Sisters and brothers in Christ,

How I wish you could all have heard Ms. Leymah Gbowee speak this morning!  She spoke so eloquently on the need for

Leymah Gbowee speaking on Feb. 26, 2012 at the NGO CSW forum

mentorship of young girls, transformation of attitudes in communities, and the power of the grassroots.

But what really hit home for me was her searing indictment of religious communities serving as an impediment to the empowerment of young women.  In the four West African countries in which she works, all the girls and young women she speaks with name religious affiliation as a major stumbling block to community leadership.  Muslims, Christians – all religions were implicated in this sin of sexism, worldly politics, and love of money over neighbors.  She spoke passionately about the need for the church to return to its place as an advocate for social justice.  Preach against domestic violence from the pulpit!  Establish mentor relationships between women and girls!  Set up support structures for students away from their families!

As she spoke, I realized that these are not just African issues.  These are issues right here in the United States.  Young women see the church as standing in their way – and we, as church leaders, must unblock that way and declare that women’s rights are human rights.  Women’s rights matter to God.  If the church is serving as a stumbling block for women’s leadership, then we must declare that the Spirit of the Lord is upon us to proclaim release.  We must act to stop this sin.

I pray that we will all accept this calling to empower women and men to stop the sin of sexism in our churches and in our world.