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Presbyterian delegation to the 68th Commission on the Status of Women convenes at New York City’s Church of the Covenant

Delegates hear from Acting Stated Clerk, PMA president

by Shani E. McIlwain | Presbyterian News Service

Members of the Presbyterian delegation to the 68th Commission on the Status of Women gathered Friday at Church of the Covenant in New York City. (Photo by Shani E. McIlwain)

NEW YORK — The Presbyterian Women delegation to the 68th annual Commission on the Status of Women gathered Friday afternoon at New York’s Church of the Covenant, also known as the “The Church of the Nations.”

The Rev. Dr. Rev. Cornell Edmonds, pastor of Church of the Covenant, welcomed the 40 delegates, staff and volunteers as a candle-lighting ceremony took place.  The Rev. Bronwen Boswell, Acting Stated Clerk of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), brought greetings on behalf of the Office of the General Assembly. The gap presbyter of the Presbytery of New York City, the Rev. Mary Newbern-Williams, welcomed the delegation to New York.

The Commission on the Status of Women is the largest gathering of the United Nations that focuses on gender equality and women’s empowerment issues.

This year’s statement theme, “Accelerating the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls by addressing poverty and strengthening institutions and financing with a gender perspective,” was a great segue as the Rev. Dr. Diane Givens Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, gave a compelling presentation on the Matthew 25 movement.  As a focus of the movement is eradicating systemic poverty, CSW reports that 10.3% of women around the world live in extreme poverty.

In a year when 2.6 billion people will go to the polls, voters have the power to demand higher investment in gender equality. Moffett shared how being a Matthew 25 church, group or mid council helps to increase the power of representation at local, state and national levels. Advocacy work is all the more important when there is evidence that voters care about this topic. “We’ve seen it work in California and Denver,” Moffett said.

Lucy Janjigian, a Palestinian Christian who’s a painter, muralist and sculptor, spoke to the PC(USA) delegation Friday. (Photo by Shani E. McIlwain)

One first-time delegate, the Rev. Elizabeth Boone McLean of First Presbyterian Church of Austin, Texas, has dedicated her professional career primarily to advocating for children and education.  When her college-age daughter decided to apply to do similar work over spring break, she too, was interested.  Boone McLean says that she is attending CSW to listen to and meet people who may be able to offer insights on how to serve with people on the margins. She says attending in person with others is important. “Too often, we want to do a mission on how we tell people what to do,” she said, “and that’s not it.”

Susan Jackson Dowd, executive director of Presbyterian Women, provided a history of PW’s involvement with CSW, encouraged delegates to build relationships, and highlighted the importance of all women working together for equity and justice for all.

The evening closed with a worship service with liturgy offered by Palestinian women for International Women’s Day and an inspiring and fitting storytelling from delegate Lucy Janjigian, a Palestinian Christian who’s a painter, muralist and sculptor. Janjigian told the crowd of Christmases spent in Bethlehem and prayer services at the Garden Tomb. It is through Jesus being the light of the world that we go and do his will and his work, Janjigian said.

CSW continues for the next two weeks with a host of events to keep delegates busy, informed and transformed to go and be the prophetic witness of God. Learn more here.

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