CHICAGO - The newly elected board of directors of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women of The United Methodist Church (GCSRW) met in Chicago, Illinois at First United Methodist Church (Chicago Temple) from October 6-8. GCSRW’s board of directors consists of 19 members, including board representation from Mozambique, Norway and the Philippines. The new bishop from Liberia will join the board in December.
Bishop Sharon Zimmerman Rader led opening worship and convened the board. Bishop Rader served as GCSRW’s first seminary intern in 1972, during the Commission’s first quadrennium, helping develop a talent bank of women willing to serve in leadership throughout The United Methodist Church. While presiding over the meeting, Bishop Rader shared anecdotes of the beginnings of GCSRW and of the first female bishops.
“From the inspirational opening worship to the history shared with our newly formed board of directors, the presence of Bishop Sharon Rader as our convener represented both a link to the past work of our mission and the charge which we must keep in our ministry for the full inclusion of women,” General Secretary Dawn Wiggins Hare stated. “She handed our board the mantle for the much needed work this quadrennium and into the future.”
Bishop Tracy Malone of the East Ohio Annual Conference was elected president, and the Rev. Cathy Mitchell from the South Carolina Annual Conference was elected vice-president, both unanimously by the board. Dawn Wiggins Hare was also unanimously re-elected as General Secretary.
Joining the Executive Committee of the board are Dr. Sandra Lutz of East Ohio Annual Conference as Governance Chair, the Rev. Bob Zilhaver of Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference as Finance Chair, Berit Westad of Nordic and Baltic Area as Human Resources Chair, and Emily Allen of Cal-Nevada as Mission and Evaluation Chair.
The 2016 General Conference passed the proposed constitutional amendment to Paragraph 4, Article IV which adds ‘gender’, ‘age’, ‘marital status’, and ‘ability’ to the non-discriminatory clause in the membership section of The United Methodist Church’s constitution.
"Paragraph 4, Article 4 is a justice issue, but in its passing is also a great benefit to the church,” GCSRW vice-president Rev. Cathy Mitchell stated. “Romans 12 tells us that we are one body with many members, and not all have the same function; therefore, when the participation of some of God's people are excluded, we limit our possibilities.
In the words, of one of my favorite poets, Maya Angelou, ‘We all should know diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all threads of the tapestry are equal in value…’”.
The board members developed strategies for annual conferences with the goal of passing the constitutional amendment. For the amendment to be adopted, 2/3 of voting United Methodists must pass the legislation. Annual conferences will vote on this proposed constitutional amendment starting Spring 2017.
"The United Methodist Church has a commitment to the full participation and inclusion of women in the total life and mission of the church. By amending Paragraph 4 Article 4 the Church will affirm and protect this commitment,” President Bishop Tracy Malone stated. “By making this constitutional change it challenges every local church and every part of the Church to be intentional in giving laity full opportunity to share their God-given gifts and potential and their commitment to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world."
Through presentations and personal experiences, the board heard the struggles women still face in the Church and in society, agreeing that much work is still needed in order to reach the Commission’s mandate of advocating for full participation of women in the total life of The United Methodist Church.
In her General Secretary’s address, Hare bridged the work of the past quadrennium with the mandates for the future work of GCSRW. She shared the needs of clergy and lay women she heard over the last quadrennium - the need to train, empower and support both clergy and lay women, especially the next generation of women leaders; provide training for men on how to be better allies for women; continue sexual ethics training and response that is needed and appreciated.
Since the board members were meeting at Chicago Temple, in the “Loop” of Chicago, they toured the Chicago Temple’s Sky Chapel and learned about the congregation’s homeless and justice ministries from the Rev. Wendy Witt, associate pastor of the Chicago Temple. The board will convene again in March of 2017.
The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women advocates for 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.