A Woman’s Right to Life
by Rev. Pamela Pirtle, Director of Leadership Development & Accountability, GCSRW
It was the year 1851, in Akron, Ohio when Sojourner Truth gave her now-famous speech at the Women’s Rights Convention. Sojourner emphasized the phrase “Ain’t I a Woman?” four times as an expression for equal rights for African American women. She spoke of the equality that was due to all women regardless of the color of their skin. It has been 169 years since that day when she spoke up for African American women to be given the same rights as their non-Black counterparts. Though we have made many milestones during the course of 169 years, we are still seeking equal rights for Black women in comparison to others.
Breonna Taylor was a daughter, a big sister, a niece, a dear friend, and someone who cared for those who were vulnerable due to illness. She loved her work as an emergency room medical technician and hoped to continue her education in healthcare. Her friends and family describe her as someone who enjoyed putting a smile on the faces of others. She seemed to have a happy disposition and a smile that would light a room.
But on the morning of March 13, 2020, her light was snuffed out. While she lay sleeping in her bed, law enforcement officials entered her apartment under a “no-knock warrant” in an effort to capture another individual who did not live there. The details of this incident are still under review. However, what is troubling is how this information did not reach mainstream media attention for almost two months after her violent death. Where is the outrage? Where is the accountability? Was Breonna’s life of any less value because she is a Black woman? We must ask why this case, and so many others, have been disconnected from the broader narrative of police brutality against Blacks. Unfortunately, Black women have too often been the invisible victims of police violence. For this very reason, activists have used the hashtag #SayHerName to draw attention to the countless Black women who have lost their lives due to police brutality.
Some have argued that in many ways, women are not equal to men, or that women are in some way lacking virtue. Unfortunately, being both Black and female can be a double negative that makes suffering in silence a daily part of life. Breonna’s story was handled by media and others like an unfortunate casualty rather than the violent murder that has been expressed for the senseless deaths of Black men.
As Christians, we are reminded of ourselves in Genesis 1:27 that everyone is made in the image of God and therefore, should be treated humanely and with respect. If being created in God’s image means that we are, an image of God the Creator, a representation of who God is, then how can we devalue one group of persons over another? If we believe we are made in God’s image, then our view of God and our relationship with our Creator are also intertwined. Therefore, we must believe in the sacredness of all human life, regardless of gender, race, or any other demographic that has been used to divide us.
We must recognize that every human being has been created in God’s image. Everyone then becomes one of God’s image-bearers. This knowing should guide how we conduct ourselves toward others at all times, remembering the least of these. Every woman has a right to live and prosper. “We affirm with scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another[i]…” Therefore, let us work to create a more just society where the lives of all persons are held as sacred.
Contemplative Moment and Reflection
What phrase resonates with me? Why should I care about this? What can I do about it?
Gracious God, thank you for your loving-kindness that extends to all humanity. Help us to live by your principles of freedom and justice. Oh God, in these turbulent times, help us to remove the barriers that separate us from one another. Make us one to walk in holy peace together. Amen.
[i] Book of Discipline Part V, Social Principles, Paragraph 161.F.
Published : Fri, 12 Jun 2020 18:58:28 Z
No Justice, No Peace!
“Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.” -Ephesians 5:11
If kneeling is an act of reverence for that which one holds sacred, in honor and is committed in devotion to, what happened on May 25, 2020, in Minneapolis? How does someone kneel on the back of another man’s neck, hear his cries for release from trauma, calling for his mother, and yet continue in this act of worship? This scene showed what the officer held as sacred in his heart by kneeling on that man’s neck, was a worship of hatred so deep, so dark, many of us cannot comprehend it.
Therefore, maybe when Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem it wasn’t a sign of disrespect after all, but rather a sign of his respect, holding this country and Black lives as honorable and sacred. Yet, he was villainized and made to feel like less than an American citizen because of the color of his skin. His freedom of speech was violated; essentially taking his breath away. But this officer in Minneapolis knelt on a man’s neck, crushing his breath as if he were less than human. In doing so the officer and his colleagues declared themselves superior and victorious venerating racism and deep hatred.
The video of George Floyd’s murder has shaken this country because it is a reminder of the rampant culture of hatred that has been a part of this country’s dark history to enforce white supremacy for more than 400 years. This is based on a set of beliefs that every soul is not equal, nor deserving of life itself. But, if we’re all made in the image of God, then every life matters to God.
This devotion is simply a call to action for every person who professes to be a Christian and believes in the God in whom all are created, the giver of life, the one who gives us the breath that George Floyd was losing by the minute when he yelled, “I can’t breathe!” The Bible reminds us that as people of faith, we are not only called to represent Christ in the earth by gathering in worship centers where we kneel collectively in honor of God. We are called to use the breath God gave us to speak out against the evils of hatred that have permeated our society.
If we are going to live like Jesus we have to speak out against the oppression of all persons and critique their mistreatment. Jesus showed this example countless times when he refused to be silent about the inequities that persisted in his day. The theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer once stated:
“We are not Christ, but if we want to be Christians, we must have some share in Christ’s large-heartedness…by showing a real sympathy that springs from the liberating and redeeming love of Christ for all who suffer…The Christian is called to sympathy and action.”
Let us pray: God grant that we will be participants in doing good, in taking the high way, in standing together in unity seeking your justice, your peace, your highest good for all humankind. Amen.
Published : Fri, 05 Jun 2020 17:06:20 Z
The Way of Integrity: Kindness, Respect, and Consideration
Every day we are inundated with information regarding COVID 19. It helps us understand the virus, prevent the spread of the virus, and accept responsibility to care for ourselves and others. Despite constant medical warnings, I am amazed at the number of people who continue to refuse to wear a mask. They rationalize that “it is not good for my immune system,” “I don’t think it helps anything,” and “it is uncomfortable to wear one, especially when I am talking or exercising.” These reactions fail to consider that wearing a mask is about protecting OTHERS, especially those who are more vulnerable, from YOU, in the event you have the virus and are not showing symptoms.
This virus, just like all natural disasters, is a call to move beyond our self-centered impulses into deeper caring for our neighbors.
Within my Chicago neighborhood, signs are in many windows and sidewalk chalk art is everywhere. I love being reminded of the importance of messages such as these:
WE ARE IN THIS TOGETHER
Reading and seeing the messages invites me to become more intentional in practicing this behavior. It is why I’m excited to talk about “The Way of Integrity” a resource from GCSRW. This resource is designed as a four-part study, grounded in scripture and inviting each person to enter into deep reflection around the ways we interact with one another every day. Modeled in part on the Emory Integrity Project at Emory University, the resource was developed as a result of concerns shared by many across The UMC regarding belittling, demeaning, and degrading verbal expressions within our faith communities toward one another. We can do better.
Integrity, that deep honoring of one another, is too often missing. And when this happens, it reveals that people are thinking primarily of themselves. Consideration for the other is not part of the interaction. Kindness, respect, and deep honoring are absent.
I invite you to ponder this question:
How important is it to you that people respect one another?
“The Way of Integrity” is designed to be adaptable in any ministry setting including sermons, youth groups, Sunday school and small group classes, campus ministry, camping ministry, and many others. Suggestions for use in each of these ministries are included in the materials for participants and facilitators. The first lesson centers around our values and what is important to each of us. Scripture which includes the Golden Rule provides a place for reflection. When have you paused to consider the words, “do unto others as you would have them do to you?” Can people know your values simply by the way you live life? The Way of Integrity invites you into deep questioning. It encourages you to be open to self-growth by leaving behind old ways of thinking that separate you from others.
Are you willing to consider ways you can be kinder, more considerate, and respectful to others? It is helpful to observe where you have resistance to this question.
We need community more than ever and this includes people who may look and think differently from one another.
Every day we wake up with the option of being better than before. Even the smallest change will have a rippling effect on everything it touches. How exciting to think you will be the one to set the ripple in motion!
You can download The Way of Integrity on our websites at gcsrw.org or umsexualethics.org
Or you may email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and request a copy be mailed to you.
We look forward to hearing the ways you choose to use this resource.
Published : Fri, 29 May 2020 17:05:19 Z
Thursdays in Black Devotion- May 28th, 2020
by Sarah Cissy Namukose, East Africa Episcopal Area, Intern, GCSRW
“May your heart heal. May the past no longer block your view of the present. May you breathe again, rest again, laugh again, live again. May it be so.” -Dr. Thema Bryant, Thriving in the Wake of Trauma
A woman, the mother of creation, elegant in complexion, adorned with the beauty of heart, spirit, and soul, is wounded and hurt. Violence and anguish is her daily ritual: beaten in her home, violated. She is ill-treated by strangers, dehumanized, rejected, and abandoned by her own people. She is homeless and languishing in poverty. She is denied a quality education, faced with joblessness and inequality, as patriarchy diminishes her to nothingness.
A noble woman—full of wisdom, lover of all, cares for all, and embraces all—who can find. She is everywhere on the streets, lying in shackles, putting on black, in agony, in travail on the streets, crying, looking for the one her heart loves. Woman, woman, woman; mother of all creation; she is abandoned. Who can love her? Who can welcome her in? Who can wipe away her tears? She is hungry; she is thirsty; she longs for a hug, a kiss, a job to work, a shelter to lay her head. She tears her clothes and roams the streets. She cries out loud, “Who can help me? Who can rescue me? Who can save me?” Ah, but she is subjected to inhumane treatment, is silenced, and condemned.
A woman, a mother under lockdown in her home due to COVID-19, battered and bruised in violence by her husband: whipped and reduced to bone and skin, cursing the day she was conceived in the mother’s womb; left to loud cries of suffering day in and day out. Who can rescue her? Who can intervene? Who can give her aid? She is abandoned to suffering with her children.
Love cries out. I hear the cry of our Lord and Savior Jesus in the agony of the cross, heavily exhausted and languishing while carrying the cares and burdens of all humanity: a burden too heavy to carry. He was thirsty and hungry, yet he was committed and determined to carry this burden all the way. Abandoned by his Father, harassed by many, yet Jesus still carries the burdens of all even at the expense of their sins.
Jesus, the excellent mother figure, in agony and anguish of heart, spirit, and body, laments, seeking the ones he loves, humankind. Jesus is like a mother in the labor ward, very much in pain and agonized by the sins of humanity. Jesus is determined not to give up for a stillborn baby but ready to suffer, in order to redeem, to restore, and to revivify humankind to her rightful place of dominion, abundance, and communion with the Father. Jesus cries out: where is the one my heart loves? Jesus feels abandoned by his Father, yes, rejected, mocked, and insulted by the Roman leaders. Through his suffering, death, and resurrection, Jesus gave birth to the church and made a new covenant by water and blood.
Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer of all you have created.
Hear the cries of every woman: she is hungry; she is thirsty; she is homeless; she is helpless; she is beaten; deformed; rejected, and abandoned by her people. Ill-treated, dehumanized by patriarchy, and roams the streets in rags. God, lover of all you have made, you do not show favoritism; redeem your creation, redeem her beauty, redeem her glory. Vindicate and save her by the precious blood of Jesus Christ. Lift her up from the mud of self-pity, violence, and agony to a place of honor, satisfaction, prosperity, and abundance, where her beauty, glory, and wisdom can flourish, valued, and appreciated by all. Bless the fruits of her womb all the days of her life. Let me be an instrument of your grace and love toward everyone, especially those who have needlessly suffered at the hands of another. Enable me to do my part to share in the burden of others for your glory, honor, power, and praise, are yours now and forever. Amen.
If you need help, please contact RAINN, a resource for persons who are confronting sexual violence: https://www.rainn.org/about-national-sexual-assault-telephone-hotline
Published : Thu, 28 May 2020 14:31:03 Z
Thursdays in Black Devotion- May 7, 2020
“This campaign is simple but profound. Wear Black on Thursdays. Wear a pin to declare you are a part of this global movement resisting attitudes and practices that permit rape and violence. Show your respect for women who are resilient in the face of injustice and violence. Encourage others to join you. We note, oftentimes, black has been used with negative racial connotations. In this campaign, Black is used as a color of resistance and resilience.” —The World Council of Churches
Sonia Gechtoff, Red Icon, 1962, Oil on Canvas
A Prayer for Thursdays in Black*
Creating God, Mother of us all, we are your beloved, formed in your image and nurtured in the depth of your dark womb. You breathed life into our flesh and sent us to do your work in the world, to care for each other and for all of creation as we would care for you: our life and our breath.
Wherever we are in your world there are survivors, victims, bystanders, and perpetrators of gender-based violence.
This violence is destroying your sacred creation, and as long as violence exists among your people, anywhere, we will not be whole. Until your creation is healed, we will wear black in solidarity with people around the world to honor the courage and resilience of the victims and survivors of gender-based violence, while committing to work toward an end to such violence.
May the color black remind us of the unimaginable deep love you have for us and the cavernous well of tears shed by communities broken by violence.
And may the color black remind us of the hope for transformation that you have planted within the dark belly of the earth. A hope that grows stronger every time a cycle of violence is broken and nurtured by each action against violence and rape.
Creating God, as long as we have breath, may we work with perseverance toward restoring peace and dignity to your creation. Amen.
*Adapted from Thursdays in Black, World Council of Churches
Published : Thu, 07 May 2020 18:49:05 Z
Self-Care and Boundaries During These Times
None of us were prepared for a worldwide pandemic.
Our lives are different in many ways. Our workplace, whether inside or outside the home, has changed. The uncertainty of the COVID-19 virus and subsequent loss of life may have invited you to pause, reflect, and look life in the eye. In doing so, perhaps you understand better who and what are important to you.
The answers in this reflection will probably reveal much to you regarding your heart and meaning in life, and those two things can certainly shine light on your principles for work and personal relationships. It would be interesting to reflect further on how your past experiences, especially related to your response to stress, helped form who you are. We are shaped by those experiences. You are encouraged to write about your reflections. Putting our words on paper helps to give them meaning.
In our boundaries and self-care training, we talk often of the reality for pastors to juggle the many roles they fill in ministry. We acknowledge the direct correlation between self-care and the ability to establish healthy boundaries in relationships. Put another way, if you are not doing your work around good self-care, you are not practicing healthy boundaries.
We talk openly and honestly about how to hold the demands of our professional life in a healthy tension with our personal life. And now, for so many of us, both of those lives are primarily happening from the confines of our homes. Those with children at home are now teachers while scheduling business meetings throughout the same 9-hour work/school day. Social distancing adds even more to our sense of isolation. For some, there is a new challenge regarding care and support for elderly relatives and friends. Others who live alone may feel loneliness in a way they never have felt. And so, while life has “stopped” in some respects, life continues to go on, also.
In general, how are you taking care of yourself: physically, emotionally, and spiritually?
Who/what are the “helpers” in your life?
What are you doing to nourish your soul?
How do you build in time for fun and time for rest?
Are there ways you can and/or have turned social distancing into deep connections?
If you are partnered, how do you and your partner prioritize time together?
If you are a clergyperson, how do you continue to provide pastoral presence and care to parishioners during this time?
How are you monitoring your boundaries in relationships via social media and the internet?
What are your challenges and what has worked well for you?
There are many articles and other resources available to offer information about the adjustments we are asked to make at this time. We have selected a few and hope the following will offer some calm and focus for you.
1. In order to do something about anything, we must first name the issue. Sometimes it is easy to not recognize grief when it shows up in our lives. This article in the Harvard Business Review offers clarity and understanding related to experiences of grief.
2. Brené Brown Ph. D, LMSW, teaches a TED talk about the relationship between joy and gratitude. People who intentionally practice gratitude tend to have more joy in their lives. It can be easy during times like these to forget about naming what we are grateful for. Listen to her talk here.
Do you keep a gratitude journal or name the ways you are grateful each day?
How can you be more intentional in practicing gratitude?
3. Southern Methodist University’s Counseling Services has developed a resource that lists eleven suggestions for ways to stay emotionally well during these difficult and unpredictable times. You can read it here.
4. This prayer from Nadia Bolz-Weber names some specific groups of people and conditions affecting each. There are many more. Perhaps it can serve as a template as you lift others in prayer.
God who made us all,
Our healers are exhausted, God. Give rest to those who care for the sick.
Our children are bored, God. Grant extra creativity to their caregivers.
Our friends are lonely, God. Help us to reach out.
Our pastors are doing the best they can, God. Help them to know it is enough.
Our workers are jobless, God. Grant us the collective will to take care of them.
Our fellow parents are losing their minds, God. Bring unexpected play and joy and dance parties to all in need.
Our grocery workers are absorbing everyone’s anxiety, God. Protect them from us.
Our elderly are even more isolated, God. Comfort them.
We haven’t done this before and we are scared, God.
I don’t even know what else to pray for. Amen.
The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is here for you. We would love to connect with you. Please share with us stories and pictures of how you are practicing self-care and good boundaries during these difficult times. You can email us at email@example.com.
Published : Thu, 23 Apr 2020 18:25:44 Z
A Maundy Thursday Reflection
“In a real sense, all life is inter-related. All persons are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly…” -Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As we reflect on the quote of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., we are aware of our connection as United Methodists. Indeed, “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”
During this time of pandemic many of us are feeling a sense of loss; family, friends, mobility, even our jobs. In a sense, we are experiencing universal suffering. What makes it more challenging is that we are suffering universally in our isolated spaces. And we understand isolation can threaten our sense of safety and contribute to much in life feeling unpredictable.
The trauma associated with COVID is like other trauma….it invites us to look back on trauma we have experienced individually or collectively. By doing so, we are reminded of how we have made it through challenging times before. Remembering those times when we felt paralyzed by fear, afraid to speak of the harm endured, and feeling ashamed for what we have experienced at the hands of another. Perhaps the fear was exacerbated by asking ourselves, “Will we be able to get through this?” We remember the real grief we have experienced in our lives. Our stories give meaning to our lives and it is important to have space to share them. The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women continues to develop resources and provide safe space for persons to share their stories around oppression as women in the Church and/or as survivors of sexual misconduct.
In Matthew 26:39 (CEB), we hear these words:
Then he went a short distance farther and fell on his face and prayed, “My Father, if it’s possible, take this cup of suffering away from me. However—not what I want but what you want.”
The events in the last week of Jesus’ life were colored with challenges, pain of betrayal, the abuse of power by leaders who continued to insist they were guilt-free and not responsible. The misplaced priorities of those in leadership who were more concerned with their political stability and their thirst for absolute power. The harm of lost lives seemed like a mere casualty in their search for authoritarian rule. And Jesus was facing this suffering as he prayed that the suffering be taken away.
Why do we, year after year, keep prioritizing our remembrance of these events through our Holy Week rituals? Is it about remembering the reality of human suffering and understanding God is with us through it all? That nothing separates us from God’s love?
Holy Week 2020 may be experienced and remembered quite differently than previously.
How is God speaking to you during this time in your life? How is She present or feeling absent to you? What are you doing to honor and give voice to your story?
Perhaps, when this is all over, we can realize how much we need one another and how everyone is precious, even in our brokenness. On the eve of his death, Jesus gave his disciples this, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another” (John 13:34). A very specific image of love saturated in “just as I have loved you.” How are you loving yourself with compassion? How are you loving others with the compassion shown by Jesus?
As we near resurrection Sunday, let us pray for a resurrection of healing, a resurrection of love and a resurrection of unity.
If you have specific questions during this time and/or a personal story you would like to share, we would welcome the opportunity to receive it. Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published : Thu, 09 Apr 2020 19:37:33 Z
Methodists and the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage
by Rev. Dr. Susan Lyn Moudry
There is a well-known song from Mary Poppins that rings out like a battle cry: “Cast off the shackles of yesterday! Shoulder to shoulder into the fray! Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, ‘Well done! Well Done! Well done, Sister Suffragette!’” Although the song was written with England in mind, it seems fitting to recall as the United States marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The amendment, adopted on August 26, 1920, was the culmination of a century-long struggle to secure women’s right to vote. United Methodists might wonder what role the church played in that fight. Many know that Methodists have a long history of strong, leading women. Susanna Wesley, John and Charles’ mother, is often called the mother of Methodism for her role in teaching and spiritually forming her children. John Wesley accepted laywomen preachers and class leaders. In America, names like Barbara Heck, Phoebe Palmer, and Fanny Crosby quickly come to mind. In fact, American Methodists played a crucial role in the advancement of women in the nineteenth century. While there is much history of Methodist involvement with the women’s suffrage movement left to uncover, Methodists did play a significant role in securing women the right to vote. Knowing some of this history is critical to a full understanding of Methodist DNA.
Historians typically trace the beginning of an organized women’s suffrage movement in the United States to the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848. This convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York, marks the first women’s rights convention. In terms of Methodist connections, there are few in this era. However, the convention took place inside the Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1843. This chapel was part of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, a denomination which had split from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1842 over the issues of slavery and church governance. Wesleyanism at large, then, was involved from the outset of the movement.
Although most were not early participants in the struggle for women’s suffrage, Methodists did lay groundwork throughout the nineteenth century that contributed to the advancement of women broadly speaking. This background in and of itself could fill a book,[i] but some highlights are worth mentioning in order to understand the context in which Methodist participation in women’s suffrage occurred. Higher education, for example, became a significant focus for Methodists in the nineteenth century. Part of this emphasis included the promotion of women’s higher education, which was viewed as part of Methodism’s evangelistic and social responsibility. Coeducational institutions also began to form, particularly in the Midwest, and these places encouraged the development of a new social group in American society. Kristin Bloomberg indicates that, “By establishing coeducational colleges…Methodists created a transitional social space…that allowed for the identification of women as a political class.”[ii]
As mentioned previously, women like Hannah Pearce Reeves (Methodist Protestant Church) and Lydia Sexton (United Brethren Church), acted as traveling preachers in the early 1800s. Periodicals began to be developed specifically targeting women audiences. The Ladies’ Repository founded in 1841, is a prime Methodist example. Additionally, Methodist women continued to move more into public roles through a variety of women’s organizations founded after the Civil War. These included groups like the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS), Women’s Home Missionary Society, the Deaconess movement, and the Ladies’ and Pastors’ Christian Union (L&PCU). In fact, by 1872 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) created a Committee on Woman’s Work in the Church, officially supporting the WFMS and L&PCU. Although still limited, Methodists were creating an environment in which women and men were able to engage with the evolving role of women in American society.
Perhaps one of the most significant developments for Methodist involvement with women’s suffrage was the formation of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1874. The WCTU was not an official Methodist organization, but there is a clear relationship stemming from the early leaders. Annie Wittenmyer, first president of the WCTU, was a Methodist and also had been the first leader of the L&PCU. In 1879, Frances Willard became the second president. She, too, was a Methodist. The WCTU quickly became the largest women’s organization in the country with a mission to reform both church and society. Although temperance was a primary goal, suffrage soon became a method of addressing the issue. The 1876 General Conference of the MEC supported temperance and encouraged the creation of temperance societies in all congregations and Sunday Schools. Likewise, many Methodist women supported the WCTU and participated in its endeavors. Quickly, temperance and suffrage went hand-in-hand. From this point on, leading Methodist women and men were directly involved in the battle to secure the vote. While not all Methodists supported women’s suffrage, Methodists had created a space for women’s participation and voice in the public sphere.
Frances Willard, a central figure in the women’s suffrage movement at the end of the nineteenth century, was the first woman to be depicted in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. She joined the MEC after her family moved to Wisconsin. Willard worked in higher education, serving as president for Evanston College for Ladies. When the college was subsumed under the umbrella of Northwestern University she became the first Dean of Women at Northwestern, a Methodist-affiliated school in Evanston, Illinois. Willard credited the Methodist church for her later commitments to temperance and suffrage, writing, “Much do I owe to a Methodist training and the social usages of my grand old mother church.”[iii] Methodist women-led Willard into the temperance crusade and as she became more informed, Willard indicated she felt the need to move from passive to aggressive for the cause, an idea she encouraged in others through her teaching.[iv] Through her work in temperance, Willard determined she needed to enter into the issue of enfranchisement for women. By her account, God spoke to her while she was on her knees in prayer saying, “You are to speak for woman’s ballot as a weapon of protection to her home and tempted loved ones from the tyranny of drink.”[v] After that encounter, Willard began speaking regularly about suffrage, even against the advice of her friends like Wittenmeyer. By the time Willard became president of the WCTU in 1879, she believed that the ballot issue was “part and parcel of the temperance movement.”[vi] For Willard, giving women the ballot meant protecting the home from the very real societal dangers which alcohol presented. She is largely responsible for the shift in using “Home Protection” to convince the average woman to support the idea of women’s right to vote. In fact, when traveling in the South attempting to gain momentum, Willard found, “The Methodist church is in the van, and here I found my firmest friends.”[vii] Bishops even advocated alongside her. Soon the WCTU adopted the “Do Everything Policy,” as they not only worked for temperance but also issues surrounding legislation and the right to vote.
Willard’s voice was critical in the fight for women’s suffrage, but her mother church was not always as welcoming as she envisioned. In 1888, the Rock River Conference in Illinois elected Willard as a lay delegate to General Conference. Four other women were also elected by their respective conferences; however, all were denied a seat. Women’s representation was an issue that received increasing denominational attention; yet, women were not seated at General Conference until 1904 in the MEC. Willard held out hope for her denomination, believing that a church that educated women and worked for their advancement would in time realize equality of women was necessitated, even in terms of ordination.[viii]
Another key Methodist leader for women’s suffrage at the end of the nineteenth century was Anna Howard Shaw. Shaw was a graduate of Boston University School of Theology and applied to the New England Conference of the MEC for ordination in 1880. When this was denied, Shaw was ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church at the New York Annual Conference. However, by 1885 she was devoting all her energy to the work of temperance and suffrage. Shaw worked alongside suffrage leaders like Susan B. Anthony, whom she called, “Aunt Susan,” and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on campaigns throughout the 1890s. Shaw was also a frequently requested speaker, once debating James Buckley, a fierce antagonist of women’s suffrage and editor of the influential Methodist paper, the New York Christian Advocate. Buckley lost the debate according to Shaw because of his poor temperament; in fact, Shaw recalls that her friends referred to the event as “the day we wiped up the earth with Dr. Buckley.”[ix] Shaw led the National American Women’s Suffrage Association as President from 1904-1915. For Shaw, working for women’s right to vote was not only an issue of equality and justice but also represented her greatest ambitions in life.[x] The subject is a focus of her autobiography. Interestingly, Shaw recalls that once, when Susan B. Anthony introduced her to a crowd, Anthony said, “I am glad you are a Methodist, for now they cannot claim that we are not orthodox.”[xi] Anthony and many of the earliest leaders in the movement were Quakers, and the impression given is that Methodism garnered the movement respectability. This influence, along with Willard’s appeal to suffrage being an issue connected to the home, helped move the needle in terms of the advancement of women’s right to vote.
Many other Methodists were active in the push for women’s suffrage. While the full history cannot be traced here, a few individuals should be mentioned to show the depth and spread of the work. Isabella Baumfree, who was born a slave, was converted in 1843, giving herself the name Sojourner Truth. Truth became a Methodist briefly upon her conversion and would speak at camp meetings, preach, and evangelize. She was an early advocate of equal rights for all women, and although she did not remain a Methodist long, demonstrates the way Methodism was laying the groundwork for women who felt called into leadership and engagement of social issues. Less well known is Franc Rhodes Elliott, a founder of P.E.O., one of the second oldest women’s societies in America. As a Methodist and graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University, she worked for women’s right to vote and also ecclesial representation for women. Women were not the only ones in the fight, several of the MEC’s leading bishops consistently promoted women’s equality. Bishop Matthew Simpson, for example, was a strong advocate of women’s education and after the Civil War, became active in the fight for women’s suffrage. Major women activists, like Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, recognized his support and attempted to use it as leverage for their cause.[xii] These requests were well-founded. In a speech in 1873, Simpson remarked, “Society must go down or women must vote…Wyoming and Utah have adopted women’s suffrage; strange to say, the sun still rises and sets there.”[xiii] Bishop Gilbert Haven was another supporter of women’s right to vote and also corresponded with Stone and others.[xiv]
Southern Methodists, of the MEC South, were also active in the cause. In particular, Jessie Daniel Ames, who is primarily remembered for her significant work against lynching, participated in suffrage work. She organized the Georgetown Equal Suffrage League in 1916 and wrote weekly pieces about women’s suffrage for the local newspaper. Ames also established the Texas League of Women Voters in 1919, after Texas was the first Southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Other Southern Methodist women active in pro-suffrage efforts included prominent names such as, Elvira Beach Carré President of the City Mission Board in Louisiana and Mary Werlein, also of Louisiana, a leader of the Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society.
As alluded to previously, interrelated to the fight for political enfranchisement was the issue of ecclesial suffrage. Lay representation was an ongoing debate at the MEC General Conference throughout the 1800s. In 1868, lay representation was finally granted for the MEC, but as noted previously, in practice, this did not include women. Recall it was 1904 when women were seated at a General Conference. Other predecessors of The UMC made this move earlier; the MPC first seated women in 1892 and the UBC in 1893. The MEC South did not seat women until 1922, after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Women were not part of an Evangelical Church General Conference until 1946. All of this shows that although some Methodists worked to promote women’s voting rights, there was still significant opposition within the denomination. Just as in society, the fight for women’s right to representation in church governance was long and hard-fought. Ellen Blue has pointed out that the success of women securing laity rights in General Conferences cannot be underestimated denominationally, because there is a direct correlation to the eventual granting of ordination to women.[xv] Furthermore, there is a connection between women’s lay representation at General Conference and the church taking a definitive stance on the issue of women’s suffrage.
Methodism then, in terms of its various national bodies, was long in making a statement on women’s suffrage. The General Conference of the MEC, for example, was slow to support women’s right to vote. In a resolution, adopted by the General Conference in 1916, its members finally declared the belief that women should be given political franchise. The rationale was largely about women’s faithfulness in working for the church and how they might assist the advancement of practical Christianity through political voice. Yet, the resolution does indicate the belief that justice was at stake. By the time the United States ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, Methodist papers largely reflected the denominational declaration. One example is the Pittsburgh Christian Advocate that called the success of the women’s rights movement a response to “palpably unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”[xvi]
Suffice it to say, the work to secure women’s suffrage was long and hard-fought. What is more, Methodists—although certainly not in a unified way—played an active role in the cause, and the case can be made that Methodism itself provided room for the advancement of women which aided the cause of women’s suffrage. Even so, the story was not as complete as some thought, like a reporter who suggested the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment “will probably prove to have been the last battle of a long campaign.”[xvii] Obstacles still persisted in allowing all people to vote; African American women, Hispanic women, Asian American women, and Indigenous women all serve as examples of the inequality that remained as they faced significant challenges and discrimination in securing rights to the ballot box. The work of the church and societal reform was far from complete, but Methodists continued to engage these issues in the coming years. Mary McLeod Bethune is a prime example of bridging women’s rights and Civil Rights. She worked on both fronts, registering voters after the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and playing a major role in developing Civil Rights work.
There is so much more historical work to be done on the women’s rights movement and its connection to American Methodism. As Ellen Blue has written, “When women don’t know our history, we keep making the same surge of progress and falling back, and later covering the same territory under the impression that we are creating something new.”[xviii] We might modify her statement to say that all of us—men and women—are responsible for knowing our history. Methodists worked for societal and personal transformation; this is in the DNA of the Methodist movement. So we can proclaim, “Well done!” on this hundred year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, while still yearning and working for true equality and justice.
[i] An excellent resource is: Jean Miller Schmidt, Grace Sufficient: A History of Women in American Methodism, 1760-1939 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999).
[ii] Kristin Mapel Bloomberg, “Nineteenth-Century Methodists and Coeducation: The Case of Hamline University,” Methodist History 47, no. 1 (October, 2008): 49.
[iii] Frances E. Willard, The Autobiography of an American Woman: Glimpses of Fifty Years (Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1892), 334.
[iv] Willard, Autobiography, 335.
[v] Willard, Autobiography, 351.
[vi] Willard, Autobiography, 368.
[vii] Willard, Autobiography, 372.
[viii] Willard, Autobiography, 465.
[ix] Anna Howard Shaw, The Story of a Pioneer (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishing, 1915), 259.
[x] Shaw, Story of a Pioneer, 287.
[xi] Shaw, Story of a Pioneer, 192.
[xii] See correspondence in the Matthew Simpson Collection, Drew University Methodist Collection, Madison, New Jersey. (Hereafter: Simpson MSS, Drew.)
[xiii] Address: “Women’s Suffrage,” February 7, 1873, Simpson MSS, Drew.
[xiv] See correspondence in the Bishop Gilbert Haven Papers, Drew University Methodist Collection, Madison, New Jersey.
[xv] Ellen Blue, “Parenthetically Speaking: Methodist Women (In And) Out of Their Brackets,” Methodist History 55, no. 1 & 2 (October 2016 and January 2017), 28.
[xvi] “The Nineteenth Amendment Ratified,” Pittsburgh Christian Advocate, Vol 87, no. 35, August 26, 1920.
[xvii] “The Nineteenth Amendment Ratified,” PCA, August 26, 1920.
[xviii] Blue, “Parenthetically Speaking,” 19.
Rev. Dr. Susan Moudry is Coordinator of Clergy and Lay Leadership Excellence for the Western Pennsylvania Conference of The UMC. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from Baylor University. Her research interests include American Methodism in the nineteenth century, as well as the intersection of religion and politics. She lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with her husband and two children.
Published : Thu, 12 Mar 2020 12:10:13 Z
by Dawn Wiggins Hare
In 2015 when announcing his diverse cabinet to the citizens of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously retorted when asked why he implemented diversity, “Because it is 2015.” Church, it is 2020!
Dawn Wiggins Hare
For more than 24 years, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has sought to amend Paragraph 4 of Article 4 of The United Methodist Church’s Constitution to add the word “gender” to the list of discriminatory categories that will not be tolerated to exclude persons from membership in the church. The word “gender” is used 64 times in The Book of Discipline in our shared acknowledgment that women are created in the image of God and are to be equal in the church and in our communities.
Why is the amendment necessary? Because we know that women are discriminated in the life of the church. We know that women who are divorced or who are in polygamous relationships have been denied membership in churches across the connection, and in some areas, women have been denied the sacrament of communion.
In 2016, for the very first time, the amendment to add “gender” as a protected category passed General Conference with the requisite two-thirds majority vote. Screams were heard across the floor of the convention center in Portland; friends ran toward one another in celebration, as women and men who support equality felt the crash of a pane of the stained-glass ceiling.
Because this was a constitutional amendment, the next step was for the legislation to be ratified across the connection by a two-thirds cumulative vote. Over the next year, annual conference by annual conference voted on the legislation. The votes were tallied, and the Council of Bishops announced in May of 2018 that the ratification had failed to pass. The amendment received only 61.3% of the votes. There were 29,049 votes for the amendment and 18,317 votes against. Really? 18,317 votes AGAINST in 2016?
Why? Why in a church that seeks to include women could this amendment fail?
Why in a church with petitions pending before the next General Conference to dismantle the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women because the commission’s work and independence is unnecessary, would this vote be the outcome?
Why in a church with female clergy making $.84 on the $1.00 compared with male clergy in the United States, would this ratification vote fail?
The mandate of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women by General Conference through The Book of Discipline is to challenge The United Methodist Church.
Church, it is 2020! Consider yourself challenged.
Dawn Wiggins Hare is an attorney and the first woman elected in the 35th Judicial Circuit as circuit judge in Monroeville, Alabama. Hare was named General Secretary of The United Methodist Church’s General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in January 2013. She served on the governing board of the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits from 2008 to 2012, where she was recording secretary and a member of the appeals committee. Hare was a General Conference delegate in 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2019 elected from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. She served as delegate to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Served on the Appeals Committee and chaired its Investigation Committee. In 2012, Hare received the Alice Lee Award from the Alabama West Florida Commission on the Status and Role of Women. She has been a member of First United Methodist Church of Monroeville, Alabama since 1988 and holds bachelor of science and law degrees from the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Nicholas S. Hare, Jr., are the parents of two adult sons.
Published : Wed, 26 Feb 2020 19:50:49 Z
“Response Team Ministry Is Still Needed as Long as There Is Harm Being Done”
by Katrena Porter King
As the daughter of a Methodist minister, I am no stranger to witnessing harm in the world. In fact, because of the many people my father has served, I seem to have a keen eye for spotting it. One thing I have learned is that when you experience or perceive harm, it can be a very uncomfortable ordeal for all involved. Many times, we can become overwhelmed by the lengths that this harm extends to. As the world is so vast, this also means that it is easy for us to normalize harm since the issue seems too large or impossible to tackle.
Katrena Porter King
Sometimes, harm even occurs in our churches and other ministry settings. In those types of instances, the harm can feel compounded because the parties involved are more than likely people that you know; maybe these people are even your friends. Once you have correlated a face with the harm, it becomes more difficult to accept that we cannot do anything about it. In the alternative, we have the unique opportunity to pursue a means of healing.
2 Corinthians 13:11 states:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
When I was a student in law school, we talked a lot about what the purpose of the law was. My favorite concepts were rehabilitation and restoration. In essence, the purpose was “to make one whole again.” GCSRW has submitted legislation to amend Resolution #2043 regarding Response Team Ministry for Sexual Misconduct; I believe that this work will promote restoration in order to work towards making congregations and people whole again.
The majority of the amendments to the legislation are to streamline language, to remove and update old information, and to highlight positive steps toward addressing the issue of sexual misconduct. For example, the joint statement by the Council of Bishops regarding the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements was cited. However, one of the most important parts of updating this legislation is to affirm the continuing need for Response Team Ministry.
The bishop and cabinet are mandated to “provide a process for healing within the congregation” or other ministry context as part of the supervisory response and judicial process. This process of healing begins with the Response Team Ministry which is composed of “persons with qualifications and experience in assessment, intervention, or healing.” Oftentimes, when something goes wrong, chaos is either immediate or imminent. Having a Response Team Ministry in place can help to curtail the chaos and seek to ensure that there are fewer long-term emotional and spiritual effects as a result.
Harm in general, and specifically sexual misconduct, is not going to disappear overnight. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to be ill-equipped for situations when it does arise. By amending and updating this legislation, we are affirming that Response Team Ministry is still needed as long as there is harm being done. When reviewing the overwhelming amounts of legislation for GC 2020, remember that we have a role to play in the healing of our church when it is broken. Help us to retain a mechanism that allows us to preserve wholeness.
Katrena Porter King is a Methodist minister’s daughter who recently affirmed her calling to pursue the path of Deacon in the UMC. She is part of the Louisiana Annual Conference and has served on the Board of GCSRW for the 2016-2020 quadrennium. Katrena also co-chairs the Legislative Task Force with Bob Zilhaver.
Published : Thu, 30 Jan 2020 15:53:14 Z