A Look into the Past, A Foundation for the Future

“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

-Romans 15:4-6

Disciples Women’s Ministries is a general ministry of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the United States and Canada. Its beginnings can be traced back to October 21, 1874, when Caroline Neville Pearre organized a group of women that came to be known as the Christian Women’s Board of Missions. This group, which was organized and managed exclusively by women, was organized for the purpose of addressing the lack of local and international mission work by the Church. In February 1876, just a short two years after organizing, the first mission trip to Jamaica took place, where they were tasked with resurrecting the ministry previously led by the American Christian Missionary Society.  In addition to mission work, the CWBM provided training and programs, which equipped thousands of young people, and established four Bible Chairs at state universities.

Since then, Disciples Women have continued to organize in innumerable ways and advocate for serving the needs of God’s people across time, culture, and geography. Other groups and many phenomenal women help make up the Disciples Women’s fabric through their much-needed work that’s left an indelible impact on general church ministry and the world.

We also note that:

  • Disciples Women participated in the founding of the Christian Women’s Temperance Union in 1874.
  • In 1886, a group of women in St. Louis, recognizing a need to assist poor and orphaned children led by Mattie Younkin, began what is now the National Benevolent Association, the social services ministry of the Church.
  • Clara Hale Babcock became the first woman in the Christian Churches and was ordained in 1889. She held pastorates in four churches, conducted several evangelistic meetings, and baptized at least 1500 people in her service to ministry.
  • Sarah Lue Bostick, who some consider to be merger staff before there was even a merger, served the Christian Women’s Board of Missions and the National Christian Missionary Society by working with African American congregations, and she established many CWBM auxiliaries.
    • She was one of the first African American women to be ordained in the Christian Churches in the late 19th Century and was an early church planter with her husband.
    • Her mark on the Christian Churches as we know them today is so impactful that her collection of mission materials from her 40+ years of service is currently preserved at the Disciples Historical Society.
    • In 1949, Christian Women’s Fellowship (CWF) was formed by 75 women at Turkey Run, Indiana, to unify all the different women’s groups.
    • Sharon E. Watkins, past General Minister and President, who upon her assent to office in 2005, became the first woman to lead a mainline denomination.  Followed by her successor, Rev. Teresa Hord Owens 2017, becoming the first person of color and the second female to lead our Church as GMP.

As you can see, through the generations, Disciples Women’s Ministries continued to set the stage for creating pathways for women to fully live out their call in the service of ministry and much more.  Details about Disciples Women’s history can be found in a book entitled In the Fullness of Time.

Disciples Women’s Ministry is more than our history.  We have evolved into a ministry of the general church that aims to be both transformational and responsive to real-life issues for women worldwide. We honor the legacy and work of the shoulders that we stand on while at the same time leaning forward to continue to remain relevant in our ever-changing context.  Now, almost 148 years later, Disciples Women’s Ministries continues to serve as a safe space for ALL DISCIPLES WOMEN by creating opportunities for women to connect in ways that empower other women to find their voice and live out their call. We do this through justice-focused missions, leadership development, and spiritual formation and renewal. Women can participate on congregational, regional, interregional,  national, and international levels. Such programs and initiatives offered by DWM have included human trafficking, food insecurity, and much more. There are no membership requirements to participate in and benefit from this ministry.

If you are a woman and a Disciples, then you are a Disciples Woman.