Review by Randall Prior
An unexpected partnership between women in the Uniting Church and women in Vanuatu has given rise to a new publication, Vanuatu Women in Leadership, to be launched at the Centre for Theology & Ministry on 6 October.
The enthusiastic response in Vanuatu means further volumes in the series are already under way. Cyrilline Baniuri is the national leader of the PWMU (Presbyterian Women’s Missionary Union) in Vanuatu. Ms Baniuri described the book as “a wonderful example of a genuine partnership between the Uniting Church and the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu”.
The partnership began in November 2011 when 34 women leaders from the Presbyterian Church in Vanuatu came to Victoria on a pilgrimage to the grave sites of the two deaconesses – Amy Skinner and Cath Ritchie – who helped to found the PWMU in Vanuatu 70 years ago.
During their visit to Melbourne, the CTM convened a day conference titled Women in Leadership. As well as contributions from Katharine Massam, Coralie Ling and Sharon Hollis four Pacific Island women – Eseta Meneilly, Laving Tupou, Loloma Tali and Juliette Tautala’aso –told of their journeys into leadership in the Uniting Church. The conference concluded with presentations by three Vanuatu women leaders.
The event so stimulated and enthused the visitors from Vanuatu that, on their return home, they persuaded their national church to take up the issue of women in leadership. The church, aware that this issue is both challenging and controversial in their cultural context, agreed it should be addressed as a national priority. One part of the project has been to publish material from the CTM conference to share with the whole church.
Thus the first volume of a series on Vanuatu Women in Leadership has just been completed. After its launch in Vanuatu at the August assembly this year, it will now receive a Melbourne-based launch. Seforosa Carroll from the UCA Assembly office will fly down from Sydney as the guest speaker.
The book is a very new venture for the women in Vanuatu. It contains valuable material about the emerging role of women in leadership in the Uniting Church, and especially the struggles and victories of those from the South Pacific. Perhaps, from these stories, we may all learn something of what it is like for women in leadership in the church.
The book Vanuatu Women in Leadership will be launched at the CTM on Tuesday 6 October at 4.30pm. It is available for purchase from the CTM for $20; contact David Caldecoat at firstname.lastname@example.org.