Anicia Kosky, Chief Relationship Officer at Disciples Church Extension Fund (DCEF)

And that’s not just because I am one. Women have done some amazing things throughout history to make life better for their generation, the next, and ours. They have forged paths to freedom for many no matter their societal status, gender, or demographic background. Through courage, love, and humility, women become heroes who may not receive the recognition they deserve until we reflect upon their brave acts during Women’s History Month. Women are heroes of equality, heroes of experience, heroes of motherhood, and heroes of life. 

We are humanitarians in our households and across the world. Without us, life is not possible. Our sense of love and kindness brings light into a fragmented world, creating wholeness. 

We are partners in Christ’s salvation and renewal. We are advocates. We all have an important role to play in God’s plan.

During this month of reflection on those who went before us, realize that you, too, are amazing every day. And, that you are loved.

Many women are heroes we may never know. But, as we honor those we do, here are just a few of the amazing Disciples women we’re celebrating.

In addition to being a teacher, Minnie Vautrin was a missionary in Nanking, China. She was posthumously awarded the Emblem of the Blue Jade by the Chinese government for harboring up to 10,000 women at Ginling Girls College during the Nanjing Massacre.

Jessie M. Trout was a Canadian missionary in Japan who visited Japanese internment camps in the U.S. after WWII and advocated for the employment of Japanese Americans in Indiana. She was the first woman to serve as vice president of the United Christian Missionary Society and co-founded the Christian Women’s Fellowship as well as the International Christian Women’s Fellowship, both Disciples groups for women.

Laura Luz A. Bacerra became the first Asian woman hired at the general level of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) in the U.S. and Canada when she joined the Department of Church Women in 1977. During her years in ministry, she was a pastor and a founder of NAPAD (North American Pacific Asian Disciples).

JoAnne Kagiwada, the “matriarch of NAPAD,” organized the lobbying and educational campaigns that led to the passage of the Civil Liberties Act in 1988, which saw US $20,000 distributed in individual payments to survivors of the camps.

Rev. Dr. Cynthia Hale is the founder and Senior Pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church. In 2009, she was appointed by Barack Obama to serve on the President’s Commission on White House Fellowships. Hale also delivered the Invocation at the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

Dr. Charisse Gillett became the first woman and first African-American to lead Lexington Theological Seminary as president in 2011. A former moderator of the CC (DoC), she is a commissioned minister in the Kentucky region and served as an Associate Minister at East Second Street Christian Church (Disciples of Christ).

Rev. Lori Tapia serves as the National Pastor for Hispanic Ministries for the denomination. She is the first female and first Mexican/American to be elected to this role. Tapia has over two decades of experience as a visionary leader in family and community programming.

Rev. Hilda Robles Florán is the Pastora General de la Iglesias Cristiana (Discípulos de Cristo) en Puerto Rico. She is the first woman in this role. Before her 30+ years in pastoral care in Puerto Rico, she had several missionary experiences in the Caribbean, South America, and Europe.

Rev. Dr. Tamara Nichols Rodenberg is the President of Higher Education and Leadership Ministries. This call is historic, as she is the first woman in this role. Rodenberg previously served as President of Bethany College, VP for Advancement at Brite Divinity School, and interim President at Disciples Seminary Foundation.

Kosky joined DCEF in February 2024. She will lead strategy implementation to effectively communicate the organizations’ roles in and service to the Disciples of Christ community. DCEF is an administrative support partner of NCM.

An excerpt of this blog post also appeared in the March 2024 issue of the New Church Know-It-All.

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