Alumna reflects on her passion for helping hurting women
Alumna Joy Butler (1967) is Second Vice-President of the World Woman’s Christian Temperance Union. A former teacher, chaplain and Director of Adventist Women’s Ministries for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the South Pacific, she is passionate about helping hurting and abused women. Joy has worldwide missionary experience, including in Africa and in the Pacific islands. Reflections asked what it means to be a “citizen of God’s big world.”
The Woman’s Christian Temperance Union advocates for social reform, including abstinence from alcohol, tobacco and drugs. Describe the consequences you’ve seen from abuse of these substances.
Alcoholism in my family has disrupted and ruined lives—one member hung himself after a lifetime of abuse. I have friends whose children or siblings have also died from suicide, overdose, lung cancer. Some of those children wrecked the family home to find money for their addictions. I’ve seen men in Africa go mad because of abuse of home-brewed alcohol. They’re isloated from their wives and children, who live in squalor. Papua New Guinea has one of the world’s highest rates of domestic violence; alcohol is a major factor.
You are President of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union in Australia. How are you helping an organisation with a 150-year history remain relevant in an increasingly agnostic and pluralistic country?
We use social media, produce a newsletter and provide online children’s activities, we connect with all Christian churches and partner with organisations, we organise speakers for schools and we continue lobbying governments.
The acronyms FGM, KGS and TTT for PNG are your passion projects. Why Taps, Toilets, Transformation, Keep Girls Safe and Female Genital Mutilation and what are you hoping to achieve?
In Papua New Guinea, toilets in schools are nonexistent or disgusting. If girls have access to decent toilets, it will help boost their self-esteem. In partnership with the Adventist Development and Relief Agency in Thailand, Keep Girls Safe helps prevent scores of girls from being trapped, sold and forced into sex slavery. Female genital mutilation is illegal in many countries but still thousands of girls suffer excruciating agony when primitively cut and sewn up to prevent promiscuity. I hope these projects encourage others to speak, give, pray and go and help.
What have you found is key to breaking the vicious cycle of inequality, exploitation, gross negligence, and violence?
Women have done and continue to do so much but we need more strong men to speak about and support the same issues and demand accountability from those—mostly men—in authority.
Your relationship with Jesus comes before your allegiance to the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Has the ongoing issue of women’s ordination strengthened the former and weakened the latter?
It has wearied me. I’m disappointed my church can’t agree on such a fundamental issue as equality and hasn’t heeded the findings of its scholars. My relationship with Jesus is stronger as I’ve looked carefully at who He was, what He represented and how He has called and led me. Jesus came to this world at a time of gross inequality and cruelty to show a better way, God’s love way. He invited women to be His followers; some even financially supported His ministry. Many would become leaders in the early church.