|Mozambique church celebrates women in ministry|
A choir of dancing clergy celebrates 30 years of
women's ordination in The United Methodist Church in Mozambique. UMNS
photos by M. Garlinda Burton.
A UMNS Report
By M. Garlinda Burton*
Jan. 8, 2010 | INHAMBANE, Mozambique (UMNS)
In 1979, United Methodists Amina Isaias and Lea Jatamo became the
first women to be ordained by any mainstream Christian church in the
African nation of Mozambique.
Thirty years later, more than 700 people gathered at the denomination’s
Cambine mission last month to celebrate the historic anniversary and
acknowledge that both clergy and laywomen are in the forefront of the
membership explosion of the church and its programs supporting the
poorest of the poor.
The celebration opened with a procession of more than 60 United
Methodist women pastors and seminary students, singing original
songs—“2009 is a year of our hope and strength!” and “Where would we be
without women?”—in Xitswa, a language indigenous to southern Mozambique.
Young women ushered the now-retired clergywomen, Isaias and Jatamo, to
the stage. Most clergy wore white anniversary T-shirts and golf shirts
bearing the image of the two pastors.
The five-hour celebration included singing, dancing and tributes by
grateful pastors and laypersons. They credited the two pioneering
clergywomen with mentoring young pastors, battling institutional sexism
as “firsts” in their churches, starting still-existing, cutting-edge
mission projects and planting at least five congregations.
Isaias, now 65, had accompanied her husband to the United Methodist
seminary at Cambine mission when he came to study evangelism. “I had
never heard of a woman pastor, yet God started calling me,” she
She began doing pastoral work in the church in Cambine alongside her
husband until she entered seminary in the 1970s. After her ordination,
she continued evangelizing, building churches and offering pastoral care
during the brutal civil war of the 1980s, “even in places that didn’t
want me.” After her husband was killed in an accident, she continued her
ministry until she retired in 2002.
When Jatamo was a child, it wasn’t typical for girls in her community to
attend school. She studied with an uncle, who soon recognized the
intellect and leadership potential in his niece.
She became a Sunday school teacher as a teenager and started a study
group for young women in the early 1960s. She met a United Methodist
missionary, whom everyone called “Auntie Margena,” began working with
her as a Christian educator in Vilanculos and attended seminary. She
married a United Methodist choirmaster in 1978.
Jatamo, who in 1990 became Mozambique’s first woman district
superintendent, also served as a chaplain at the United Methodist
hospital in Chicuque. She showed a special affinity for caring for dying
people and their families.
A gifted evangelist, she planted at least three congregations in what is
now the Maputo West District and is credited with making that district
“one of the strongest, most vibrant districts in southern Africa,”
according to Bishop Joaquina Nhanala.
During the exuberant celebration, well-wishers from across the region
honored Jatamo and Isaias with gifts, tributes and song. M. Garlinda
Burton, top executive of the United Methodist Commission on the Status
and Role of Women, presented them with commission pins, calling them
“standard-bearers” for women in ministry.
The Rev. Beauty Maenzanise, dean of the Theological School at United
Methodist-related Africa University in Zimbabwe, hailed the two
Mozambican women as “strong mothers of a movement in Africa,” and
presented them and Nhanala with a soapstone sculpture.
Setting a standard
Speaking on behalf of the Mozambique National Council of Churches, the
Rev. Dinis Matsolo said the ministries of Jatamo and Isaias set a
standard not just for the Mozambican United Methodist Church, but for
all of Africa.
“You are not just the first women pastors in The United Methodist Church
here, but you were the first in any Christian denomination, said
Matsolo. “You have opened a door for women in leadership that will never
again close. And that is a gift from God.”
Bishop Joaquina Nhanala
of Mozambique, the first United Methodist woman bishop in
Much of the 2009 session of the Mozambique South Annual Conference, held
Dec. 9-13, was a celebration of the ministry of women in Mozambique,
where Nhanala is presiding bishop. She became the first woman elected a
United Methodist bishop in Africa in 2008.
Many men were part of the celebration. A group of 35 men married to
United Methodist clergywomen presented a resolution affirming their
wives and challenging the Mozambican church to “continue the path of
And a choir of young clergymen celebrated Jatomo, Isaias, Nhanala and
other churchwomen in leadership, noting they were “sent by God to save
*Burton is the top executive of the United Methodist Commission on the
Status and Role of Women.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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