Winnie Bartel knows firsthand the pain caused by a church's silence. She says when she was 10 years old, her male schoolteacher—who was also a deacon in her church and a friend of her father—locked her in a closet with him where he sexually abused her.
When she finally broke her silence 25 years later, Bartel says her abuser quietly left town, but her church ignored the issue. Bartel, now 59, has since forgiven her abuser, but the experience has strengthened her resolve to help other women. "I have to speak for those who don't have a voice," she says.
As the executive chair of the World Evangelical Fellowship (WEF) Com mis sion on Women's Concerns, Bartel is launching an international task force to survey 600 women about abuse. "We want to bring this problem before the church," says Bartel, who will present the findings to WEF in 2001. "When have you ever heard a pastor preach on abuse against women and children?"
Bartel is one of a growing number of evangelical women who are dissatisfied with Christian female gender-issue discussions that center on women's ordination and wifely submission. Instead, a new movement is shifting the focus to international women's concerns such as slavery, poverty-driven prostitution, female genital mutilation, and the dowry system.
The Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society (ECWS), sponsored by the renewal-minded Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) of Washington, D.C., may become a place of common ground for evangelical women on the ideological spectrum from the traditionalist Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood to the egalitarian Chris tians for Biblical Equality. ECWS formed to present a conservative voice at the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing ...1