Twenty-seven percent (or 516 of the 1,942)
of individuals employed by the general
agencies of The United Methodist Church
are racial/ethnic women (see Table 1).
While racial/ethnic women do hold some of the
executive, professional, and managerial positions
in some of the general agencies, most of the positions
they hold are in the administrative and clerical
support area. In fact, 59% (or 303) of all the positions
held by racial/ethnic women in the church are
administrative and clerical positions (see Table 1).
The findings for this report come from the 2006
Council, Board, or Commission Annual Members
Profile jointly conducted by the General Commission
on Religion and Race (GCRR) and the General Commission
on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW).
The number of racial/ethnic women employed
across the general agencies of the church is low.
With the exception of the administrative and
clerical (36%), technical (24%), and manufacturing
(29%) categories, racial/ethnic women comprise 20% or less of the total number of persons
employed for each category (see Table 1).
When the percentages by category are displayed within
the racial/ethnic women population only, the numbers
drop even more. Racial/ethnic women hold 19% of
the total executive positions across the general agencies.
However, of the total number of racial/ethnic
women employed, only 5% hold executive positions.
The number of racial/ethnic women employed overall
in the general agencies is even more dismal.
Only black women register double-digit percentage
points at 19%. The remainder of the racial/ethnic
groups have less than 5% of the total number
of employees across the general agencies.
So, why are racial/ethnic women employed at lower
rates than other groups and why do racial/ethnic
women find themselves mostly in the administrative
and clerical positions? One answer might be intersection
theory. Intersection theory is a sociological theory
that argues that the interplay of race, class, and gender
often results in multiple dimensions of disadvantage.
In other words, the combination (or intersection) of
both race and gender forces racial/ethnic women to
face greater challenges than a man or white woman.
This appears to be the case with racial/ethnic
women being employed by the general agencies of
the church. The intersection of being both racial/
ethnic and a woman creates greater disadvantage
in obtaining jobs within the church, very much
like it is outside the church in the secular world.
Why is that, though? Why should racial/ethnic
women face the same struggles, the same disadvantages
when working for the church as the secular
world? Shouldn’t it be different working for the
church? Shouldn’t the church be setting the example?
Yes, the church should be different. In fact, General
Conference has charged the church to be different.
In Par. 2012 of the 2004 Book of Discipline,
the General Conference, through GCSRW, challenges
“The United Methodist Church, including
its general agencies, institutions, and connectional structures, to a continuing commitment to
the full and equal responsibility and participation
of women in the total life and mission of
the church, sharing fully in the power and in the
policy-making at all levels of the church’s life.”
(The Flyer has added italics for emphasis.)
The employment data for racial/ethnic women in the
general agencies of The United Methodist Church
shows that this is simply not being done. Further,
relegating racial/ethnic women to administrative
and clerical positions, which tends to inflate the
number of racial/ethnic women employed by the
church, does not meet the criteria of sharing fully in
the power and in the policy-making of the church.
The church must make a more concerted effort
to appoint racial/ethnic women to executive positions
in the general agencies in order to share in the
power and in the policy-making of the church.
Why? So that we, the church, can model and show
the world a community that is built on love and
respect for all individuals, regardless of their race
and sex. To show the world that racism and sexism
are not the standards by which we live and
work. To show that full and equal participation
of all persons, regardless of race and sex,
is how God intended us to live and work.
Within the next few months, annual
conference members will elect delegates
to the 2008 General Conference.
Every voting member of each annual
conference has an important role in
deciding upon these delegates.
What makes a good delegate to General
Conference? Consider the following traits
and suggested questions to ask candidates:
Stamina, high energy and the ability
to manage lots of information.
spend long hours reading, studying,
listening, and sharing with other
delegates. Effective delegates have experience
and skills in shaping policy.
Ask: How do you maintain good
energy; and what skills would
you use to manage lots of information
in long meetings?
Strong speaking and listening skills.
Effective decision making in legislative
committees and subcommittees
depends on quick thinking and clear
speaking. It is even more dependent
on discerning, engaged listening.
What is your experience with
speaking out in intense committee
meetings; and how will you
make sure your concerns, suggestions,
and opinions are heard? What
listening skills do you rely on the
most in controversial situations?
Experience in seeking and maintaining
inclusiveness in processes
benefit from experiences in diverse
communities and programs,
especially the global church.
What does the term “an inclusive
church” mean to you? What
is your experience in the global
United Methodist Church?