Nearly 150 years later, members of United Methodist Women “are living out the same commitments as our predecessors” for spiritual growth, service and advocacy for women, children and youth, says Harriett Olson, UMW’s top executive.
Those commitments will be highlighted throughout the day May 16 at General Conference 2016.
“We are providing opportunities to women of every generation, all races and ethnicities and every first language to participate and serve,” Olson said.
“On United Methodist Women Day, this will be demonstrated in consecrating deaconesses and home missioners, in the rally for clean water as a human right and in the celebration of our historical impact and the breadth of our current work.”
UMW’s upcoming 150th anniversary will be recognized in a seven-minute presentation just before 4 p.m. on the floor of General Conference.
The day begins with the 8 a.m. consecration in the plenary hall; continues with the lunchtime public witness on water rights outside on the Oregon Convention Center Plaza from 12:45 to 1:45 p.m. and finishes with a meet-and-greet with UMW delegates, staff and members from 4 to 6 p.m. in the Oregon Ballroom, Room 203.
The actual anniversary, which occurs in 2019, commemorates the March 23, 1869, gathering of eight women at Tremont Methodist Episcopal Church in Boston to organize the Woman's Foreign Missionary Society.
UMW is using the 150th as a rallying cry for “an ambitious, organization-wide challenge to provide even more resources to meet the needs of the women, children and youth often left out of God's feast.”
Safe water for all
The public witness, “Don’t Poison Our Water: Water is a Human Right,” is linked to a UMW General Conference petition entitled “Protection of Water” and the UMW 2016 mission study on Climate Justice.
Carol Barton, a UMW executive, pointed out that safe drinking water and proper sanitation are universal needs, “but we’re particularly focusing on environmental racism and how communities of color are affected,” she said.
Speakers at the rally will offer examples of ways that government or corporate neglect has had a negative impact on the health of those communities. Among the speakers are:
- Michigan Area Bishop Deborah Lieder Kiesey, who will discuss the Flint, Michigan, water crisis, which has received international attention. The bishop issued an appeal as United Methodist organized to respond. The Crossroads District of the Detroit Conference hired Pete Plum to serve as district emergency water crisis coordinator last autumn.
- Rose Farhat, a member of the Liberia United Methodist Church, who will talk about how pollution attributed to Firestone Rubber is affecting a community south of Monrovia.
- A representative from the Portland Harbor Community Coalition, who will discuss the Willamette River Superfund Cleanup in Portland.
The local coalition is advocating “for an effective cleanup that would create jobs for the local community,” Barton explained. “They’re particularly calling for enough time to comment on the EPA plan.”