Tanzania: new program on theology, gender and leadership
Tumaini University Makumira inaugurates training course to continue legacy of Malagasy theologian Hélène Ralivao
(LWI) - Sixteen women and men from the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) member churches across Africa have begun training as part of a new gender justice program established in memory of the pioneering Malagasy theologian Hélène Ralivao. The Theology, Gender Justice and Leadership Education (TGLE) program is hosted by Tumaini University Makumira in Arusha, in partnership with the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Tanzania (ELCT) and the LWF.
The Hélène Ralivao Fund was launched in 2021 as a two-part program to honor the legacy of one of Madagascar’s first female theologians and women’s rights campaigners in the Malagasy Lutheran Church who was murdered in 2020. A first part of the program provides direct scholarships for women from LWF member churches in Africa to pursue doctoral and masters’ studies in theology and leadership development.
The second part, which was inaugurated on 25 May, takes the form of a two-week training course led by the dean and staff of the theology faculty at Tumaini University Makumira. After the in-residence training, participants will return to their home countries for three months of research and writing, before returning to Makumira for another two-week session, culminating in the publication of material that can serve as a resource for the churches in Africa and beyond.
Towards more inclusive churches
LWF’s program executive for gender justice and women’s empowerment, Rev. Dr Marcia Blasi travelled to Arusha for the launch of the new program. “It has been a blessing to be part of the opening of the training and share the LWF’s Gender Justice Policy with participants,” she said. “The experiences and stories of gender injustice that were shared with us reveal the many challenges that are ahead. It is time to deconstruct religious beliefs that create pain and suffering, in order to construct new understandings that promote full life for all,” she stressed.
LWF’s Regional Secretary for Africa Rev. Dr Elieshi Ayo Mungure, who also took part in the inaugural sessions, added: “This program offers skills to enable participants to analyze issues and challenges from their own contexts and to explore how to bring sustainable change and transformation, including within the leadership structures of their churches.”
The training course includes six modules on topics including awareness raising and implementation of a gender justice policy in the church, Biblical studies, leadership and gender analysis, as well as research skills and action plans. The current leadership of Lutheran churches in Africa is largely male dominated, even within those that ordain women for ministry.
The church’s proclamation of the gospel and our capacity to live out Christ's ministry of reconciliation is at stake.
The aim of both the individual scholarships and the new training program is to equip women and men with skills to ensure greater inclusivity in leadership and decision making within churches across the Africa region. Rev. Dr Chad Rimmer, LWF’s program executive for identity, communion and formation said: "Sexual and gender-based exclusion, marginalization or violence is violence against the body of Christ and the image of God that every person bears.
The new Hélène Ralivao Fund program, he continued, “offers the theological, Biblical and research tools to equip these women and men to transform systems of patriarchal power into communities of love that protect all people. The church’s proclamation of the gospel and our capacity to live out Christ's ministry of reconciliation is at stake. So, too, are the lives of our sisters, brothers and children who are entrusted to our care."