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5 Constitutional Amendments Head to Vote

See original story by Heather Hahn for United Methodist News Servive here

Annual conference voters in the coming months will consider five potential amendments to The United Methodist Church’s constitution, which is part of the Book of Discipline. Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Photo by Mike DuBose, UMNS

Annual conference voters in the coming months will consider five potential amendments to The United Methodist Church’s constitution, which is part of the Book of Discipline.

By Heather Hahn
Feb. 8, 2017 | UMNS

General Conference delegates had their say last year. Now, it’s up to annual conference voters to determine whether five amendments will become part of The United Methodist Church’s constitution.

In the coming months, the voters will consider changes that address matters of gender equality, inclusiveness in membership, delegate and bishop elections, as well as bishop accountability. 

To be ratified, a constitutional amendment first requires at least a two-thirds vote at General Conference, which happened in May 2016. Then, it must win at least a two-thirds majority of the total voters at annual conferences around the world.

The voting starts at the Liberia Conference, scheduled for Feb. 13-19, and will continue through potentially early next year, depending on when annual conferences schedule their meetings. The Council of Bishops will certify the results at its next meeting after the voting concludes.

Here is an overview of the amendments in the order submitted to annual conference voters.

Gender equality

This amendment declares, “men and women are of equal value in the eyes of God.” It goes on to say that maleness and femaleness are characteristics of human bodies, not the divine. It also asserts that The United Methodist Church will “seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large.”

The amendment, if ratified, would become the new Paragraph 6 in the Book of Discipline, the denomination’s governing document. Subsequent constitutional paragraphs would be renumbered. General Conference approved the measure by a vote of 746 to 56.

Carol Napier, a Sunday school teacher for 17 years at Glenn Memorial United Methodist Church in the North Georgia Conference, submitted the amendment.

“I hope that this amendment will help churches remember that girls and women are of equal worth to boys and men because everyone is made in the image of God,” she said. “I believe that when churches remember and live out of this truth in all of their ministries, then villages, cities and even nations will be transformed to reflect Jesus’ perfect love for all of us.”

Inclusion in membership

If adopted, this amendment would add gender, ability, age and marital status to the list of characteristics that do not bar people from membership in the church. Specifically, the amended Paragraph 4 would say that no member shall be “denied access to an equal place in the life, worship and governance of the Church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status or economic condition.”

The vote at General Conference was 509 to 242.

The United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women submitted the amendment and put together a site seeking to answer frequently asked questions about the changes. For example, the agency notes that gender refers simply to men and women. The amendment also has the support of United Methodist Women, Discipleship Ministries and the DisAbility Ministries Committee.

“Paragraph IV, Article 4 protects people in The United Methodist Church against discrimination in membership based on age, gender, marital status and ability, while still protecting exclusivity in groups like United Methodist Women, youth groups and singles ministries, to name a few,” said Dawn Wiggins Hare, top executive of the Status and Role of Women agency. “We are enthusiastically supporting the ratification of this amendment for the betterment of The United Methodist Church.”

Delegate elections

This amendment to Paragraph 34 specifies that elections of delegates to General Conference as well as jurisdictional and central conference meetings will include open nominations from the floor at annual conference sessions. The measure also calls for the election of delegates “by a minimum of a simple majority of the ballots cast.”

General Conference supported the amendment by a vote of 767 to 22.

Paul Clinton Law of the Democratic Republic of the Congo submitted the amendment. The current provision in Paragraph 13 states that delegates “shall be elected in a fair and open process by the annual conferences.” Law said that is “unduly vague in some cultures without a democratic tradition.”

Bishop elections

This amendment to Paragraph 46 states that central conferences are to elect bishops at a regular, not an extra session of the central conference “except where an unexpected vacancy must be filled.” General Conference voted for the change by 621 to 15.

Lonnie D. Brooks, a member of the Alaska Conference, said the amendment aims to treat bishop elections in the central conferences — church regions in Africa, Asia and Europe — in much the same way they are treated in U.S. jurisdictions.

When bishops are elected in a special session, he said, “some of the delegates who would be present at the regular session will either not be present at a special session or will be placed in a hardship condition by the call of a session for the purpose of electing bishops.”

Bishop accountability

Under this amendment to Paragraph 50, General Conference can adopt provisions for the Council of Bishops to hold individual bishops accountable. General Conference approved the amendment by 715 to 79.

The Western Pennsylvania Conference submitted the legislation to address a ruling by the denomination’s top court, the Judicial Council. That ruling holds that it is unconstitutional for the Council of Bishops to hold its members accountable. Currently, any complaints against bishops are to be handled in the jurisdictions or central conferences where they are elected.

The Rev. Robert Zilhaver, who wrote the legislation, said the goal is to keep primary responsibility for a bishops’ accountability where they are elected, while also creating a mechanism for the Council of Bishops to step in for global accountability if needed. Zilhaver is the senior pastor of DuBois Lakeside United Methodist Church in Pennsylvania.

“It moves us to a position, where in our church we might hold ourselves accountable for a sin that rises to global expressions,” he said, pointing to the example of a bishop holding slaves, which led to the denomination’s split in 1844. At the same time, he said, he wants to protect “cultural expressions from being labeled a sin and being prosecuted.”

Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service. Contact her at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. Julu Swen, a communicator in Liberia, contributed to this story. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

Viewing Clinton’s Campaign through Faith, Gender

See original story by Linda Bloom from United Methodist News Service here

Joining Hillary Clinton, center, at a Jan. 31 lunch were, from left, the Revs. Jen Tyler, Emily Peck-McClain, Danyelle Ditmer and Shannon Sullivan. The four United Methodist clergywomen, along with the Rev. J. Paige Boyer, were part of an editorial team sending daily devotions during Clinton’s campaign for U.S. president. Photo courtesy of Danyelle Ditmer

Photo courtesy of Danyelle Ditmer

Joining Hillary Clinton, center, at a Jan. 31 lunch were, from left, the Revs. Jen Tyler, Emily Peck-McClain, Danyelle Ditmer and Shannon Sullivan. The four United Methodist clergywomen, along with the Rev. J. Paige Boyer, were part of an editorial team sending daily devotions during Clinton’s campaign for U.S. president.

By Linda Bloom
Feb. 6, 2016 | NEW YORK (UMNS)

When a small group of young clergywomen joined an effort to provide a daily devotion to Hillary Clinton during the recent U.S. presidential campaign, they were looking to support a fellow United Methodist.

But they also created the #wepraywithher project as a way to acknowledge the work of Clinton and other women who have broken both glass ceilings and stained-glass ceilings.

Eventually, 116 women under 40 — elders, deacons, licensed local pastors — participated in the campaign, which started Sept. 1 and continued through the end of 2016, the organizers said.

“We wanted to do something that says thank you to the women who came before us because we know we are standing on their shoulders,” explained the Rev. Emily Peck-McClain, 36, an assistant professor at the seminary of Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Virginia, and one of the organizers.

Peck-McClain and three others on the “wepraywithher” editorial team — the fifth was on a mission trip to Cambodia — attended a Jan. 31 lunch at the Interchurch Center in New York where Clinton greeted some of those who had written devotions for her.

The Rev. Bill Shillady, director of the United Methodist City Society and a pastoral friend of the Clinton family, arranged for the lunch and is in negotiations with Abingdon Press to publish a collection of the devotions for broader use.

He first started sending the daily missives to Clinton on his own, but later turned to colleagues from the New York Conference for assistance, eventually recruiting “the rainbow of Methodism,” along with a few of other faith traditions. “I think it gave her the opportunity to hear different voices,” he said.

The young clergywomen became aware of the project following the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, where Shillady gave the closing prayer.

The Rev. J. Paige Boyer, 35, a United Methodist pastor serving two churches in the Cleveland area, said she was struck by the religious tone at the convention and the role that faith had played in Clinton’s life. She shared her impressions in a post to a Facebook group of clergywomen under 40. “This amazing group of women” heard the call and stepped up to respond, she said.

“For me, it was about praying for, being in relationship and supporting someone who was United Methodist, whose faith clearly influenced her politics as she ran for the highest office in the country,” Boyer said.

Peck-McClain, who knew Shillady, reached out to him and learned about the daily devotions project, which seemed like a good avenue for spiritual support. “We all have people we are praying for and with and preaching to every week,” she pointed out. “This was an extension to that call we already have.”

The Rev. Danyelle Ditmer, 34, pastor of Wall Street United Methodist Church in Jeffersonville, Indiana, signed on, creating a website and Google forms for those who wanted to participate.

“One of the things that draws me to her (Clinton) as a leader is how much she talks about her faith and how real that is to her,” she said.

Rounding out the #wepraywithher editorial team was the Rev. Shannon Sullivan, 29, pastor of Presbury United Methodist Church in Edgewater, Maryland, and the Rev. Jen Tyler, 32, pastor of Evergreen United Methodist Church in Wahpeton, North Dakota.

Sullivan is the daughter of a clergywoman, the Rev. Melissa McDade, and is well aware of both the accomplishments of her mother and her colleagues and the challenges they have faced. Her mother handled blatant sexism “with such grace,” Sullivan said. “I feel like Hillary Clinton did that as well.”

Young women still get “pushback” over their personal and career choices, Tyler added. To have a woman, regardless of politics, as a nominee for president, she believes, “was a huge moment” for the country.

“This wasn’t a partisan thing, “Peck-McClain said. “We made it very clear that participating in the project was not about who you were voting for.”

The devotions — edited by the team before being sent to Shillady — focused on women in the Scriptures, women like Queen Esther who stepped forward on behalf of her people after a decree was made for the Jews to be killed.

In fact, Esther 4:14 was the most popular passage used by the #weprayforher devotion writers: “For if you keep silence at such a time as this, relief and deliverance will rise for the Jews from another quarter, but you and your father’s family will perish. Who knows? Perhaps you have come to royal dignity for just such a time as this.”

Each writer offered their own frame of reference on that and other biblical passages, Sullivan said, which they also shared among themselves, providing “another way to build community” among the group of young clergywomen.  

“It became a part of my daily devotional to read and pray through those (messages),” Tyler said. “While they were written specifically for Secretary Clinton, they were timely for all of us.” Clinton was secretary of state during the Obama Administration.

Shillady said the devotions, which focused on Advent and Christmas after the election, “helped center her (Clinton), helped her to have a start that was based in faith each day.”

Clinton spoke briefly during the Jan. 31 lunch about the impact the daily devotions had on her. “It was the first thing I would read in the morning,” she told the group.

In addition to the young clergywomen, the lunch participants included pastors from the New York Conference; the Rev. Frederick Davie, executive vice president of Union Seminary; the Rev. Amy Butler, senior minister of Riverside Church, and the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church, where the Clintons were members during Bill Clinton’s presidency.

“You kept me going,” Clinton said. “You gave me a lot of strength.”

Bloom is the assistant news editor for United Methodist News Service and is based in New York. Follow her at https://twitter.com/umcscribe or contact her at 615-742-5470 ornewsdesk@umcom.orgTo read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

Liberia Churchwomen Campaign for Girls’ Rights

See orginial story by Julu Swen from the United Methodist News Service here

Taryonnoh N. Doe (left), vice president of the Conference of United Methodist Women in Liberia, and Sarah Q. Nah, president, preside over General Resolutions during their 70th Annual Session on Jan. 29. The United Methodist Women in Liberia have launched a campaign to promote the rights of girls, including access to education and freedom from violence.

Photo by Julu Swen, UMNS

Taryonnoh N. Doe (left), vice president of the Conference of United Methodist Women in Liberia, and Sarah Q. Nah, president, preside over General Resolutions during their 70th Annual Session on Jan. 29. The United Methodist Women in Liberia have launched a campaign to promote the rights of girls, including access to education and freedom from violence.

By Julu Swen
Feb. 3, 2017 | MONROVIA, Liberia (UMNS)

United Methodist Women in Liberia have launched a campaign to promote the rights of girls, including access to education and freedom from violence.

The group approved the resolution Jan. 29 at the end of its 70th annual meeting, which had the theme “Women Arise.” The resolution took inspiration from Sarah Q. Nah, the group’s president and sister of Liberia’s Bishop Samuel J. Quire Jr.

“The church must create an environment that will protect the rights of the girl child,” Nah said.

In the Liberian resolution, the United Methodist Women committed themselves to making sure that each district sends a girl to school while local churches seek to do the same. In their resolution, the women also called for seeking ways the church can end gender-based violence.

“We will dialogue with traditional leaders to find a creative way of ending female genital mutilation in Liberia,” the resolution states.

Although that church has made efforts to protect girl children, Nah said in her report that more needs to be done.

“We don’t want our young girls to be raped and denied education opportunities in a culture where males are given priority in education,” she said.

Nah further called on her fellow women to engage local church leaders to begin the dialogue on the full implementation of the denomination’s Resolution No. 3089 “The Girl Child,” which was part of the 2008 and 2012 Book of Resolutions. That statement puts particular emphasis on providing girls with education and health care and preventing their exploitation.

“It will take time to make these changes in our society, but the discussion must start now,” she said.

In addition to the Liberian resolution, the United Methodist Women increased the number of scholarships offered to young women who want to go to universities, especially the United Methodist University. Pastor Rose Farhat, the head of the women ministries, said the scholarships would be awarded to young women who are both in need and demonstrate high academic standards.

“Scholarships are for scholars,” she emphasized.

Farhat said the women’s ministries would expand the scholarship plan beyond the universities to the secondary level and onward to the elementary schools.

In his closing sermon, Quire challenged United Methodists in Liberia to invest in the education of young women and girls to ensure a better future for the church. He indicated that the United Methodist Women in Liberia have the capacity to do whatever they want to do.

Alluding to the meeting’s theme, he added, “Women arise and shine for a better United Methodist Church.”

Swen is a communicator in Liberia. News media contact: Vicki Brown, Nashville, Tennessee, (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org. To read more United Methodist news, subscribe to the free Daily or Weekly Digests

GBHEM Celebrates Women of Color Scholarship Program Graduate

See original posting of media release on GBHEM's website here.

russaw_2

The Office of Loans and Scholarships at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) recently recognized Dr. Kimberly Russaw, who became the 41st Women of Color graduate when she received a Doctor of Philosophy in religion with a focus in Hebrew Bible and ancient Israel from Vanderbilt University in 2016. 

A four-year commitment from The United Methodist Church and the religious scholars, the Women of Color Scholarship Program (WOC) is designed to give financial, intellectual and personal support to United Methodist women of color pursuing doctorates in religious studies at seminaries and universities across the U.S. Each recipient of the scholarship desires to serve on the faculty or in an executive administrative position at a UM-related theological school.

Russaw entered the WOC program in 2012 through a referral from United Methodist communications professional, Amelia Tucker Shaw. Russaw describes her time in the WOC as familial, “We become connected and develop lasting relationships. We watch each other grow through the program, and we see families and children grow while we are in the program.”  

“A jewel – a hidden gem,” Russaw said when describing the WOC program. “The program offers so much in terms of financial, and more importantly, moral support,” Russaw added. “The mentoring aspect of the program is a critical part of its success. The individual mentoring I’ve received from women like Angella Current-Felder [former executive director of the Office of Loans and Scholarship at GBHEM] has been invaluable.”

A published author, Russaw’s work focused on daughters and how they navigate antagonistic systems of power in the Old Testament. Russaw’s findings are the basis for her upcoming book, “Daughters in the Hebrew Bible.” Russaw earned her undergraduate degree from Spelman College. She later earned an MBA from Clark Atlanta University and a Master of Divinity from Gammon/Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC). 

Russaw recently relocated to her hometown of Chicago, Illinois. She is serving in an adjunct professor role and pursuing a faculty role within a seminary, college or university. “I want to make an impact for people that look like me in this space [theological education],” Russaw said. 

When asked what advice she would give to current and future WOC scholars, Russaw advised the women to “listen closely and carefully to the program mentors. Although you may not always agree, the advice and information the mentors provide will be helpful to you as you continue in your doctoral program.”

 

Exiting WOC Scholars 

Women of Color Scholars

In addition to celebrating Russaw completing her doctoral work, GBHEM recognized the scholars exiting the program in 2016 after completing their four-year commitment: Elyse Ambrose, Amy Barbour and Hyun Hui Kim. 

Elyse Ambrose 

Ambrose, who is preparing for graduation in 2017, attends Drew Theological School. Her doctoral work is focused on Christian social ethics; women, gender and sexuality; and African American studies. Ambrose serves as a provisional deacon in New York Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. In addition to her pursuit of a faculty position at a United Methodist seminary, she hopes to also serve as an associate pastor of a church.

“Being around other women of color scholars is comforting and impactful. It is helpful to know that you aren’t alone and there are women who have shared experiences with you,” Ambrose said when describing the WOC program. “Women of Color provides assurance that you can succeed and live out your call. It’s a network that you take with you throughout your career.”

Ambrose, who majored in business administration at Howard University and earned a Master of Divinity from Gammon Theological Seminary, urges current and future WOC scholars to “not compare yourself to other people. Do you and trust that it will work – just look at the successful women who have come through the program.” She also advises scholarship recipients to “take full advantage of the opportunity to network and connect.” 

Amy Barbour

Barbour attends Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary and the focus of her doctoral work is in systematic and constructive theology. Barbour earned her undergraduate degree from Northern Illinois University and Master of Divinity from Union Theological Seminary. 

“The gift of the program is the fact that it is multi-year and there are many opportunities to develop lasting relationships and gain invaluable mentoring,” Barbour said. “We are undertaking very different and challenging work, and Women of Color gives us the support and platform to work through the process. I will carry the warm, welcoming spirit I find among the mentors and other scholars with me.” 

Barbour encourages current and future WOC scholars to dream big. “Women of Color gives you a supportive environment to think differently about theology. Take advantage of this opportunity that you may not always have,” Barbour added. 

Hyun Hui Kim

Kim is pursuing her doctorate in theological and philosophical studies at Drew Theological School. She earned her Master of Divinity from the same university. In addition to her studies, Kim is also going through ordination to serve as an elder in the New Jersey Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church. 

“It’s emotional when the Women of Color Scholars come together – it’s like coming home. The mentors and my fellow scholars offer diverse and interdisciplinary perspectives,” Kim said. “I have many fond memories of my time in the program but our closing devotions will always be my favorite memories. We hold hands – a physical connection – and pray for each other – a spiritual connection – it’s truly powerful.”

“The program can be challenging, but helpful and impactful to your doctoral work,” Kim said when asked what advice she would give to future WOC scholars. “It can be stressful to show your academic work. Don’t worry, the program gives you a platform to gain help and support. The program offers a balance between personal philosophies and Eurocentric philosophies our doctoral programs.”

GBHEM applauds Dr. Kimberly Russaw and the WOC scholars on their accomplishments and wish each continued success in the future. To learn more about GBHEM and the WOC program, visit www.gbhem.org


About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to lead and connect the educational and ministerial life of the church. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

General Commission on the Status and Role Women Unveils New Website  

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
MEDIA CONTACT: 
JENN MEADOWS
jmeadows@gcsrw.org
312.346.4900

General Commission on the Status and Role Women Unveils New Website  

CHICAGO— The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) unveiled its newly designed website on January 23, 2017 at gcsrw.org. The new website design is user-friendly and is equipped with resources to advocate for women’s full participation in the life of The United Methodist Church. 

On GCSRW’s website, individuals can access expansive language liturgies, free downloadable curriculum, educational webinars, Resource for Clergy Families webpage, and Women by the Numbers, research reports tracking the trends of women’s leadership in The United Methodist Church. 

“The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is committed to working for the full inclusion of women in the life of the church at every level of leadership,” General Secretary Dawn Hare stated. “We are continually working to improve accessibility to our education and leadership resources to all United Methodists, wherever they are located.  Our redesigned website, together with our recently redesigned sexual ethics website, are faithful steps toward the greater dissemination of information in a financially prudent manner.”

Annual Conference COSROWs have their own section on the website with resources and strategies to help equip leaders to implement GCSRW’s mandate in their respective annual conferences. 

The proposed constitutional amendment known as Paragraph 4, Article IV also has its own section on GCSRW’s website, providing fact sheets, strategies and a promotional video to be utilized by individuals to promote the amendment’s passing in annual conferences. 

The 2016 General Conference passed the proposed constitutional amendment to Paragraph 4, Article IV which adds ‘gender’, ‘age’, ‘marital status’, and ‘ability’ to the non-discriminatory clause in the membership section of The United Methodist Church’s constitution. 

To learn more about Paragraph 4, Article IV or have access to other GCSRW resources, visit GCSRW’s website at www.gcsrw.org. 

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The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women advocates for full participation of women in the total life of The United Methodist Church. GCSRW helps the church recognize every person – clergy and lay, women and men, adults and children – as full and equal parts of God’s human family. They believe that a fully engaged and empowered membership is vital to The United Methodist Church’s mission "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.


Women’s Edition of Bible Offers New Light

See the orginial article from United Methodist News Service here.The editors of The CEB Women’s Bible are the Rev. Christine A. Chakoian, the Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, the Rev. Jaime Clark-Soles, the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli and the Rev. Rachel Baughman. Gaines-Cirelli and Baughman are United Methodists, and Clark-Soles teaches at United Methodist Perkins School of Theology. Photo courtesy of Abingdon Press.

Photo courtesy of Abingdon Press

The editors of The CEB Women’s Bible are the Rev. Christine A. Chakoian, the Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, the Rev. Jaime Clark-Soles, the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli and the Rev. Rachel Baughman. Gaines-Cirelli and Baughman are United Methodists, and Clark-Soles teaches at United Methodist Perkins School of Theology.

By Sam Hodges
Jan. 24, 2017 | UMNS

Beth Bingham began to see Hagar of the Old Testament in a new way after studying The CEB Women’s Bible.

Suddenly she wasn’t just the servant who bore Abraham a child when his wife Sarah couldn’t. She was, essentially, the Bible’s first single mom — one who had to leave the house because tensions were so high.

Bingham, a student at Virginia Theological Seminary, couldn’t wait to bring The CEB (Common English Bible) Women’s Bible and share her Hagar insight with the female inmates she studies Scripture with twice a month.

They were all over it.

“Many of them are single moms,” said Bingham, on track to become an Episcopal priest. “When I talked to them, it was like a light went on.”

The women who edited and wrote commentaries for The CEB Women’s Bible hope it will illuminate scripture for lots of readers  women, of course, but also men.

“The idea is to be a door or a window opening into new thinking, new praying, new conversations,” said the Rev. Cynthia Weems, a district superintendent in The United Methodist Church’s Florida Conference, and one of the commentary writers.

he CEB Women’s Bible is the latest specialty edition of the Common English Bible, which is sold and distributed by Abingdon Press, part of United Methodist Publishing House. Image courtesy Abingdon Press. ​

The CEB Women’s Bible is the latest specialty edition of the Common English Bible, which is sold and distributed by Abingdon Press, part of United Methodist Publishing House. Image courtesy of Abingdon Press. ​

The CEB Women’s Bible debuted last fall and is sold and distributed by Abingdon Press, part of United Methodist Publishing House. It’s the latest specialty edition of the Common English Bible, a collaborative effort by mainline Protestants to provide a contemporary translation strong on accuracy and readability.

The CEB Women’s Bible, like most others, offers Holy Land maps, introductions to the books of the Old and New Testaments, and footnotes. It also has a definite female emphasis.

There’s an index of all women mentioned in the Old Testament and New Testament, named and unnamed. There are biographical sketches of many of them  familiar figures, such as Mary and Naomi, but also Merab, Junia and even Mephibosheth’s nurse.

Brief articles draw on Scripture in addressing such issues as fertility, birth control, miscarriage, menopause, abortion, same-gender love, head-covering, “God as Mother,” body image, glass ceiling and harassment.

All five editors are women, as are all 80 of the commentary contributors. The team includes mainly seminary professors and pastors, but also Christian novelists and a rabbi.

“I think the vast, inclusive number of women’s voices that we have represented in the writings is beautiful and wonderful,” said the Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli, senior pastor of Foundry United Methodist Church in Washington and one of the five editors.

This is not the first women’s Bible, but others have been from a conservative evangelical point of view.

Market research showed few women in mainline Protestant churches owned such a Bible, but many would want one that dug into how scripture relates to social justice and other key topics, said Sonua Bohannon, marketing manager for Abingdon Press.

Still, some of The CEB Women’s Bible editors hesitated to get involved.

“I prayed long and hard about it,” said the Rev. Jaime Clark-Soles, professor of New Testament at United Methodist-affiliated Perkins School of Theology (part of Southern Methodist University) and an American Baptist minister.

Clark-Soles worried that such a project could suggest there’s a certain, limited point of view or set of concerns for women.

She was won over by the commitment to a range of voices — a “community of thought” in the words of the Rev. Rachel Baughman, a United Methodist pastor and another of the editors — and by research showing women wanted such a resource.

“I had my own little come-to-Jesus moment and said, `OK,’” Clark-Soles said.

The Rev. Lisa Greenwood, vice president of leadership ministry at the Texas Methodist Foundation, is among the contributors recruited by the editors.

She felt pressure when asked to do a sidebar commentary to go with First Corinthians 13 – “Love is patient, love is kind…”

“When you’re working with First Corinthians 13, which has been used in half the weddings in the world, you’re like, `Is there really anything fresh to say?’” said Greenwood.

But she persevered, pointing out that the Apostle Paul, in writing to the troubled Corinthians, was saying that faith in God is expressed by loving each other, and that “living as a believer is possible only in the context of a community.”

Greenwood faced another challenge with her commentary – a limit of about 200 words.

“You’ve got to be really concise and wordsmith like crazy,” she said.

While Abingdon does not share sales figures, Bohannon said The CEB Women’s Bible is off to a strong start, aided by innovative marketing techniques such as soliciting reviews on the RevGalBlogPals website.

Some men are emerging as fans, including the Rev. Ron Foster, pastor of Severna Park (Maryland) United Methodist Church.

Foster praised the “seed-planting quality” of the Bible’s commentaries, including one titled “Control.” Written by the Rev. Sharon Ann Alexander, rector at Trinity Episcopal Church in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, it reflects on the First Corinthians passage where Paul says women should stay silent in church.

“It doesn’t take it on in an angry way, but it looks at this bigger issue of what Paul is trying to do and asks, ʽHow much control do we really want in the church?’ ” Foster said.

The Rev. Judy Fentress-Williams, professor of Old Testament at Virginia Theological Seminary and one of the five editors, said she was confident that The CEB Women’s Bible would offer a lot to men.

But when asked why she wanted to be part of the project, Fentress-Williams issued a rapid-fire response:

“I have a daughter.”

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org

GBHEM’s Women of Color Scholars Gather in San Antonio to Inspire and Inform

See original article HERE

GBHEM’s Women of Color Scholars Gather in San Antonio to Inspire and Inform

The current class of Women of Color (WOC) scholars recently gathered in San Antonio, for a two-day event focused on academic updates, inspiration and open and honest conversation. The 10 scholarship recipients come together annually to meet with mentors and provide a progress report on their academic endeavors. The WOC scholarship program is a four-year commitment from the church and the religious scholars. Although the scholars are within different phases of religious studies doctorate programs at seminaries and universities across the U.S., the women all desire to serve on the faculty or in an executive administrative position at a UM-related theological school.

The office of Loans and Scholarships at the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) is the host for the WOC scholarship program. Established to directly address the lack of women of color faculty at United Methodist seminaries and theological schools, WOC has served over 70 women since its founding in 1987. More than 40 of the program’s scholars are teaching in seminaries, universities and theological schools in the U.S., Africa, Korea and Vietnam.

The current WOC scholars include: Elyse Ambrose, Drew University Theological Seminary; Amy Barbour, Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary; Raquel Feagins, Oblate School of Theology; Betty Jones, Union Institute and University; Hyun Hui Kim, Drew University Theological Seminary; Hyemin Na, Candler School of Theology; Eun Joo Park, Boston University School of Theology; Alma Ruiz, Duke Divinity School; Michelle Shaw, Northwestern University; and Catherine Williams, Princeton Theological Seminary.

La Trinidad United Methodist Church served as the primary meeting space for the San Antonio event. La Trinidad was a very fitting location as it is steeped in a long, rich history with roots tracing back to the Alamo.  Established in 1876 as the first Hispanic Methodist church in the city, La Trinidad maintains an impressive artifact collection, including original church rolls, detailed history of Rev. Alejo Hernandez, the first Mexican to be ordained within the Methodist Episcopal Church South, and letters from Alexander H. Sutherland, church founder. WOC Scholar Raquel Feagins is associate pastor at the church and her husband, John Feagins, is pastor.

Kirsten Sonkyo Oh, Azusa Pacific University; Cristian De La Rosa, Boston University School of Theology; and Rosetta Ross, WOC chair, Spellman College, serve as the current mentors for the program, all of whom are former WOC scholarship recipients themselves. The mentors, who volunteer to serve as academic and moral support for the women on their journey of higher education, meet with the scholars during this annual gathering, and also spend a great deal of time working with the scholars throughout the year via email and phone. The mentors provide helpful advice for doctorate work, as well as their experience serving as women of color faculty in higher education institutions.

The financial support of the scholarship is invaluable to the theology scholars. However, many of the scholars shared that the mentorship and fellowship offered with the WOC program are what make it truly invaluable. “The Women of Color program has such a rich history. It fills a space for African-American, Native American, Asian, Hispanic and Latino women theology scholars – a space where we can do meaningful, impactful work,” said WOC Scholar Elyse Ambrose. “Women of Color provides relational training that we may not gain through our programs,” added WOC Scholar Amy Barbour, “With the program we gain personal and professional development, while forming a network and lasting relationships.”

On the first evening of the event, the scholars gathered to discuss the successes and challenges they have faced within the past year. This conversation provided the women with an open and supportive space to gain inspiration, motivation and validation of their work toward doctorates in religious studies. The scholars’ focuses range from homiletics to practical theology and ethics. As each is pursuing a different discipline of religious study, the scholars can share their academic work to gain objective and diverse feedback.

“Every time we meet with the scholars it reaffirms the need and value of the program. Women of Color gives the scholars a platform and a safe haven to gain support in what can be a difficult journey at times,” said Allyson Collinsworth, executive director of the Office of Loans & Scholarships at GBHEM. “I am amazed by the women and their outstanding work, and I am proud that GBHEM can play a role in helping these women reach their goals and develop talent for our UM seminaries.”

Kathy Armistead, GBHEM publisher, joined the women on the first evening to provide best practices and tips for publication during and after their doctoral work. Armistead offered the scholars guidelines for academic book publishing along with an overview of the top academic book publishers for consideration. Armistead encouraged the scholars to begin networking and creating relationships with publishers. She also advised the scholars to research the different publishing houses to ensure that their academic works align with the focus of the publisher.

On day two, the scholars provided an overview of their academic work, highlighting specific research papers or dissertation work. One of the new scholars to the program shared her vision for her future work in pastoral care, while another who is preparing to exit the program shared a chapter from her dissertation. The academic updates included a wide range of subjects from profiles of biblical figures to analysis of historic eras in American history.

Following the academic updates, the WOC scholars were the featured guests at a reception with former mentors, past scholars, seminary leaders and American Academy of Religion (AAR) participants. The format of this year’s reception differed in the presentations provided by the scholars exiting the program this year. Elyse Ambrose, Amy Barbour and Hyun Hui Kim each presented a seven-minute overview of their academic work focused on biblical profiles, and examination of historical figures and the journey to self-identify. The scholars’ presentations were reviewed and summarized by fellow WOC scholar, Catherine Williams. Following the presentation, the scholars answered questions from the audience about their experiences in their doctorate programs and the WOC scholarship program.

“We consider the event a success because each of our scholars left with helpful advice and tips, as well as support, encouragement and the understanding that they have a network of Women of Color scholars behind them in their doctorate work,” Collinsworth said.

To help ensure that this invaluable resource is around for many years to come, online giving to the Women of Color program is available online.

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to prepare global leaders for a global church and the world. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call on their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

 

Lawyers Conference centers on applying career expertise in the faith community

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Becky Williams of the denomination’s General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) addresses questions as part of her presentation at the UMFA Lawyers Conference, held Sept. 15 in Little Rock.
AUM PHOTO BY AMY FORBUS

By Amy Forbus
Editor

The intersection of one’s career and faith differs from person to person, and also according to career path. Attorneys who are United Methodist may find themselves providing legal counsel to congregations—and when that happens, what kinds of things do they need to know?

The United Methodist Foundation of Arkansas (UMFA) provides an annual continuing education event to help prepare attorneys for situations in which they use their training in service to the church. Attorneys from across the state gathered Sept. 15 at Pulaski Heights UMC Little Rock for the UMFA Lawyers Conference. Topics this year included immigration law, sexual harassment and misconduct, planned giving, ethics, property law and more.

The gathering lasts for a single day, but related involvement goes beyond this specific event. Little Rock attorney Bill Waddell, a member of St. James UMC who advises the denomination’s Council of Bishops, noted that the local church copyright compliance guide developed by this group is now posted on the UMC’s General Council on Finance and Administration website to be used as a resource across the denomination. Following the immigration law presentation by Misty Borkowski, he announced that a working group will soon form for those interested in helping to develop a similar practical guide on immigration issues.

Becky Williams, senior director of advocacy and sexual ethics with the denomination’s General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW), addressed problems related to sexual harassment and misconduct in churches. Bishop Gary Mueller and his cabinet were in attendance, and she recognized district superintendent the Rev. Mark Norman as a new member of the COSROW board.

“We need men to stand up and be part of gender equality,” she said, citing Norman’s involvement as a positive example.

Concerning sexual misconduct, Williams noted the difference between two people having an affair and a situation where one of those persons holds power over the other, such as in a clergy/church member relationship. In fact, Arkansas is one of at least 13 states that criminalizes clergy sexual relations with a congregant. She cited the biblical story of King David and Bathsheba as an example of someone wielding power over a vulnerable person.

Williams also highlighted statistics indicating that one in four girls and one in seven boys will be sexually abused before they reach age 18. Relying on that data, “there are victims in this room,” she said. “We must heighten our sensitivity to this problem in the United Methodist Church.” She pointed attendees to www.umsexualethics.org for training resources and fliers for educating church staff and leaders.

 

[Reproduced/shared] with permission of the Arkansas United Methodist, where this article originally appeared in the October 7, 2016 issue (www.arumc.org/aum).

Female Clergy Celebrate, But Struggle Continues
GCSRW Board of Directors Gathers First Time for Organizing Meeting 

General Commission on the Status and Role of Women Board of Directors Gathers First Time for Organizing Meeting 

 

CHICAGO -  The newly elected board of directors of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women of The United Methodist Church (GCSRW) met in Chicago, Illinois at First United Methodist Church (Chicago Temple) from October 6-8.  GCSRW’s board of directors consists of 19 members, including board representation from Mozambique, Norway and the Philippines. The new bishop from Liberia will join the board in December. 

 

Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader led opening worship and convened the board. Bishop Rader served as GCSRW’s first seminary intern in 1972, during the Commission’s first quadrennium, helping develop a talent bank of women willing to serve in leadership throughout The United Methodist Church. While presiding over the meeting, Bishop Rader shared anecdotes of the beginnings of GCSRW and of the first female bishops. 

 

“From the inspirational opening worship to the history shared with our newly formed board of directors, the presence of Bishop Sharon Rader as our convener represented both a link to the past work of our mission and the charge which we must keep in our ministry for the full inclusion of women,” General Secretary Dawn Wiggins Hare stated. “She handed our board the mantle for the much needed work this quadrennium and into the future.”

 

Bishop Tracy Malone of the East Ohio Annual Conference was elected president, and the Rev. Cathy Mitchell from the South Carolina Annual Conference was elected vice-president, both unanimously by the board. Dawn Wiggins Hare was also unanimously re-elected as General Secretary.  

 

Joining the Executive Committee of the board are Dr. Sandra Lutz of East Ohio Annual Conference as Governance Chair, the Rev. Bob Zilhaver of Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference as Finance Chair, Berit Westad of Nordic and Baltic Area as Human Resources Chair, and Emily Allen of Cal-Nevada as Mission and Evaluation Chair. 

 

The 2016 General Conference passed the proposed constitutional amendment to Paragraph 4, Article IV which adds ‘gender’, ‘age’, ‘marital status’, and ‘ability’ to the non-discriminatory clause in the membership section of The United Methodist Church’s constitution. 

 

"Paragraph 4, Article 4 is a justice issue, but in its passing is also a great benefit to the church,” GCSRW vice-president Rev. Cathy Mitchell stated. “Romans 12 tells us that we are one body with many members, and not all have the same function; therefore, when the participation of some of God's people are excluded, we limit our possibilities.

In the words, of one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, ‘We all should know diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all threads of the tapestry are equal in value…’”. 

 

The board members developed strategies for annual conferences with the goal of passing the constitutional amendment. For the amendment to be adopted, 2/3 of voting United Methodists must pass the legislation. Annual conferences will vote on this proposed constitutional amendment starting Spring 2017. 

 

"The United Methodist Church has a commitment to the full participation and inclusion of women in the total life and mission of the church. By amending Paragraph 4 Article 4 the Church will affirm and protect this commitment,” President Bishop Tracy Malone stated. “By making this constitutional change it challenges every local church and every part of the Church to be intentional in giving laity full opportunity to share their God-given gifts and potential and their commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."

 

Through presentations and personal experiences, the board heard the struggles women still face in the Church and in society, agreeing that much work is still needed in order to reach the Commission’s mandate of advocating for full participation of women in the total life of The United Methodist Church. 

 

In her General Secretary’s address, Hare bridged the work of the past quadrennium with the mandates for the future work of GCSRW.  She shared the needs of clergy and lay women she heard over the last quadrennium - the need to train, empower and support both clergy and lay women, especially the next generation of women leaders; provide training for men on how to be better allies for women; continue sexual ethics training and response that is needed and appreciated.  

 

Since the board members were meeting at Chicago Temple, in the “Loop” of Chicago, they toured the Chicago Temple’s Sky Chapel and learned about the congregation’s homeless and justice ministries from the Rev. Wendy Witt, associate pastor of the Chicago Temple. The board will convene again in March of 2017.  

 


 

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women advocates for full participation of women in the total life of The United Methodist Church. GCSRW helps the church recognize every person – clergy and lay, women and men, adults and children – as full and equal parts of God’s human family. They believe that a fully engaged and empowered membership is vital to The United Methodist Church’s mission "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.

Annual Conference COSROWS Gather to Share and Strategize at Quadrennial Meeting

Annual Conference COSROWS Gather to Share and Strategize at Quadrennial Meeting

CHICAGO— The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) hosted 30 Annual Conference COSROWS at Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, TN for a Quadrennial Networking and Strategizing Meeting November 3-5, 2016.

Participants gathered to share their stories and exchange ideas on how to promote COSROW’s Book of Discipline mandate of challenging “The United Methodist Church…for the full and equal responsibility and participation of women in the total life and mission of the Church” in their respective annual conferences.  In particular, the critical amendment to The United Methodist Constitution known as “Paragraph 4, Article 4” was a primary focus.

“I came to the meeting because over the last year I have become aware of the great need lay and clergy women have within our beloved UMC to have an advocate for our value, equality and leadership,” Stephanie Arnold, pastor at First Church Birmingham in the Northern Alabama Annual Conference, stated. “COSROW has been a place that has given me language to use for my experiences and helped me feel empowered to help our church live into who it says it is in regards to women's full inclusion.”

“The 2 ½ days at Scarritt Bennett was a very clarifying experience, as well as a rewarding experience listening to and learning from my peers around the country,” Shirley Ison-Newsome of the North Texas Annual Conference stated. “The presentations and worship sessions were all excellent. I am ready to get my COSROW team up and moving!”

The Annual Conference COSROWS were energized by strategizing how to get the constitutional amendment known as Paragraph 4, Article IV passed in their respective annual conferences.

The 2016 General Conference passed the proposed constitutional amendment to Paragraph 4, Article IV which adds ‘gender’, ‘age’, ‘marital status’, and ‘ability’ to the non-discriminatory clause in the membership section of The United Methodist Church’s constitution. For the amendment to be adopted, 2/3 of voting United Methodists must pass the legislation. Annual conferences will vote on this proposed constitutional amendment starting in Spring 2017.

Senior Director of Education and Leadership of GCSRW, Rev. Leigh Goodrich, was encouraged by the energy brought forth by participants. “Paragraph 4, Article 4, adding gender, age, ability and marital status to our United Methodist Constitution, is a critical focus for our 2017 annual conference sessions,” she stated. “Our COSROW leaders received the training and resources they will need to prepare annual conferences for this important vote.”

Leaders of the annual conference COSROWs left Nashville equipped with information and resources to implement GCSRW’s work in their home annual conferences.

“The tips I learned will absolutely help improve the way we move forward in promoting COSROW in my annual conference,” Ruby Bago of the California-Nevada Annual Conference shared.

Lynn Hamric of the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference returned from Nashville reminded of the great strides made and the work left to do throughout the denomination. She reminds us all, “With the progress made throughout our denomination, issues such as equitable salaries, harassment and sexual assault are still areas of great concern for all women.”


The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women advocates for full participation of women in the total life of The United Methodist Church. GCSRW helps the church recognize every person – clergy and lay, women and men, adults and children – as full and equal parts of God’s human family. They believe that a fully engaged and empowered membership is vital to The United Methodist Church’s mission "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.