Methodists and the Struggle for Women’s Suffrage
by Rev. Dr. Susan Lyn Moudry
There is a well-known song from Mary Poppins that rings out like a battle cry: “Cast off the shackles of yesterday! Shoulder to shoulder into the fray! Our daughters’ daughters will adore us, and they’ll sing in grateful chorus, ‘Well done! Well Done! Well done, Sister Suffragette!’” Although the song was written with England in mind, it seems fitting to recall as the United States marks the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. The amendment, adopted on August 26, 1920, was the culmination of a century-long struggle to secure women’s right to vote. United Methodists might wonder what role the church played in that fight. Many know that Methodists have a long history of strong, leading women. Susanna Wesley, John and Charles’ mother, is often called the mother of Methodism for her role in teaching and spiritually forming her children. John Wesley accepted laywomen preachers and class leaders. In America, names like Barbara Heck, Phoebe Palmer, and Fanny Crosby quickly come to mind. In fact, American Methodists played a crucial role in the advancement of women in the nineteenth century. While there is much history of Methodist involvement with the women’s suffrage movement left to uncover, Methodists did play a significant role in securing women the right to vote. Knowing some of this history is critical to a full understanding of Methodist DNA.
Historians typically trace the beginning of an organized women’s suffrage movement in the United States to the Seneca Falls Convention in July 1848. This convention, held in Seneca Falls, New York, marks the first women’s rights convention. In terms of Methodist connections, there are few in this era. However, the convention took place inside the Wesleyan Chapel, built in 1843. This chapel was part of the Wesleyan Methodist Church, a denomination which had split from the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1842 over the issues of slavery and church governance. Wesleyanism at large, then, was involved from the outset of the movement.
Although most were not early participants in the struggle for women’s suffrage, Methodists did lay groundwork throughout the nineteenth century that contributed to the advancement of women broadly speaking. This background in and of itself could fill a book,[i] but some highlights are worth mentioning in order to understand the context in which Methodist participation in women’s suffrage occurred. Higher education, for example, became a significant focus for Methodists in the nineteenth century. Part of this emphasis included the promotion of women’s higher education, which was viewed as part of Methodism’s evangelistic and social responsibility. Coeducational institutions also began to form, particularly in the Midwest, and these places encouraged the development of a new social group in American society. Kristin Bloomberg indicates that, “By establishing coeducational colleges…Methodists created a transitional social space…that allowed for the identification of women as a political class.”[ii]
As mentioned previously, women like Hannah Pearce Reeves (Methodist Protestant Church) and Lydia Sexton (United Brethren Church), acted as traveling preachers in the early 1800s. Periodicals began to be developed specifically targeting women audiences. The Ladies’ Repository founded in 1841, is a prime Methodist example. Additionally, Methodist women continued to move more into public roles through a variety of women’s organizations founded after the Civil War. These included groups like the Women’s Foreign Missionary Society (WFMS), Women’s Home Missionary Society, the Deaconess movement, and the Ladies’ and Pastors’ Christian Union (L&PCU). In fact, by 1872 the General Conference of the Methodist Episcopal Church (MEC) created a Committee on Woman’s Work in the Church, officially supporting the WFMS and L&PCU. Although still limited, Methodists were creating an environment in which women and men were able to engage with the evolving role of women in American society.
Perhaps one of the most significant developments for Methodist involvement with women’s suffrage was the formation of the Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU) in 1874. The WCTU was not an official Methodist organization, but there is a clear relationship stemming from the early leaders. Annie Wittenmyer, first president of the WCTU, was a Methodist and also had been the first leader of the L&PCU. In 1879, Frances Willard became the second president. She, too, was a Methodist. The WCTU quickly became the largest women’s organization in the country with a mission to reform both church and society. Although temperance was a primary goal, suffrage soon became a method of addressing the issue. The 1876 General Conference of the MEC supported temperance and encouraged the creation of temperance societies in all congregations and Sunday Schools. Likewise, many Methodist women supported the WCTU and participated in its endeavors. Quickly, temperance and suffrage went hand-in-hand. From this point on, leading Methodist women and men were directly involved in the battle to secure the vote. While not all Methodists supported women’s suffrage, Methodists had created a space for women’s participation and voice in the public sphere.
Frances Willard, a central figure in the women’s suffrage movement at the end of the nineteenth century, was the first woman to be depicted in Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol. She joined the MEC after her family moved to Wisconsin. Willard worked in higher education, serving as president for Evanston College for Ladies. When the college was subsumed under the umbrella of Northwestern University she became the first Dean of Women at Northwestern, a Methodist-affiliated school in Evanston, Illinois. Willard credited the Methodist church for her later commitments to temperance and suffrage, writing, “Much do I owe to a Methodist training and the social usages of my grand old mother church.”[iii] Methodist women-led Willard into the temperance crusade and as she became more informed, Willard indicated she felt the need to move from passive to aggressive for the cause, an idea she encouraged in others through her teaching.[iv] Through her work in temperance, Willard determined she needed to enter into the issue of enfranchisement for women. By her account, God spoke to her while she was on her knees in prayer saying, “You are to speak for woman’s ballot as a weapon of protection to her home and tempted loved ones from the tyranny of drink.”[v] After that encounter, Willard began speaking regularly about suffrage, even against the advice of her friends like Wittenmeyer. By the time Willard became president of the WCTU in 1879, she believed that the ballot issue was “part and parcel of the temperance movement.”[vi] For Willard, giving women the ballot meant protecting the home from the very real societal dangers which alcohol presented. She is largely responsible for the shift in using “Home Protection” to convince the average woman to support the idea of women’s right to vote. In fact, when traveling in the South attempting to gain momentum, Willard found, “The Methodist church is in the van, and here I found my firmest friends.”[vii] Bishops even advocated alongside her. Soon the WCTU adopted the “Do Everything Policy,” as they not only worked for temperance but also issues surrounding legislation and the right to vote.
Willard’s voice was critical in the fight for women’s suffrage, but her mother church was not always as welcoming as she envisioned. In 1888, the Rock River Conference in Illinois elected Willard as a lay delegate to General Conference. Four other women were also elected by their respective conferences; however, all were denied a seat. Women’s representation was an issue that received increasing denominational attention; yet, women were not seated at General Conference until 1904 in the MEC. Willard held out hope for her denomination, believing that a church that educated women and worked for their advancement would in time realize equality of women was necessitated, even in terms of ordination.[viii]
Another key Methodist leader for women’s suffrage at the end of the nineteenth century was Anna Howard Shaw. Shaw was a graduate of Boston University School of Theology and applied to the New England Conference of the MEC for ordination in 1880. When this was denied, Shaw was ordained by the Methodist Protestant Church at the New York Annual Conference. However, by 1885 she was devoting all her energy to the work of temperance and suffrage. Shaw worked alongside suffrage leaders like Susan B. Anthony, whom she called, “Aunt Susan,” and Elizabeth Cady Stanton on campaigns throughout the 1890s. Shaw was also a frequently requested speaker, once debating James Buckley, a fierce antagonist of women’s suffrage and editor of the influential Methodist paper, the New York Christian Advocate. Buckley lost the debate according to Shaw because of his poor temperament; in fact, Shaw recalls that her friends referred to the event as “the day we wiped up the earth with Dr. Buckley.”[ix] Shaw led the National American Women’s Suffrage Association as President from 1904-1915. For Shaw, working for women’s right to vote was not only an issue of equality and justice but also represented her greatest ambitions in life.[x] The subject is a focus of her autobiography. Interestingly, Shaw recalls that once, when Susan B. Anthony introduced her to a crowd, Anthony said, “I am glad you are a Methodist, for now they cannot claim that we are not orthodox.”[xi] Anthony and many of the earliest leaders in the movement were Quakers, and the impression given is that Methodism garnered the movement respectability. This influence, along with Willard’s appeal to suffrage being an issue connected to the home, helped move the needle in terms of the advancement of women’s right to vote.
Many other Methodists were active in the push for women’s suffrage. While the full history cannot be traced here, a few individuals should be mentioned to show the depth and spread of the work. Isabella Baumfree, who was born a slave, was converted in 1843, giving herself the name Sojourner Truth. Truth became a Methodist briefly upon her conversion and would speak at camp meetings, preach, and evangelize. She was an early advocate of equal rights for all women, and although she did not remain a Methodist long, demonstrates the way Methodism was laying the groundwork for women who felt called into leadership and engagement of social issues. Less well known is Franc Rhodes Elliott, a founder of P.E.O., one of the second oldest women’s societies in America. As a Methodist and graduate of Iowa Wesleyan University, she worked for women’s right to vote and also ecclesial representation for women. Women were not the only ones in the fight, several of the MEC’s leading bishops consistently promoted women’s equality. Bishop Matthew Simpson, for example, was a strong advocate of women’s education and after the Civil War, became active in the fight for women’s suffrage. Major women activists, like Julia Ward Howe, Lucy Stone, and Susan B. Anthony, recognized his support and attempted to use it as leverage for their cause.[xii] These requests were well-founded. In a speech in 1873, Simpson remarked, “Society must go down or women must vote…Wyoming and Utah have adopted women’s suffrage; strange to say, the sun still rises and sets there.”[xiii] Bishop Gilbert Haven was another supporter of women’s right to vote and also corresponded with Stone and others.[xiv]
Southern Methodists, of the MEC South, were also active in the cause. In particular, Jessie Daniel Ames, who is primarily remembered for her significant work against lynching, participated in suffrage work. She organized the Georgetown Equal Suffrage League in 1916 and wrote weekly pieces about women’s suffrage for the local newspaper. Ames also established the Texas League of Women Voters in 1919, after Texas was the first Southern state to ratify the Nineteenth Amendment. Other Southern Methodist women active in pro-suffrage efforts included prominent names such as, Elvira Beach Carré President of the City Mission Board in Louisiana and Mary Werlein, also of Louisiana, a leader of the Woman’s Parsonage and Home Mission Society.
As alluded to previously, interrelated to the fight for political enfranchisement was the issue of ecclesial suffrage. Lay representation was an ongoing debate at the MEC General Conference throughout the 1800s. In 1868, lay representation was finally granted for the MEC, but as noted previously, in practice, this did not include women. Recall it was 1904 when women were seated at a General Conference. Other predecessors of The UMC made this move earlier; the MPC first seated women in 1892 and the UBC in 1893. The MEC South did not seat women until 1922, after the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment. Women were not part of an Evangelical Church General Conference until 1946. All of this shows that although some Methodists worked to promote women’s voting rights, there was still significant opposition within the denomination. Just as in society, the fight for women’s right to representation in church governance was long and hard-fought. Ellen Blue has pointed out that the success of women securing laity rights in General Conferences cannot be underestimated denominationally, because there is a direct correlation to the eventual granting of ordination to women.[xv] Furthermore, there is a connection between women’s lay representation at General Conference and the church taking a definitive stance on the issue of women’s suffrage.
Methodism then, in terms of its various national bodies, was long in making a statement on women’s suffrage. The General Conference of the MEC, for example, was slow to support women’s right to vote. In a resolution, adopted by the General Conference in 1916, its members finally declared the belief that women should be given political franchise. The rationale was largely about women’s faithfulness in working for the church and how they might assist the advancement of practical Christianity through political voice. Yet, the resolution does indicate the belief that justice was at stake. By the time the United States ratified the Nineteenth Amendment, Methodist papers largely reflected the denominational declaration. One example is the Pittsburgh Christian Advocate that called the success of the women’s rights movement a response to “palpably unjust and unreasonable discrimination.”[xvi]
Suffice it to say, the work to secure women’s suffrage was long and hard-fought. What is more, Methodists—although certainly not in a unified way—played an active role in the cause, and the case can be made that Methodism itself provided room for the advancement of women which aided the cause of women’s suffrage. Even so, the story was not as complete as some thought, like a reporter who suggested the ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment “will probably prove to have been the last battle of a long campaign.”[xvii] Obstacles still persisted in allowing all people to vote; African American women, Hispanic women, Asian American women, and Indigenous women all serve as examples of the inequality that remained as they faced significant challenges and discrimination in securing rights to the ballot box. The work of the church and societal reform was far from complete, but Methodists continued to engage these issues in the coming years. Mary McLeod Bethune is a prime example of bridging women’s rights and Civil Rights. She worked on both fronts, registering voters after the 1920 ratification of the Nineteenth Amendment and playing a major role in developing Civil Rights work.
There is so much more historical work to be done on the women’s rights movement and its connection to American Methodism. As Ellen Blue has written, “When women don’t know our history, we keep making the same surge of progress and falling back, and later covering the same territory under the impression that we are creating something new.”[xviii] We might modify her statement to say that all of us—men and women—are responsible for knowing our history. Methodists worked for societal and personal transformation; this is in the DNA of the Methodist movement. So we can proclaim, “Well done!” on this hundred year anniversary of the Nineteenth Amendment, while still yearning and working for true equality and justice.
[i] An excellent resource is: Jean Miller Schmidt, Grace Sufficient: A History of Women in American Methodism, 1760-1939 (Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1999).
[ii] Kristin Mapel Bloomberg, “Nineteenth-Century Methodists and Coeducation: The Case of Hamline University,” Methodist History 47, no. 1 (October, 2008): 49.
[iii] Frances E. Willard, The Autobiography of an American Woman: Glimpses of Fifty Years (Chicago: Woman’s Temperance Publishing Association, 1892), 334.
[iv] Willard, Autobiography, 335.
[v] Willard, Autobiography, 351.
[vi] Willard, Autobiography, 368.
[vii] Willard, Autobiography, 372.
[viii] Willard, Autobiography, 465.
[ix] Anna Howard Shaw, The Story of a Pioneer (New York: Harper and Brothers Publishing, 1915), 259.
[x] Shaw, Story of a Pioneer, 287.
[xi] Shaw, Story of a Pioneer, 192.
[xii] See correspondence in the Matthew Simpson Collection, Drew University Methodist Collection, Madison, New Jersey. (Hereafter: Simpson MSS, Drew.)
[xiii] Address: “Women’s Suffrage,” February 7, 1873, Simpson MSS, Drew.
[xiv] See correspondence in the Bishop Gilbert Haven Papers, Drew University Methodist Collection, Madison, New Jersey.
[xv] Ellen Blue, “Parenthetically Speaking: Methodist Women (In And) Out of Their Brackets,” Methodist History 55, no. 1 & 2 (October 2016 and January 2017), 28.
[xvi] “The Nineteenth Amendment Ratified,” Pittsburgh Christian Advocate, Vol 87, no. 35, August 26, 1920.
[xvii] “The Nineteenth Amendment Ratified,” PCA, August 26, 1920.
[xviii] Blue, “Parenthetically Speaking,” 19.
Rev. Dr. Susan Moudry is Coordinator of Clergy and Lay Leadership Excellence for the Western Pennsylvania Conference of The UMC. She holds a Ph.D. in the History of Christianity from Baylor University. Her research interests include American Methodism in the nineteenth century, as well as the intersection of religion and politics. She lives in the suburbs of Pittsburgh with her husband and two children.
Published : Thu, 12 Mar 2020 12:10:13 Z
by Dawn Wiggins Hare
In 2015 when announcing his diverse cabinet to the citizens of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously retorted when asked why he implemented diversity, “Because it is 2015.” Church, it is 2020!
Dawn Wiggins Hare
For more than 24 years, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has sought to amend Paragraph 4 of Article 4 of The United Methodist Church’s Constitution to add the word “gender” to the list of discriminatory categories that will not be tolerated to exclude persons from membership in the church. The word “gender” is used 64 times in The Book of Discipline in our shared acknowledgment that women are created in the image of God and are to be equal in the church and in our communities.
Why is the amendment necessary? Because we know that women are discriminated in the life of the church. We know that women who are divorced or who are in polygamous relationships have been denied membership in churches across the connection, and in some areas, women have been denied the sacrament of communion.
In 2016, for the very first time, the amendment to add “gender” as a protected category passed General Conference with the requisite two-thirds majority vote. Screams were heard across the floor of the convention center in Portland; friends ran toward one another in celebration, as women and men who support equality felt the crash of a pane of the stained-glass ceiling.
Because this was a constitutional amendment, the next step was for the legislation to be ratified across the connection by a two-thirds cumulative vote. Over the next year, annual conference by annual conference voted on the legislation. The votes were tallied, and the Council of Bishops announced in May of 2018 that the ratification had failed to pass. The amendment received only 61.3% of the votes. There were 29,049 votes for the amendment and 18,317 votes against. Really? 18,317 votes AGAINST in 2016?
Why? Why in a church that seeks to include women could this amendment fail?
Why in a church with petitions pending before the next General Conference to dismantle the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women because the commission’s work and independence is unnecessary, would this vote be the outcome?
Why in a church with female clergy making $.84 on the $1.00 compared with male clergy in the United States, would this ratification vote fail?
The mandate of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women by General Conference through The Book of Discipline is to challenge The United Methodist Church.
Church, it is 2020! Consider yourself challenged.
Dawn Wiggins Hare is an attorney and the first woman elected in the 35th Judicial Circuit as circuit judge in Monroeville, Alabama. Hare was named General Secretary of The United Methodist Church’s General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in January 2013. She served on the governing board of the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits from 2008 to 2012, where she was recording secretary and a member of the appeals committee. Hare was a General Conference delegate in 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2019 elected from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. She served as delegate to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Served on the Appeals Committee and chaired its Investigation Committee. In 2012, Hare received the Alice Lee Award from the Alabama West Florida Commission on the Status and Role of Women. She has been a member of First United Methodist Church of Monroeville, Alabama since 1988 and holds bachelor of science and law degrees from the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Nicholas S. Hare, Jr., are the parents of two adult sons.
Published : Wed, 26 Feb 2020 19:50:49 Z
“Response Team Ministry Is Still Needed as Long as There Is Harm Being Done”
by Katrena Porter King
As the daughter of a Methodist minister, I am no stranger to witnessing harm in the world. In fact, because of the many people my father has served, I seem to have a keen eye for spotting it. One thing I have learned is that when you experience or perceive harm, it can be a very uncomfortable ordeal for all involved. Many times, we can become overwhelmed by the lengths that this harm extends to. As the world is so vast, this also means that it is easy for us to normalize harm since the issue seems too large or impossible to tackle.
Katrena Porter King
Sometimes, harm even occurs in our churches and other ministry settings. In those types of instances, the harm can feel compounded because the parties involved are more than likely people that you know; maybe these people are even your friends. Once you have correlated a face with the harm, it becomes more difficult to accept that we cannot do anything about it. In the alternative, we have the unique opportunity to pursue a means of healing.
2 Corinthians 13:11 states:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, rejoice! Strive for full restoration, encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.”
When I was a student in law school, we talked a lot about what the purpose of the law was. My favorite concepts were rehabilitation and restoration. In essence, the purpose was “to make one whole again.” GCSRW has submitted legislation to amend Resolution #2043 regarding Response Team Ministry for Sexual Misconduct; I believe that this work will promote restoration in order to work towards making congregations and people whole again.
The majority of the amendments to the legislation are to streamline language, to remove and update old information, and to highlight positive steps toward addressing the issue of sexual misconduct. For example, the joint statement by the Council of Bishops regarding the #MeToo and #ChurchToo movements was cited. However, one of the most important parts of updating this legislation is to affirm the continuing need for Response Team Ministry.
The bishop and cabinet are mandated to “provide a process for healing within the congregation” or other ministry context as part of the supervisory response and judicial process. This process of healing begins with the Response Team Ministry which is composed of “persons with qualifications and experience in assessment, intervention, or healing.” Oftentimes, when something goes wrong, chaos is either immediate or imminent. Having a Response Team Ministry in place can help to curtail the chaos and seek to ensure that there are fewer long-term emotional and spiritual effects as a result.
Harm in general, and specifically sexual misconduct, is not going to disappear overnight. However, that doesn’t mean that we have to be ill-equipped for situations when it does arise. By amending and updating this legislation, we are affirming that Response Team Ministry is still needed as long as there is harm being done. When reviewing the overwhelming amounts of legislation for GC 2020, remember that we have a role to play in the healing of our church when it is broken. Help us to retain a mechanism that allows us to preserve wholeness.
Katrena Porter King is a Methodist minister’s daughter who recently affirmed her calling to pursue the path of Deacon in the UMC. She is part of the Louisiana Annual Conference and has served on the Board of GCSRW for the 2016-2020 quadrennium. Katrena also co-chairs the Legislative Task Force with Bob Zilhaver.
Published : Thu, 30 Jan 2020 15:53:14 Z
“When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer.”
by Becky Posey Williams
I grew up understanding the importance of saying “I am sorry,” when I behaved in a way that could have contributed to someone feeling hurt. I even learned the importance of expressing it when I was not in the wrong but simply present to hear someone express a hurt or pain experienced in life. I have never questioned the rightness of an authentic apology. One that names the offense, accepts responsibility, speaks from the heart, and offers hope to the injured.
I recently read an article entitled “Exiled from Faith” by Diana Butler Bass. She said, “Just this week, Catholic bishops were discussing why millions of people have left their church. At the same time, the Southern Baptists were meeting and part of their concern is stemming the loss of young adult members. In both cases – as is often the case when talking about the rise of the “nones” and the decline of Christianity – blame was placed squarely on those who have left and neither the Catholics nor the Baptists offered much in the way of honest institutional self-reflection on the churches’ responsibility in causing these trends. Apologies are the first step toward justice – the making right of a wrong. Perhaps a public apology would [be] the first step in a journey of reconciliation and restitution. Perhaps history would [be] different in ways unimaginable, like a double rainbow breaking through a bleeding sky. If nothing else, listen to the exiles. They aren’t to blame for leaving. They are probably just holding up a moral mirror to the church.”
For years, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has been listening to persons who are survivors of sexual misconduct in The United Methodist Church. We hear the stories of people who have felt unheard, invited to stay quiet, blamed, and experience additional trauma when the process of filing a formal complaint does not work at its best. Through this privilege of getting to listen, GCSRW is in a position to speak the truth even when it is not what some want to hear. We have a responsibility and a commitment to help the Church get this process right, every time. It is time to wake up, lead fearlessly, and name the harm that has and continues to happen in our United Methodist Church. It is time to listen to the voices of the silenced.
In January 2018, GCSRW and the Council of Bishops released a joint statement naming the sin of sexual misconduct. Here is an excerpt from the letter:
“The sin of sexual misconduct must be named by the Church at every level of ministry. Further, we must confront the environment of courser public dialog and discourse that provides license and cover for sexual harassment, abuse, and assault. We acknowledge that the Church is also a place where sexual misconduct happens when persons in power positions choose to abuse their power. The stories are all too similar. Alleged victims are often reluctant to come forward fearing they will not be believed or they will experience retaliation and the decision to report will be held against them. Sexual misconduct is a symptom of a systemic problem within our Church and society where patriarchy flourishes.”
Read the full COB/GCSRW statement here.
To build upon the message of the joint letter, the legislative task force of GCSRW’s board of directors submitted a legislative petition to General Conference 2020 which makes an apology to survivors of sexual misconduct perpetrated by leadership within The United Methodist Church. We believe this is a step in the right direction and reflects, in part, what Dr. Jennifer Freyd describes as “institutional courage,” the antidote to institutional betrayal. This courage includes institutional accountability and transparency. We believe the statement made in this apology is one more way the Church can be transparent and work toward holding one another accountable in our behaviors.
We come now asking you to do your part in seeing this legislation adopted and its content clearly shared within your annual conference. Lives have been changed forever as a result of experiencing sexual misconduct within The United Methodist Church. When one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Please join us in speaking this truth and support this piece of legislation.
Find all GCSRW legislation and talking points at https://www.gcsrw.org/GeneralConference/Legislation.aspx.
Published : Thu, 12 Dec 2019 19:52:56 Z
The Importance of Boundaries Training in the African United Methodist Churches
by Rev. Kalamba Kilumba and Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko
“Where there’s smoke, there’s fire,” as they say.
The 2016 Book of Resolutions ¶2044 states that, “Harassment is still a significant problem: well over three-fourths of the clergy (men and women) and half of the laywomen had experienced sexual harassment in the church (about one-third of laymen).”
Sexual harassment and assault cross every boundary. United Methodist Churches in Africa are not immune from incidents of sexual harassment. Recent surveys, conversations with clergywomen and laywomen reveal patterns of serious sexual abuse and harassment within the boundaries of African United Methodist Churches. Most troubling is how these boundaries violations and sexual misconducts have been bubbling under the surface for years without being addressed at all.
While in the United States, all clergy men and women are receiving mandatory, up-to-date, boundaries training at least once every quadrennium, as required by The Book of Discipline; clergy men and women in Africa are not being offered the same opportunity to fulfill that disciplinary requirement.
Time is of the essence, African United Methodist Churches can no longer remain silent, continuing to sweep sexual harassment issues under the rug to protect the reputation of the church and clergymen, while sacrificing the spiritual wellbeing of clergywomen and laywomen in general.
Therefore, time has come for African United Methodist Churches to address the issues of sexual harassment and sexual misconduct head-on by providing mandatory training around boundaries, to set the standard for the ethical best practices and the overall integrity in ministry, while providing to African clergy men and women the opportunity to fulfill the mandatory disciplinary requirement.
In recent years, boundaries trainings have been offered to several African Episcopal Areas, such as Mozambique/South Africa, North Katanga/Tanzania and South Congo/Zambia, by Becky Posey Williams (GCSRW Senior Director for Sexual Ethics and Advocacy), Rev. Kalamba Kilumba (GCSRW Member of the Interagency Sexual Ethics Task Force), and Rev. Dr. J. Kabamba Kiboko (Senior Pastor of Forest Chapel United Methodist Church).
The primary goals of the trainings were to initiate a conversation about the “taboo” subject of sexual harassment and misconduct, to raise awareness of certain cultural behaviors that lead to sexual misconduct, and to encourage church leaders – clergy and lay – to protect vulnerable church members, especially children, and women.
The trainings are designed to create awareness of what constitutes misconduct and how issues of misconduct typically arise; the observation of boundaries, power, and vulnerabilities that can lead to misconduct; and steps that can be taken to prevent misconduct.
Among the topics are: what is sexual harassment, how common is it, boundaries, power, vulnerability, hugging, touch, self-care, pornography, and the importance of a sexual harassment policy.
Results of Trainings
The trainings have brought a new awareness to the insidiousness of sexual harassment, encouraging women to reveal indignities suffered, often from clergymen in powerful positions.
These are the observed results of sexual ethics trainings:
Sexual harassment is an important issue; our collective actions will have a far-reaching effect in several African Annual Conferences. Let’s continue training and change the culture of violence against women and children.
Published : Tue, 24 Sep 2019 18:34:36 Z
Women Arise for Better Lives
by Rev. Neelley Hicks
Women throughout the world have never had an opportunity like the one we have today: a chance to amplify voices that help make justice, dignity and wellbeing reality – even in parts of the world most left behind by the digital divide and gender gap in IT. The Women Arise Network – an initiative of Harper Hill Global – was born from this opportunity which uses communication strategies and technologies to reduce human suffering and improve lives. We are grateful to have benefited from Tennessee COSROW who supported our 2018 leadership conference in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The Women Arise Network is located currently in DR Congo, Uganda, and Nigeria, but the model we use could be effective most anywhere.
We don’t just report on the problems of the day. We craft messages to influence behaviors so we can prevent disease, grow peace within the individual and community, and increase dignity for those rejected by society. There are 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals that give our work societal focus so that people of difference (faith traditions, tribes, ethnicities, socio-economic, etc.) can come together to address problems experienced by all.
Here’s an example. The East Congo Episcopal Area of the United Methodist Church wanted to help women arise from the stigma they suffer as a consequence of sexual violence. Working together with Judith Osongo Yanga (Director of Communications), we developed a communications campaign beginning with world-renowned humanitarian Firdaus Kharas. Whether shown in conferences, over social media or television, “A Plea to My Father” has helped women like Judith’s protege Bibiche begin to understand that she is not alone, what happened was not her fault, and she can never be defined solely by that one event. This is just one example of communications that can produce a positive outcome.
The video is now translated in 11 different languages and has reached over 10 million viewers in the region by television alone, and many more through local viewings. UMW President of the Northern Nigeria Annual Conference Doris Adamu uses the animation as a centerpiece and works with women of other faith traditions for this one united cause.
Using Technology for Social Change
Today’s technologies allow us to reach people who do not have access to radio, television, or the Internet. A simple text message can pass through these barriers. When a message carries vital information, is crafted in local languages and sent from trusted sources, it can even save lives.
Many of us receive text reminders for doctor appointments. We use that methodology, but for the Women Arise movement, turned messages into ones that assist pastors in preaching about respect and dignity for women. The messages were sent on behalf of Bishop Gabriel Unda, and when preached, reaches both oppressed and oppressor, building awareness of issues otherwise left unspoken.
Not everyone in the world can attend formal school, due to financial and geographic barriers, so we developed the “Virtual Classroom” for Network participants to carry education to the people. Fitting in two backpacks, the technologies and content can be shown outdoors or inside; to small groups or large; to young and old together.
Not everything we do is high tech. Fabric can tell stories and with the Women Arise icon, “Esther” we are doing that! Illustrated by Congolese artist Radjabu, Esther will be soon printed on fabric and crafted into items that tell the story of one woman arising, speaking truth to power and saving lives.
Power of the Human Network
Just having the right message means nothing without the trusted human network to pass messages and media through. The United Methodist Church’s organizational structure allows us to connect with socially-minded women around the world about common humanitarian issues. Wherever we are, we can ask other women to join us in channeling voices towards solutions that change lives right where we live.
We are getting ready for our next leadership training of the Women Arise Network. There are currently 10 members in the network from three different countries who use radio, television, social media and workshops to improve lives right where they live. If you would like to help us equip, train, and mobilize women for social good through communications, you can donate at harperhill.global/donate.
N. Neelley Hicks is committed to making the world a better place by using her gift of communications with her passion for empowering women.
She founded Harper Hill Global (a 501c3 not-for-profit) to train (primarily) women to use communications (storytelling, broadcast & technology) in addressing the most pressing social issues of our day. “Women Arise” is a result of this focus, which is a network of women who address stigma against victims of sexual violence within their own communities in Uganda, Northern Nigeria, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Disease-prevention is another result by which women use their human networks to develop & send text messages, create & broadcast song, or version and broadcast animation – all with the goal of teaching prevention in communities where education may be lacking.
As a Deacon, Neelley provides leadership at Glencliff United Methodist Church in Nashville, Tennessee, who is currently building transitional housing (microhomes) for people who are homeless and recently discharged from Nashville hospitals.
Previously, Neelley was the Director of ICT4D Church Initiatives for United Methodist Communications and Vice President/Director of Interactive Media at Godwin Group Advertising.
Neelley has spoken at the United Nations in Geneva and New York through the InfoPoverty World Conference. She is a dynamic, engaging speaker who has spoken to groups in a variety of settings on multiple continents.
She has a Masters in Divinity from Vanderbilt University and a BS in Business from Belhaven University. She and her husband, Robby, have a combined family of three children, their spouses, and four grandchildren.
Visit harperhill.global for more information.
Published : Wed, 29 May 2019 19:51:28 Z
DCA 5: Monitoring Report (Wednesday, February 27)
Throughout Monday afternoon, a number of delegates, visitors and viewers from home sent us messages, concerned that the gender balance of speakers was weighted in favor of men. They asked us if GCSRW was monitoring. One asked if ANYONE was monitoring? Indeed, we were, and yes, the balance was off. Males made up 75% of the speakers on Monday afternoon, while women were only 25%. The Bishops were able to hear our report of concerns this morning before the day began, and things got better. When Bishop Greg Palmer took the chair for the Tuesday morning session, women made up 39% of the speakers, which is just over their representation on the floor which is 36% women. During Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey’s session, women made up 37% of the speakers. Thank you Bishops!
So yes, your GCSRW monitors are counting, but we don’t have a voice during the sessions. We cannot come to the mic and ask the presider if women are being called. We cannot come to the mic and say that women (and some men as well) have been in the queue for a long time, being told that some in the queue will NEVER be called, while other delegates return to the mic two and three times. None of us can see the electronic queue so it cannot be monitored. We don’t know who is NOT being called on – we can only see what you all see – who IS being called on. And yes, Monday afternoon was not a good session for women. Tuesday morning got better, but delegates – call it out when you see it! When the presider says s/he is going to call names in a way to provide a diversity of voices, hold him/her to it. Only YOU know if you’re NOT being called on.
It was also reported to us that a few young women were bothered by the behavior of some fellow delegates from outside the U.S. They described men who hugged them uncomfortably, and in one case, asked one to marry him. On the one hand, this is a cultural difference, and we are clearly struggling to learn to live with one another as a diverse church. For some, close hugging and marriage proposals are normal, everyday life. We’re not saying it’s acceptable there either, but it’s certainly more common. For others though, hugs are shared only between close friends and family members, and only with permission with strangers, and marriage is proposed similarly – with persons VERY well known. As we continue to struggle to be one church, it will be important to continue to talk about these gender norms upon which we do not yet agree. In the meantime, at the General Conference, if women do not want to be touched, do not touch them and no one here wants a marriage proposal from a virtual stranger. We are brothers and sisters in Christ, and that’s as far as it goes. Sin may be a matter for God to decide, but sexual misconduct is defined by the recipients, and these recipients are saying “No,” and many women here would say, “Me too.”
One piece of advice for the next General Conference, which is just over a year away – ELECT MORE WOMEN. Encourage your Annual Conferences to send delegations with equal numbers of men and women. That’s the best way to change the balance of speakers. As we’ve watched our women Bishops increase in number, ALL of whom we celebrate, we can’t say the same for the delegates. We can do better.
Published : Wed, 27 Mar 2019 20:14:33 Z
Walking in the Way: A Deacon’s Journey
by Rev. Sherry Bryant-Johnson
I imagine my calling to be like the voice of the Teacher in Isaiah 30:21, a Presence within that whispers to me: “This is the way; walk in it.” For many years these gentle marching orders led me on what I thought was a random path of learning and doing. The ladies of St. John African Methodist Episcopal Zion (my hometown church) who taught Sunday School and directed the Christmas and Easter pageants fascinated me. So, when I reached adulthood, I taught Sunday School and directed Christmas and Easter pageants. The power of talk therapy to transform intrigued me. So, I studied psychology at Indiana University. A southern gentleman captured my heart. So, I let go of my life in Hammond, Indiana and settled in his rural Mississippi community. Questions about God, prayer, and life gripped me. So, I immersed myself in the the Bible, went to workshops, and devoured books by spiritual writers. Love, frustration, passion or curiosity moved me to learning and service—I thought. It did not occur to me that the road I traveled was carrying me to a specific destination.
Rev. Sherry B. Johnson
I meandered into a job as assistant to the pastor at a United Methodist Church in 1991. As I worked as program staff/administrative assistant, my path began to make sense. I had entered a new world where my eclectic collection of learning, experiences, and skills were valued and affirmed. I realized that through my wanderings, God had molded and made me into a minister of the gospel. My proclamation of the Word was in my teaching, my listening, and in my praying, both in the church and beyond the church’s walls. After three years as a diaconal minister, I was ordained with the inaugural class of deacons in 1997.
As I journeyed through candidacy to ordination and met wise mentors along the way, I received the gift of words to describe the connection between my learning, doing, and serving— Christian faith formation. Practicing and teaching the means of grace have permeated my every appointment— associate pastor of a two-church charge, executive director of a United Methodist Mission Agency, and associate director for a center devoted to developing Christian leaders through lifelong learning. I also weave spiritual practice into training events and other nontraditional settings because of my passion to assist others, to hear more clearly, and to respond more faithfully to the Presence that calls to them, “This is the way; walk in it.”
I live out my own call these days as a spiritual director, retreat designer/leader, Bible teacher, workshop leader, and author. And I am currently exploring a new interest— offering spiritual direction and Bible study online.
In the 22 years since my ordination, I’ve encountered many along the way who do not appreciate or understand my ministry. I cannot allow the reality of rejection to stop my work or to divert my attention from the many sisters and brothers who celebrate with me.
I see the celebration of the unique ministry of the deacon as a gift as diverse and surprising as the ministry itself. This rejoicing breaks forth both in the church and in the community. It can be as subtle as a feeling of oneness in Christ with a directee, as endearing as a card from a parishioner during Clergy Appreciation Month, or as unexpected as a thank you hug from a pastor in the produce aisle in Kroger.
Whether my ministry is celebrated or ignored, appreciated or reviled, the Presence that whispers, “This is the way; walk in it” still speaks, and I must follow where it leads.
Rev. Sherry Bryant-Johnson is an ordained deacon with extensive training in spiritual direction as well as United Methodist professional certification in spiritual formation. Her ministry encompasses retreat leadership, teaching, small group facilitation, and writing. She was an editor/essayist for the anthology, Embodied Spirits: Stories of Spiritual Directors of Color (Morehouse, 2014) and the contributing writer of Journey to Joy: Jesus is the Strength for Life, a VBS study for adults (Abingdon, 2016). Based in Jackson, Mississippi, she has served as the executive director of Bethlehem Center, Inc. and the associate director of the Center for Ministry at Millsaps College.
Published : Mon, 25 Mar 2019 20:49:23 Z
“I don’t want to be a deacon; God wants me to be a deacon.”
by Rev. Sue Pethoud
I don’t want to be a deacon; God wants me to be a deacon. It’s not like when a young child wants to be a firefighter or a dancer. It is something much more than that. I was content to be a middle school math teacher. It wasn’t an exciting job, but it had purpose and I did it well, but God was not content. God tried for a long time to let me know that, but it wasn’t until a Friday night, after a week of serving in Appalachia, that I really got the message. It was an emotional experience and one that took me a long time to understand.
Rev. Sue Pethoud
I got it right away that God was calling me to work in a setting where I would be connecting people and their faith to the world around them, but I didn’t jump right into a deacon studies program. Hours of prayer led me to become more involved with our youth and to seek out ways to become more educated in my own faith. I found The United Methodist certification program and it seemed to be where I needed to be. I thought I was following God’s call in my life, but I was really trying to fit that call into the life I already had.
The certification program was a good place to start, and I am thankful now that I began there, but it was evident very early on that that was not the end of the story. I had to figure out how this call of God’s was to fit into my life as a wife, mother, and teacher. Through classmates, professors, and our young pastor, I was encouraged to continue to pray about where I really needed to go with all of this. Clergy friends gave me books to read, prayed for me, and gave me encouragement to follow where I was being led. It was pretty apparent that I was really being called to ordained ministry in the role of a deacon, but I was very reluctant to follow that call. The practicality of it all kept getting in the way of actually following the path that God had set before me.
I was in my 29th year of teaching and the logical, sequential part of me knew that financially, retirement with 29 years of experience would be less than practical. I was bargaining with God over this very thing when the state stepped into the process, offering a financial incentive to retire early! Perfect! The huge roadblock had been removed and I was ready to finally jump in, feet first!
Seminary was exciting and full of learning and listening. During that time, I continued to be involved with the youth of my own church and through them found Cass Community Social Services. It was more than evident, that was where I was being called. I began volunteering there one day a week in 2010 just as I was getting into a full-time seminary schedule. I was hired for that one-day-a-week job in 2013 just before graduation. It became a three-day-a-week position by June and by Christmas, it was full-time. I have been there ever since.
I was commissioned in 2014 and ordained in 2017. My primary appointment is to Cass as an ABLC (Appointment Beyond the Local Church) with the title of Church and Community Relations Liaison. I coordinate the over 7,000 volunteers that serve at Cass each year, correspond with donors, speak at churches and other community organization gatherings, run fund raising events and supervise Cass Green Industries. My secondary appointment is to Cass Community UMC, the church that “birthed” Cass Community Social Services. There I sing in the choir, preach in the absence of the pastor, and help to coordinate the behind the scenes tasks necessary to keep a church running. Within the Annual Conference, I am the editor of the Order of Deacons newsletter and have begun a program for all districts to send youth to serve at Cass during the summer.
I often hear from other deacons that they struggle with feeling that though they are following a different call than elders, they are not treated as equals among their elder counterparts. I get that, but don’t experience it, at least most of the time. There was a learning curve in the beginning and, occasionally, there still is, but a little education and self-advocacy goes a long way. If we as deacons, can explain our call and how it may be different but equal to that of an elder in a non-defensive way, we will all be better for it. We do have to remember that elders who came into the system before 1996 were deacons once and many of them still think of the Order as a stepping stone to elder.
Though I have needed to do some educating both with my congregation and with the clergy I come in contact with, and still do from time to time, I am fully part of the clergy team at Cass Community UMC. I work with three very supportive elders and share the responsibilities of running a church with them. It helps that one of those elders is also the Executive Director of Cass Community Social Services along with her Senior Pastor position at the church and understands the demands of my week-day job. We work together well and I have never been happier.
Rev. Sue Pethoud is the Church and Community Relations Liaison for Cass Community Social Services (CCSS), a Detroit nonprofit agency which responds to poverty with programs for food, health care, housing and employment. She is also an ordained deacon in the United Methodist Church serving both Cass Community Social Services and Cass Community United Methodist Church in Detroit.
Prior to coming to Cass, Sue taught math and science for 30 years primarily to middle school students in Howell, MI. She also taught in both New York State and Ohio.
Sue has a Bachelor of Science degree from Central Michigan University and a Master of Arts degree from the State University of New York. She received a Basic Theological Studies (BGTS) certificate from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, IL in 2013.
Her interests include reading, and travel. She has one son who is a middle school band director and two grand dogs. Rev. Pethoud lives in Detroit during the week and with her retired husband in Brighton, MI on the weekends.
Published : Mon, 18 Mar 2019 20:54:46 Z
“Once God has a hold of you, it’s hard to be let loose.”
By Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez Barker
There is this thing amongst clergy who say, “Once God has a hold of you, it’s hard to be let loose.” As I reflect back on my own call story, I can attest to that understanding of getting into God’s grip and then recognizing that in reality, you don’t actually want God to let you go. As a pastor’s kid, I was all too familiar with the gifts and challenges of being a family in ministry. And in many ways, I didn’t think I wanted that for me, my spouse, or my children. But, God did get a hold of me and my soul has never been settled since. The tug for me to serve God is the driving factor of my life in ministry.
Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez Barker
The question I had to answer was, “How will I serve God?” I continued to debate with God about how I could serve God without ever pursuing a seminary degree or serving as clergy. Again, the discontent and the hunger in my soul kept growing and the more I dabbled in seminary learning, the deeper I went. I loved learning more about my faith, about my church and about religion’s influence in the world. I loved working with people and serving people. In every position that I held prior to ministry, I loved serving. From a waitress in restaurants to an account manager in an advertising company, I loved accompanying people and serving people. At the end of the day, I knew that was my calling. However, those kinds of roles never fully satisfied me.
Finally, I gave in and just relaxed in God’s grip. I no longer wanted to resist, but rather, I leaned into the visions for my life that God was placing in front of me. The themes of learning, loving and connecting constantly arose in my life experiences. Learning manifested itself in seminary learning. I couldn’t get enough of it, so I pursued the Master’s followed by the Ph.D. I never wanted to stop learning. Loving was a part of my nature as I constantly wanted to share God’s love with youth, young adults and the people on the edges who never felt God’s love. Youth Ministry, Young-Adult Ministries, and Mission were ways in which I could live out the call to love. And finally, “connecting” was something that I had been good at in both my private social life and in my working world. Connecting people across annual conferences, across the general church and now connecting people in mission. As a learner, lover, connector, God had a vision to use these gifts for God’s mission in the world.
This is my understanding of a deacon’s call. As deacons in The United Methodist Church, we have a specialized call to ministry that is unique from elders. We serve in a variety of roles and responsibilities throughout the church, but at the heart of it is the way in which we connect the church and the world. As deacons, we have many of the rights and responsibilities as elders in the church, but we take on the role of stretching a little differently in our calling by connecting. We are doctors, lawyers, teachers, police officers, directors and much more who have responded officially to God’s call and pursued the credentialing of The UMC ordained ministry process so that we can link in our workplaces the work of the church. We also take this responsibility of bringing the world to the church seriously as well. Too often, the church can be isolated and insular thinking, but because as deacons we live in both worlds, we help the church remember what the world needs from the church. Deacons are critical partners for God’s mission in the world. One of my close mentors said to me as I was discerning my call, “The church will be strengthened when one day the deacons outnumber the elders.” The way I understood that comment was we need more people with theological training, ordained ministry credentialing and a clear understanding of calling to bridge the church and the world in ways that are effective and relevant in a 21st-century mission field. By God’s grace, deacons like me and the many others serving the church are doing our best to keep that connection alive and the bridge strengthened so that God’s “kin-dom” work is known.
Rev. Dr. Amy Valdez Barker serves as the Executive Director for the Global Mission Connections Unit of Global Ministries for The United Methodist Church. She leads a staff that relates to partners in the worldwide United Methodist and ecumenical mission network, seeking to foster collaborative interaction for church development and Christian service. She has extensive experience on the connectional level of the church, having worked for the Connectional Table, a program and policy coordinating agency, from 2010 to 2017, four years as the top executive. She is an ordained deacon in full connection with the North Georgia Annual Conference. Most recently, she completed a book with Abingdon, called “Trust By Design: The Beautiful Behaviors of an Effective Church Culture,” taking the Towers Watson Research about the denomination’s lack of trust and exploring ways in which the church needs to rebuild trust internally and beyond church relationships. You can reach her for more information at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Published : Mon, 11 Mar 2019 20:04:30 Z