Inspiring call for practical equality changes from 70 global leaders at Rise in Strength 2024 


Building on progress made during two previous consultations, 70 women from 34 countries met near Amsterdam on March 17–20 to strategize how to bring “hope-filled change” in the church at the Rise in Strength 2024 conference. Rise in Strength is a network of women who are in places of Christian influence. 

Amanda Jackson, WEA senior advisor on diversity and a co-founder of the Rise in Strength global network, described the spirit of the conference: “At this moment we need to see the world through God’s eyes, and not through fear. At Rise in Strength 2024, we asked ‘How can we be catalysts of change, without despairing about all the things we can’t do?’”    

The consultation included active participants of female leaders in the WEA community. This included  directors of the Women’s Commission in several regions such as Asia, Europe, Latin America, North America as well as national leaders such as Martha Das from Bangladesh. Peirong Lin (Germany/Singapore), WEA Deputy Secretary General also participated. Women leaders in the Lausanne Movement, such as Tanya van Horne (USA), the Global Director of Issue Networks, as well as women leaders from parachurch, global and national NGOs and missions coming from as far afield as Australia, Paraguay, Norway, and the Ivory Coast were also present.   

Together, the women first encountered the Bible each day. Anne Zaki, an Egyptian academic, taught on the two Hebrew midwives (Exodus 1:5–22) who risked their lives to defy Pharaoh’s genocidal command to kill all Hebrew boys at birth. If it hadn’t been for that defiance, the next generation who entered the Promised Land “flowing with milk and honey” would not have existed, and world history would have been totally different. “Estimates suggest that 603,000 men, aged 20+, left Egypt 80 years after these two women made this brave decision,” said Zaki. “But how many times have you heard a sermon about them rather than, say, Moses, Aaron, and Joshua?”

This Rise 2024 consultation took its inspiration from Psalm 68, especially verse 11: “The Lord announces the word, and the women who proclaim it are a mighty throng.” (Along the way, it was noted in discussions that different English translations do not always include mention of “women” when the original Hebrew or Greek specifically refer to them, or only imply their presence).     

After grounding themselves in theological study, including an overview of the women of the early church such as Phoebe and Lydia, the consultation moved to evaluate the current situation of women across the global Church. Prior to the meeting itself, Rise in Strength sent a questionnaire to its global community, receiving 275 responses from 36 countries.     

Women spoke of their struggles and challenges: if single, they could often feel a little “used” (“as you’re single, you have so much more free time to volunteer in the church”) while also feeling they have not quite “made it” if they don’t have a husband and/or children. Meanwhile, those bringing up families often struggle to reconcile the ways in which they can be enabled, by the wider world, to balance motherhood with their vocational calling, and with the ways in which they may be treated by their own church.   

Gina Zurlo, co-director of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, shared her latest research following her publication of her 2022 book on global Christianity.  For example, due partly to the population explosion across Africa, the “typical” member of the Anglican Communion is now a thirty-something Nigerian woman who lives on less than $4 a day. Yet the question remains: are her daily life and context seen and heard in the Communion’s institutions and decision making?   

India now comprises around 18% of the global population. There are an estimated 98 million Christians in the country. While 70–80% of them are women, under 10% of these women say they have recognized leadership opportunities (apart from Sunday school teaching or other traditionally female roles) at church.   

One small step achieved by Rise in Strength 2024 was to double the number of countries represented at the consultation from 18 in 2019 to 34. Since 2019, the Rise in Strength “Call to all Christians has been translated into 17 languages, including Bangla, Burmese, Chinese, Hindi, Russian, and Spanish.  Lin was particularly thankful to see momentum on the different translations of “Call of all Christians.” “This call represents our heartfelt desire that everyone at church can truly embrace their spiritual giftings to strengthen the work and witness of the Church, to the glory of God. For different congregations to read this in their heart languages will hopefully make further inroads for awareness, attentiveness and action.”

After encountering Scripture and evaluating current research, its organizing team sought to equip attendees for their own roles and callings. Through a series of panels and roundtable discussions, most of those present shared from their own experiences. These ranged from how local churches can engage with justice for women and celebrating co-leadership in the home to a presentation by Helene Fisher, chief advocacy officer for Gender and Religious Freedom, on tools and strategies to achieve cultural and organizational change.

Van Horne commented after the event, “The heart of the Lausanne Movement is accelerating global mission together. By creating a dynamic space for shared learning, encouragement, resourcing and missional collaboration, Rise is a key network for women in global leadership.”

Examples of attendees’ feedback included “Incredible encounters, friendships made and rich content for all,” “It was a rejuvenating and challenging (good) time for me,” and “I was so encouraged with all the great teaching and research that were shared. … It has renewed my heart and calling and given me new resources to reference when leaders are searching for answers and the truth from God’s Word.” 

By Julia Bicknell 

For more information, contact Amanda Jackson, [email protected] or Elke Werner, [email protected]  

For the Call to all Christians, see