Canadian Women Are
Women from canada are making a difference in the name of
christ in the top tier of international evangelical ministries.
By Karen Stiller and Bill Fledderus
Rev. Eileen Stewart-Rhude is looking forward to the last week of May. After decades of involvement in women’s ministry in Canada, many connected with The Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada and The Evan- gelical Fellowship of Canada, she is now a key leader
at the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA), serving as executive
director of its Commission on Women’s Concerns. The WEA
serves more than 600 million Evangelicals around the world.
The commission deals with some weighty issues: poverty, domestic violence, illiteracy and human trafficking, among others.
Its regional directors from around the world will be meeting in
Canada – for the very first time – for an annual business and
strategizing meeting from May 24 to June 1, 2012.
A highlight of the week will be a special all-day forum for
the members of the Human Trafficking Task Force, chaired by
fellow Canadian Christine MacMillan (director of The Salvation
Army’s International Social Justice Commission in New York).
The forum will be held at Evangel Pentecostal Church in Oakville,
Ont., on May 31, and is open to the public.
“We meet annually to strategize, do needs analysis, for plan-
ning, encouragement and teaching,” says Stewart-Rhude. “I am
thrilled to be having the meetings here.”
She can’t say enough about her fellow commission members,
citing their “brilliance, their abilities, so full of passion and com-
passion.” The commission’s regional directors are generally ap-
pointed by the local evangelical alliances in their homelands, and
are therefore already recognized as strong leaders.
Stewart-Rhude qualifies for that distinction herself. Her
own ministry began as a pastor’s wife and mother, but she was
called upon again and again over the years for increasing levels
of leadership and influence by those who saw her potential. “I
didn’t see my potential, but they did,” she recalls. “God prepares
you little by little, as He’s training you.”
Stewart-Rhude and MacMillan are just two of the Canadian
woman serving the global Church at the highest levels. Canada
has been the developing ground for a remarkable number of such
women. Many of them know each other well, tracing their growth
back through institutions such as the EFC’s Forum for Women
in Ministry Leadership, especially active in the late 1990s and
early 2000s. (Originally, this group was named the Task Force
on Women in Ministry.)
a national leadership development initiative held in 2002, 2004,
2006 and 2008. It was supported by 15 Canadian partnering organizations including post-secondary colleges, church denominations and groups focused on a variety of women’s ministries.
Today, many of these women remain connected through Next
Level Leadership, an organization that began, says Bonnie Pioveson, with a vision for Christian women in Canada, but is growing
beyond Canada’s borders. Pioveson is Next Level’s international
representative for Germany, Ghana and Paraguay, countries that
have welcomed Next Level’s ministry of networking and equipping for Christian women.
“We offer a curriculum for learning modules that covers topics
like the foundations for leadership, strategic planning, right down
to issues of life balance,” explains Pioveson. “It’s very transforma-
tional, being with peers and having women feel valued and af-
firmed that they are called by God, and who they are in Christ.”
When Next Level began its work in Canada, Pioveson says
the team found “confidence, competence and character,” were
the areas of greatest need for emerging female leaders. “In every
country we’ve travelled, Christian women lack the affirmation
of the Body of Christ to be accepted as a leader,” says Pioveson.
“But it’s an amazing thing that happens when women’s gifts are
affirmed in the Church.”
Pioveson points to the growing Church in the developing
world as fertile ground for women emerging as strong leaders.
“Women are rising up in these countries, and they need the de-
velopment. Competence gives confidence.” Pioveson just recently
returned from three weeks in Paraguay where she helped present
Next Level training to groups of women leaders.
Margaret Gibb, who served as president of Women Alive for
10 years (finishing in October 2010), is another Canadian woman
who honed her leadership skills on Canadian soil, but is now operating on the global stage. “Those years gave me opportunity to
mingle with women and train them. I learned that a lot of potential with women is still untapped. And women want to do more
– sometimes they just don’t know how to get there,” says Gibb.
“I also learned that we have tremendous resources in Canada
that need to be shared. How can we gather women who are seasoned, skilled, passionate and caring, and do something together
that could impact and equip women in developing countries?”
Gibb answered her own question by creating Women Together
( women-together.org), a new ministry of “women equipping