Setting the stage for gender equality

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett addresses #CSW66 delegates

by Darla Carter | Presbyterian News Service

LOUISVILLE — A Presbyterian delegation that will be taking part in a United Nations gathering on gender equality and environmental issues met online Friday for a virtual kickoff that included remarks by the Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

The delegation from the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) and Presbyterian Women also heard from Sue Rheem of the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations. She along with others will accompany delegates as they participate online in the 66th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (#CSW66), a hybrid event, from March 14-25.

Before the pandemic, thousands of people, including PC(USA) delegates, would gather at the UN headquarters in New York for CSW. But even without that in-person experience, Presbyterians have been able to maintain a cohesive delegation to take part in CSW and related events, from educational sessions to worship services.

Sue Rheem (File photo by Rich Copley)

“We have a most impressive delegation this year, from all over the world and around the country, intergenerational and intercultural, embracing our diversity but celebrating unity,” said Rheem, Representative to the UN.

“The planning team has been working for months to create an indelible experience for you,” she continued. “The table has been set, so come and taste and see that the Lord is good. We begin the CSW66 journey, and we can’t wait to see how the Spirit will move us during this CSW.”

The priority theme for this year is “Achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls in the context of climate change, environmental and disaster risk reduction policies and programmes.”

“CSW66 gives us a unique opportunity to come up with strong, action-oriented policy recommendations on this urgent theme, especially in light of the recent IPCC report, which the secretary-general called an atlas of human suffering,” CSW66 Chair Mathu Joyini said in a welcome message posted online.

Thanking Presbyterian delegates for their participation in CSW, Moffett said, “I am praying that your learning will be insightful, your fellowship rich, your worship inspiring and your commissioning today meaningful as we continue the work of advocating for women and girls, which is definitely a part of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus Christ.”

Moffett also thanked Rheem, the planning team and leaders of Presbyterian Women before turning to the Matthew 25 invitation, the unifying vision of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) that focuses on building congregational vitality, dismantling structural racism and eradicating poverty.

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett (File photo by Rich Copley)

“Matthew 25, of course, is now the biblical, theological, ecclesial basis for our Mission Work Plan, which is like the strategy that the Presbyterian Mission Agency is using that helps us to focus on getting the work done,” Moffett said. “We do this work together, alongside of congregations and mid council leaders and international partners.”

She went on to explain that the biblical basis for the Matthew 25 invitation largely comes from The Judgment of Nations in which Jesus separates the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46).

“The standard of judgment for all the nations is how we care for those who are sitting on the margins of society,” said Moffett, who likened their experiences to those of Jesus.

“Jesus knows about thirst, physical thirst, and also spiritual thirst,” she said. “I’m sure he knows what it means to need welcome because as a child, his parents had to flee their homeland, very similar to what’s happening in Ukraine. Herod was going crazy, going around slaughtering baby boys, trying to get rid of Jesus. So they had to go to Egypt, and thankfully, Egypt opened the borders and welcomed them, so that the family was able to escape violence and persecution and death, so he knows what it means” to need welcome and also to be imprisoned.

As for the average Presbyterian, she said, “We might find ourselves peacefully protesting and have to go to jail. We may find ourselves persecuted. We might find ourselves in need of water. We are also a part of ‘the least of these’ as we do this ministry.”

She went on to speak about intersectionality and how, based on a current proposal, Matthew 25 will be shining a light on additional topics, namely gender justice and heteropatriarchy, militarism and climate change.

“Climate change is already beginning to affect women and girls and communities of color who often depend upon the environment, right? If you’re raising crops or if your island is going underwater, you cannot do what you need to do.”

Ivy Lopedito (Contributed photo)

Ivy Lopedito, a mission specialist for the Presbyterian Ministry at the UN, responded to Moffett’s remarks prior to the showing of a short video on CSW, several presentations on work being done by ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency and by Presbyterian Women, and a brief period of worship.

“Thank you,” Lopedito said, “for opening us up as we prepare as a delegation to seek justice and to advocate for gender equality on a global scale as we follow … this Matthew 25 call to actively engage in the world around us, which is what we are doing but also what we get to do during this Commission on the Status of Women.”

To register for a March 22 webinar on how women in the church are responding to climate change and environmental degradation, go here.

The Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations is one of the Compassion, Peace and Justice ministries of the Presbyterian Mission Agency.

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