overlooked. We need to be mindful and intentional about fostering our unity through diversity. Time and time over I am learning that our witness in the world is never more winsome than when we live out our unity through our diversity in love. Imagine the impact of our witness over the centuries, had we fully given opportunity to every one of our “sacred siblings” to contribute their full potential for the kingdom of God.
In my role as SIM International’s Global Director for People Development, my mandate is to catalyze, facilitate, support and look for networking opportunities that will help all SIM’s people grow as a community of people who are becoming more like Jesus – in faith, hope and love.
My team does not favour the care of women over men, but we do try and minimize the care disparity, by being mindful of groups that may be overlooked such as singles, retirees and mothers to name a few. For instance, many women feel undervalued and unsupported in caring for their families. And yet, there could be no greater ministry, for without healthy, thriving marriages and children, many families would not be able to continue in their outreach work. Similarly, we look for ways to support initiatives that value the full participation of singles and retirees, many of whom are women, into the larger community that makes up SIM.
I am very grateful to be a part of SIM with its rich heritage of diversity. Many faithful and courageous “sacred sisters” in generations past worked hard and paved the way for me to obtain the training and conceive the imagination required to step into my current role. Many secure and visionary “sacred brothers” gave me the support and invited me to step into spaces traditionally reserved for men. That said, we all have a role to play in ensuring that we continue to move forward as “sacred siblings”. May the Lord be pleased to use our unity through diversity to make Christ known in communities where He is least known.