GCSRW Board Engages in Sexual Ethics and Advocacy Learning Session

Atlanta— The board of directors of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) met March 14-16, 2019, at the General Board of Global Ministries’ offices in Atlanta, GA. Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson of the North Georgia Annual Conference preached from Hebrews 13: 1-18 during the meeting’s opening worship. She urged the board to go outside the walls of the church, their communities and into those challenging, difficult spaces that are often overlooked in an effort to share the gospel with others. The board of directors was blessed to have Marcus Briggs-Cloud of the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Annual Conference serve as the worship leader for their morning worship services.

“We were aware that this would be a very tender time for our board as we gathered post-General Conference 2019 for a board meeting to review our work over the past six-months and to focus our missional strategies into the future,” said Dawn Wiggins Hare, General Secretary. “Our hearts and heads were heavy.  Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson, Rev. Cathy Mitchell, Rev. Russ Abel, and Marcus Briggs-Cloud, guided us through the valley of deep despair to a place where we found the beginnings of healing as they challenged us in all of our exhaustion, to ‘go one step further’ as we struggled to focus on our ministries in the midst of pain.”

Becky Posey Williams, Senior Director of Sexual Ethics and Advocacy, led the board through a sexual ethics and advocacy learning session. She explained the topics her typical boundaries and sexual ethics presentations touch on when presenting to annual conferences. Williams facilitated a panel of board members and an individual from the North Georgia Annual Conference’s Response Team to describe how GCSRW has helped their respective annual conferences handle issues of sexual ethics. Panelists included the Revs. Russ Abel, Teresa Welborn, and Joy Melton.

"I have turned to GCRSW staff for support and direction when dealing with particularly complex issues around sexual ethics,” Abel, chair of Indiana’s Board of Ordained Ministry, reported. “They have always offered great direction and support."

Melton, Coordinator of the North Georgia Response Team, said, “My annual conference invited Becky Posey Williams to lead our initial Cabinet and Response Team trainings because she is the most knowledgeable and most well-prepared teacher on the issues of clergy misconduct and sexual ethics accountability!  GCSRW has developed a library of effective resources and tools for undergirding the work of Response Teams and that value can’t be underestimated.  Beyond that, Becky and Dawn have utilized the Interagency Sexual Ethics Task Force to deliver a myriad of events, tools and teachers that are deployed throughout the denomination.  Through their devotion, there is no annual conference that needs to feel as if there is nothing it can do to appropriately respond to misconduct and even more importantly, their work is leading every annual conference to grow in strength to prevent clergy sexual abuse.”

“Early in ministry, my annual conference sent me to GCSRW's Do No Harm quadrennial training event,” said Welborn, a district superintendent in the Rio Grande Annual Conference. “I learned about the reality of clergy sexual misconduct in The United Methodist Church and the role of conference leadership in prevention and response. Throughout the event, it became clear to me that GCSRW is the one place in the church that consistently advocates for policies and practices that prioritize the safety of all God's children in the life of the church. I now serve as a board member on GCSRW and as a district superintendent. When I was asked by my bishop to lead a team in reviewing our sexual ethics policy and to plan our clergy's boundary training, I immediately turned to GCSRW because of their experience in this area. The umsexualethics.org website alone is a tremendous resource in addition to the accessible and knowledge GCSRW staff persons. To paraphrase from the sexual ethics website, I pray for the day when all our bishops and other church leaders will do all they can to ‘raise awareness, prevent sexual abuse, promote healthy boundaries, and bring about justice and healing.’"

All of the panelists commended how GCSRW is always equipped to assist their annual conferences in sexual ethics matters. They applauded the free resources that GCSRW continues to develop to help annual conferences and local churches address sexual misconduct within United Methodist worship communities.

“The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women continues to resource and equip the denominational leaders—bishops, lay and clergy—in matters related to sexual ethics,” board president, Bishop Tracy S. Malone stated. “We have expanded our available resources to the global church, and it continues to be reported that many utilizing these resources and are finding them helpful.”

If you or your annual conference needs free sexual ethics resources, visit the only sexual ethics resource website in the denomination at umsexualethics.org. You can also contact the GCSRW office on their toll-free, confidential number at 800-523-8390.

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The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women advocates for the full participation of women in the total life of The United Methodist Church. GCSRW helps the church recognize every person – clergy and lay, women and men, adults and children – as full and equal parts of God’s human family. They believe that a fully engaged and empowered membership is vital to The United Methodist Church’s mission "to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world.”