A Moment for Mission
“Now the word of the Lord came to me saying, ‘Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you.’” — Jeremiah 1:4-5a, NRSV
The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is marking its 50th year of advocating for the full and equal participation of women in the life of The United Methodist Church.
For years, the Women’s Division (the forerunner to United Methodist Women in 1968 and United Women in Faith in 2022) was the only place in the denomination where women could express vocational callings. While the Women’s Division created legitimate spaces for women to serve, its work focused on the missional aspects while holding the church accountable for equal participation of women that remained unrealized and unchecked by any other organization.
In 1971, the Committee on the Study of the Role of Women presented “Data on the Participation of Women in the Organizational Units of The United Methodist Church.” The analysis drilled down through all structural levels of The United Methodist Church, identifying the meager numbers of women serving in general church, jurisdictional, annual conference and local church leadership.
By the 1976 General Conference, more than 60 annual conferences had organized local CSRW chapters. That year, the general commission gained permanency as a standing agency of The United Methodist Church. Four years later, the denomination elected its first woman bishop, Marjorie Swank Matthews. By 1996, every U.S. jurisdiction had consecrated at least one female bishop.
Celebrating the work of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, we anticipate its future contributions to The United Methodist Church.
Have you ever thought “When I grow up, I want to be a pastor”? No matter who you are, that is a very real dream.
Fifty years ago, most United Methodist pastors were men. Times have changed. Today, many children today grow up in churches where women are pastors. More than 25% of all clergy in our church are women. While this is good news, many think it would be even better if it were 50%.
Almost 40 years ago, the Rev. Marjorie Swank Matthews was elected the first United Methodist woman bishop. Today, 17 women lead as bishops in our church.
Thanks to the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, all children have a chance to pursue and reach their dreams.
Loving God, you know us and call us by name. As we give thanks for women’s leadership at all levels across the church, we seek your guidance and wisdom for the future. We love you. Amen.
From Discipleship Ministries: Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost — Mighty God, bringing our tithes and offerings to you today, we pray over them and sing your praises. Then we slink back into our day-to-day lives, hoping those gifts meet the expectations of our discipleship. You have called us to more – to speak for you, to make our testimony part of our offering, which terrifies us. Then scripture reminds us that you will provide us with the words. Give us the faith and courage to speak of your love, mercy, and compassion. In Jesus’ name, we pray. Amen. (Jeremiah 1:4-10)
The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women is 50 years young! The agency’s work now spans the world and connects United Methodists to valuable resources that enable all levels of the church to champion the full inclusion of women in the denomination.
Thanks to generous congregational support through the World Service Fund, GCSRW employs a small but mighty team dedicated to women’s full and equal participation in the life of The United Methodist Church. Over the past 50 years, the agency has accomplished much in terms of advocacy for women, but as data indicates, its work is far from complete.
Celebrating successes, commemorating a difficult journey and organizing future work, GCSRW staff and supporters remain committed to greater advocacy for women. Recognizing the challenges, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women looks forward to the next 50 years, grounded with the enlivening hope that, together, we will fulfill our mission.
Adapted from “The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women: Advocating for Women for 50 Years,” the Rev. Emily Nelms Chastain, Jan. 31, 2022, GCSRW website. Used by permission.