Focusing on a general call to make disciples of all people, annual conferences fulfill the responsibilities of the Book of Discipline ¶ 644 through various creative structures and forms of institutional support. When it comes to advocating for the full participation of women in the total life of the Church, some annual conferences maintain an independent Conference Commission on the Status and Role of Women, while others include this work within other structures established to address interrelated concerns. Such an adaptive and flexible model provides an opportunity for identifying how each annual conference will participate in the work of ensuring that disciple making at all levels of the Church is gender sensitive and inclusive, encouraging cooperation between all people with respect for the unique gifts of each person.
Conferences with active and effective existing ministries should continue these programs and regularly relate to the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women around their work and the status of women in the annual conference. The below recommended actions are not intended to replace already existing programs or effective ministries but to guide in planning regardless of the particular conference structure.
1. Host annual gatherings for the support of women and education about pertinent issues including but not limited to work-life balance, domestic violence, pay equity, leadership development, cooperative leadership, maternity and paternity leave, education, and other relevant topics.
2. Discuss and encourage attention to issues of sexual ethics. Find out if the annual conference has policies and procedures in place to address instances of sexual misconduct, including practices to care for victims and affected communities (e.g., through the use of response teams). Using the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and umsexualethics.org <http://umsexualethics.org> as resources, sponsor education and training events and work to establish and strengthen policies aimed at fair process, healing, and reconciliation.
3. Arrange meetings with conference leadership, e.g., conference lay leader, Board of Laity, Committee on Nominations, Board of Ordained Ministry, cabinet, and bishop. The purpose of these meetings may include recommending any strategies, programs, or resources for the continued effort to improve the full participation of women in the life of the church with awareness of the unique gifts and struggles brought on by race, ethnicity, age, ability, and status.
4. Send at least two participants to leadership development events sponsored by the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women including Do No Harm sexual ethics summit. Annual conferences are advised to provide as much support as possible to assist with travel costs and registration.
5. Recruit and identify women for recommendation to the annual conference Board of Laity, Committee on Nominations, and other leadership. This may take place by requesting recommendations from all local church lay leaders, district lay leaders, United Methodist Women and United Methodist Men district offices, and other persons in local leadership.
6. Provide at least one monitoring, research, or other report on the status of women to the annual conference. Highlight areas of progress and concern to guide strategic planning and future ministry development. The methods and goal of such reports should be established in consultation with conference leadership, General Commission on the Status and Role of Women staff, and women lay and clergy leaders of the conference.
7. Use the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women as a regular resource.
The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women will provide resources and recommendations for trainings for conference-wide events. Toolkits for meetings with conference leadership, fact sheets about women’s issues, the most recent research, and information about the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women leadership convocation will be made available at gcsrw.org.