Groups explore ways of supporting women in UMC

Representatives of six organizations of The United Methodist Church gathered in Chicago Oct. 22 to discuss how they could coordinate their efforts to meet the needs of women across the denomination.

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women arranged the exploratory meeting under its mandate of ensuring women share fully in the total life and mission of the church. GCSRW also is hosting listening sessions with women at all levels of the church this year to find out where they need support.

GCSRW's Elaine Moy captures some points during a discussion on women's issues.

GCSRW’s Elaine Moy captures some points during a discussion on women’s issues.

GCSRW General Secretary Dawn Wiggins Hare said hearing about each other’s work helps staff see where efforts overlap and where there are gaps. Coordinated efforts help the organizations be good stewards of the church’s time and resources, she said.

Representatives of the General Boards of Discipleship, Global Ministries, Higher Education, Pensions and Health Benefits, Church and Society and the United Methodist Women agreed to participate. The attendees’ experience working for the church ranged from 5 months to 32 years.

GCSRW Assistant Secretary for Finance and Administration Elaine Moy said the initial gathering was an opportunity for people in charge of ministries affecting women to meet face to face and to understand better what each person or agency does.

Some of the many efforts participants heard about were that GBHEM is supporting and training women pastors in our largest denominations (and has just published a book, Breaking Through the Stained Glass Ceiling), that GCSRW, GBOD, BGPHB and GHEM are working together on a clergy family summit, and how Global Ministries is involved with an ecumenical women’s gathering celebrating its 50th anniversary in the Philippines. Staff spoke about the research and statistics they can share with each other and discussed the types of leadership training they offer, who is included and who is left out.

Participants discussed the differences in salary and status for women depending on whether they are clergy or lay; elders, deacons or licensed local pastors; Christian educators at local churches or agency workers. Although it has been more than 50 years since the denomination began ordaining women, and even though GCSRW has been advocating for women in leadership since 1972, they agreed that women still are not sharing fully in the life of the church at all levels. And even with all the work being done across the denomination, there are opportunities for new ministries and projects working toward full inclusion.

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