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Young Lutheran Women Are Leaders

12/13/1996 12:00:00 AM

     CHICAGO (ELCA) -- A three-year experience in international leadership ended recently for Julie Ann Winder, Boston, and Harolyn Light Coffer, Jefferson City, Mo.  The two young women are members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.  They were part of the International Leadership Conference for Young Women, a program of the Lutheran World Federation (LWF) in Geneva, Switzerland.
     "The program was one of the most wonderful training opportunities I have participated in during my life," said Coffer.  "I appreciate and praise the program for its diversity of women.  We are a `rainbow people,'" she said.
     Winder said it was valuable to "meet female leaders from all over the world.  It was interesting to learn that we have similar struggles and joys within the church."
     The conference gathered 44 Lutheran women between ages 20 and 40 from Lutheran churches around the world at the end of October to build and strengthen their leadership qualities, preparing them for international work with the LWF and its member churches.
     "The program allowed young women to fine-tune the gift of leadership to serve the world to the Glory of God," said Sandra Holloway, who designed the program while on the staff of the LWF. Holloway is currently director for global mission education and stewardship in the ELCA's Division for Global Mission.
     The young women were matched with international and regional mentors.  They learned about the global church, became acquainted with female church leaders and attended LWF events.
     Sue Edison-Swift, managing editor of Lutheran Woman Today, the periodical of Women of the ELCA, served as a mentor and regional coordinator.  "In many ways the LWF program was a credentialing more than a training program," she said.  "The participants in the program are already leaders in their churches, professions and communities.  Their participation helps church leaders recognize the women as leaders," she said.
     The women undertook hands-on experience -- short internships, service opportunities, participation in LWF meetings at an international, regional or churchwide level.  "The program has broadened my perspective on many global issues," said Coffer.
      "These young women went through a personal life metamorphosis.  They matured into leaders with the opportunity to serve as international delegates," Holloway explained.
     Three years ago, LWF made a commitment to equal participation of women and men in leadership responsibilities, Holloway said.  Despite strategies and plans for leadership training and participation of women, LWF recognized that young women are a neglected group in its programs, meetings and events. This could be attributed to "the lack of required skills and the under-utilization of women's capacities in a competitive system," she said.
     The young women's program will provide LWF and its member churches with a group of leaders who have an integrated international awareness, said Holloway.
     LWF is a communion of 56 million Lutherans in 122 member church bodies in 68 countries.  The 5.2-million-member ELCA is the second largest LWF member.

For information contact: Ann Hafften, Dir., ELCA News Service, (312)
380-2958 or AHAFFTEN@ELCA.ORG; Frank Imhoff, Assoc. Dir., (312)
380-2955 or FRANKI@ELCA.ORG; Melissa Ramirez, Assist. Dir., (312)


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