The acronym “ICWF” rolls off the tongues of thousands of
Disciples women who grew up with International Christian Women’s Fellowship,
but things are changing for the 53-year-old women’s network—including its
In their annual gathering in late January, regional leaders of the church-wide
Disciples women’s network voted to change the name to International Disciples
“There was a time in the church when women served almost exclusively in
auxiliary leadership roles to support the church’s mission,” said Adonna Bowman,
executive director in the Office of Disciples Women, a part of Disciples Home
“This name, ‘Disciples Women,’ acknowledges that today, this women’s
organization has a mandate to support the ministries of women in virtually every
role in the church,” she said.
ICWF began in July 1953, when 2,000 Disciples women gathered during a
general church assembly in Portland. The mission-driven organization provides
training, communication, networking and other resources to support the ministry
While women still remain deeply committed to mission through service and social
action, the way they engage has shifted radically, said Susan Gonzales Dewey,
president of the Church Women Staff Fellowship, the organization that voted on
the name change.
“Disciples no longer make the assumption that gender is a barrier to any
leadership position,” said Dewey who co-pastors a California congregation and
serves as a staff member with the Pacific Southwest Region. “When we called
Sharon Watkins as General Minister and President, we illustrated this reality
Women also provide significant financial resources for the church, Bowman
pointed out. Total Disciples Mission Fund giving in 2005 reached $13.56 million,
from congregations whose populations are at least 60 percent women, she said.
Yet beyond regular congregational giving, Disciples women’s groups also gave
another $1.59 million.