Rebecca Mutumosi Mfutila is the first ordained female pastor of the Evangelical Community of the Kwango (Communauté Evangélique du Kwango CEK). With her determined commitment to women, the theologian, born in 1968, overcomes barriers in the Reformed churches of the Democratic Republic of Congo with determination and diplomatic skill. She is a role model for many women.
Rebecca Mutumosi Mfutila worked as a parish pastor and volunteered as General Secretary of the CEK Women’s Federation in Kinshasa from 2002 to 2010; she has been its President since 2010. She was ordained in 2014. From 2010 to 2015, she directed the women’s work of the national association Église du Christ au Congo (ECC). Since 2020, Rebecca Mfutila has also been responsible for women’s issues at the national organization of the various Protestant churches of the ECC.
PCS committed to continuation
Since 2009, the International Sylvia-Michel-Prize has honored people and projects committed to promoting women’s leadership in the Reformed Church. The awarding of the Sylvia-Michel-Prize at the synod is intended to draw more attention to it. The promotion of equality is enshrined in the PCS constitution, which is why PCS will continue to support the award. It is their contribution to fostering women in leadership positions within the worldwide communion of Reformed churches. PCS President Rita Famos noted: ‘The awarding of the Sylvia-Michel-Prize raises awareness of the fact that church leadership bodies in many places are still unequally composed. Through this award, we show pioneering women like Rebecca Mutumosi Mfutila around the world that we stand by their side.’ Famos also expressed her profound gratitude to the Association of Female Presidents and Vice-Presidents – both sitting and non-sitting – of the Reformed Churches of Switzerland (PanKS) for their pioneering work as women in church leadership. The association will be dissolved but the prize will continue to be administered by the PCS, by decision of the PCS Council.
Lini Sutter, head of the PanKS leadership team, looked back to the beginnings in her speech. ‘In 2005, when we ten presidents – most of us the first women presidents in the presidiums of our churches – met at the Rügel conference house in Aargau. We did not yet know where this gathering would lead. We were interested in mutual exchange, encouragement and reinforcement. The Sylvia-Michel-Prize, created in this spirit, recognizes the competence with which women sustain and lead churches.
Najla Kassab, who in 2017 became the first woman elected President of the World Communion of Reformed Churches WCRC, called the awarding of the prize to Rebecca Mutumosi Mfutila an act of solidarity with the women of Congo and another opportunity to encourage young women to place their skills at the service of the church. Kassab underscored: ‘Today we stand together as women from Congo, Switzerland and Lebanon, united in our faith in God. In his sight, we are working together for a better future.’
The culmination of a process
The laureate took the floor, touched and with great joy. “This November 7, 2022 is an unforgettable day, when the Sylvia-Michel-Prize was awarded to my humble person. Beyond the joy and honor that comes with it, I consider the prize an invitation to myself to work even harder in the struggle for the advancement of women. This is not an easy task, particularly in the context of our underdeveloped countries”. Rebecca Mutumosi Mfutila sees the Sylvia-Michel-Prize as the culmination of a process that involved several people. I would hereby like to express my appreciation and profound gratitude to them.’ She directed this gratitude first and foremost to her God.
In memory of Sylvia Michel, pastor in the Aargau
Since 2009, the International Sylvia-Michel-Prize has honored people and projects committed to promoting women’s leadership in the Reformed Church. The name commemorates Pastor Sylvia Michel, who was elected president of the Reformed Church of Aargau in 1980. She was the first woman in Europe to head a church executive committee. The $5,000 prize is awarded jointly by the presidents and vice presidents – both sitting and non-sitting – of the Reformed churches of Switzerland PanKS,, the Protestant Church in Switzerland PCS and the World Communion of Reformed Churches WCRC.
The Evangelical Community of the Kwango (CEK)
CEK is active primarily in the Kwango Region of the Democratic Republic of Congo. This region on the border with Angola is one of the poorest in the world. Its people have neither money to live on nor access to education or technical development. In this situation, the church steps in and, in an emergency, takes over government duties such as road construction, supplying water, and education. Rebecca Mfutila regularly conducts training and coaching for young women, encouraging them to get involved in church and community leadership. Women who venture this far in Congo are frequently subjected to harassment, marginalization, and even exclusion. Thus, this work of encouraging others is anything but easy.
CEK is a partner church of Mission 21, the Protestant missionary agency in Basel. Mission 21 is committed to improving basic health care in the Kwango and promotes projects of its partner church in the area of food sovereignty. It particularly supports women and young people through its educational offerings.