Adventist Women Leaders (AWL) has joined the Women’s Ministries department at the North American Division (NAD) of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The community’s new home is part of a larger plan to help AWL grow and serve more women leaders with resources, events, and mentoring opportunities.
The partnership was proposed by Wendy Eberhardt, NAD’s vice president for ministries and AWL’s committee chair. The AWL committee prayed about the merger and agreed to explore the possibility. In October 2022, Celeste Ryan Blyden, the Columbia Union Conference’s executive secretary and a founder of AWL, met with DeeAnn Bragaw, NAD’s director of Women’s Ministries, and the plan solidified.
“The department of Women’s Ministries serves all women, and we’re looking for fresh and relevant ways to minister to many different groups of women,” Bragaw said of the reason she welcomed the alliance. “Partnering with Adventist Women Leaders gives us the opportunity to better serve women leaders, and also provides an opportunity for young women to see that there is a place for them in leadership within our church, and a community of other women leaders as well.”
AWL was birthed in 2017 when Blyden invited Debra Brill, then NAD vice president for ministries, and Ann Roda, vice president for Mission Integration and Spiritual Care at Adventist HealthCare, to partner in hosting a luncheon for 14 women leaders who were members of the NAD Executive Committee. That luncheon, held at the NAD headquarters during its year-end meeting, was the seed.
“Nine of the 14 were the first women in their position. We had a room full of history makers!” Blyden said. “And when they began sharing their stories and ministry journeys, we realized there was a connection, a great need and great opportunity to do more to support, nurture, mentor, advocate for, and celebrate women called to leadership. And so that became our shared vision.”
That vision has blossomed into a global community of more than 300 women leaders who stay connected through the monthly newsletter, social media, Zoom events, and in-person events.
Bragaw has herself been part of the AWL community since its inception and said she has enjoyed the gatherings and the recent Virtual Mentor Series.
“The speakers have been relevant and inspiring,” Bragaw said.
To kick off the new year, NAD Women’s Ministries AWL will host the AWL Luncheon on January 11, 2023, in Greensboro, North Carolina.
“The benefits [of the partnership] are just beginning!” Bragaw said. “We have the opportunity to reach more women leaders through the wider platform Women’s Ministries already provides. AWL provides a unique and needed niche in Women’s Ministries and helps people to understand that Women’s Ministries serves all women, not just a small segment of women. We’re excited to watch what God will do. We really are better together!”