Working for Gender Justice

Next week (September 15-19, 2014) I will be participating in a General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) meeting in New York City.  This group oversees the gender justice work of the UMC.  This is important work---not all churches (even in United Methodism) have a history of female pastors the way that University UMC does! 

A Brief History…

United Methodists have a long history of affirming women!  In the 19th century, women were licensed to preach, ordained as deacons, sent as missionaries both within the United States and abroad, active in mission societies (what we now know as the “United Methodist Women”), and elected as lay delegates to General Conference (although some General Conferences refused to seat them).  Despite this early progress, however, women were not granted full clergy rights in the Methodist Church until 1956.  When the Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren churches merged in 1968, they recognized that women were still not treated as equals in the life of the church.  To help women achieve full access to all areas of church life, the newly formed United Methodist Church created the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW). 

The History Continues…

I received my license to preach three years ago.  This was 162 years after Charity Opheral received her local license to preach from The United Brethren Church (a forerunner of the UMC) in 1849, and I am ever grateful to Rev. Charity Opheral and the pioneering women and men who made my own response to God’s call possible.  My gratitude is what makes me passionate about making sure that other women can continue to do the same.  There are still areas of The United Methodist Church where women are not accepted as pastors in the same way that you at University UMC have welcomed me (and Pastors Jill, Brenda, Linda, and Nancye before me!).  There are still girls and women who feel unable to respond to God’s call on their lives because they have never met a clergywoman or because they have been victimized by sexism or sexual harassment in the church. 

Going Global…

These hurdles into ministry not only affect women in the United States, but they are also true for our United Methodist sisters and brothers in Europe, Africa, and Asia.  Today, GCSRW’s work has expanded to include women from around the world.  Our board includes the first female bishop in Africa (Bishop Joaquina Nhanala of Mozambique) and others from the Philippines, Scandinavia, Nigeria, and a broad cross-section of racial-ethnic groups within the United States.  Tiffany (Winter) DeGraaf-Hamilton served as the GCSRW intern last year, and you’d better believe that I pumped her with questions about Saint Louis and University City as soon as I got the good news that I’d be moving here!

How You Can Help…

PRAY!  Pray for me, pray for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and pray for women around the world who are experiencing obstacles to answering God’s call to ministry, women and men who are suffering the effects of harassment or abuse, and those who have not heard that God’s love is for ALL people and that God gives EVERY person spiritual gifts to build up God’s kingdom. 

GIVE!  Every United Methodist church is connected to the global ministries of our church.  Each time you put a dollar in the offering plate and we pay our apportionments to The United Methodist Church, we ensure that Paul’s vision of the church is lived out: There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). 

RESEARCH! Ask me if you have any questions, or visit these websites that tell more about GCSRW’s ministry:  http://www.gcsrw.org   and   http://www.umsexualethics.org/