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April 7, 2014

Now That We’re in ECO, What About Our Women’s Ministry?


Common questions

Today, I’m headed to Florence, South Carolina to be a part of First Presbyterian Church’s Spring Women’s event. I’m excited to hear what God is doing in the congregation and how they are living into our sense of missional calling as a part of ECO.

As I’ve traveled around during various Presbytery gatherings, I’ve gotten a few questions from various leaders in ECO churches that sound a little bit like this:

What do we do with our Presbyterian Women (PW) circles and Women’s Ministry now that we’re in ECO?

This is a great question. It signifies the nuts-and-bolts work going on in many congregations as we assimilate into our new life as part of ECO. I must admit, I am not hugely familiar with the ins and outs of the PC(USA) run ministry of Presbyterian Women, but I am aware of its long history within many congregations and the love and devotion to it—particularly from some of our more seasoned women in the church.

So the quick answer to the question is simply this:

You don’t have to change a thing about your PW Circles or Women’s Ministry now that your church is a part of ECO, unless, of course, you feel the Spirit calling you to change.

Remember, ECO exists to support the local church as she flourishes in making disciples of Jesus Christ. Our eco-system is stronger as a bottom-up movement focused on the congregation rather than a top-down denominational led action. If your PW circles want to continuing using curriculum from the PC(USA) and supporting the designated missionaries within the PC(USA)—that’s just fine! Your PW or Women’s Ministry leadership team can prayerfully make that decision.

Relying on our new ways of connectionalism

From some leaders, I’ve heard questions that indicate a re-thinking about PW circles and Women’s Ministry. I can tell this is happening by the questions I am being asked. One leader emailed me and asked if ECO had any designated missionaries or recommendations of missionaries that women in the church could support. I replied by directing the church to our ministry partners—the Outreach Foundation, the Presbyterian Frontier Fellowship, and Antioch Partners, which you can find here. Personally, I have been challenged by the work of International Justice Mission and their work with human trafficking. Is there a local ministry who supports and serves women in your local context? Perhaps this ministry would be a valued, life-giving partner for you.

I received another question from a church looking to rename their Women’s Ministry. In ECO, we do not have a uniform name for Women’s Ministry—again, that’s up to the local congregation. I love the idea, though, of a rename like Women in Ministry, which to me denotes the sense of:

  • our common call to love and serve others in Christ’s name
  • and how each of us as women have a part to play

Another suggestion is WOW – Women of the Word.

Here’s a final thought: if you’re looking for direction on what to do about Women’s Ministry or PW circles, this would be just the topic to toss around within your Mission Affinity Group or even in conversation around the newly forming ECO presbyteries. Instead of relying on a denominational structure for guidance, this is exactly the kind of thing that can and should be highlighted in our new ways of connectionalism.

Feel free to share questions or ideas about Women’s Ministry or PW circles in the comments below. And may the Lord continue to bless each and every Women’s Ministry for His glory!

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Anna Kent

Anna Kent serves as Director of Mission Affinity Groups for ECO and The Fellowship of Presbyterians. She also serves on the ECO Synod Executive Committee. A newlywed living in Huntsville, Alabama, Anna previously served as pastor at Central Presbyterian Church in Waxahachie, Texas.

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