Chicago— The board of directors of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) met July 24-26, 2019, at First United Methodist Church at the Chicago Temple in Chicago, IL. This was the last face-to-face meeting of the quadrennium before General Conference meets in Minneapolis, MN on May 5-15, 2020. The board of directors finalized and approved legislation that will be submitted by GCSRW to the General Conference, and also celebrated the work that has been completed by the Commission.
“We are grateful for the passion, energy, and commitment of our president and board of directors toward the ministry of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women,” Dawn Wiggins Hare, general secretary, stated. “Although the road this quadrennium has been bumpy and we do not have a clear map, sharing the journey in a spirit of focused, unified mission has been joyful, reassuring, and inspiring.”
GCSRW board president Bishop Tracy Smith Malone opened the meeting with a sermon based on Mark 6: 7-13. In this passage, Jesus sends out the disciples in pairs to do ministry. Bishop Malone compared the sending out of the disciples in pairs to how the mission of GCSRW cannot be done alone. Bishop Malone preached, “And until every woman and girl feels at home in the church, until every woman and girl feels safe, until every woman and girl has equal and full rights and full participation, until every woman and girl feels heard, our work is never finished. The journey continues and the journey is our home.”
GCSRW’s general secretary and senior director of sexual ethics and advocacy, Becky Posey Williams, recently helped facilitate a sexual ethics training in the Philippines. While there, they experienced a powerful worship that uplifted the Thursdays in Black movement started by the World Council of Churches. The movement aims to bring awareness and solidarity for those women that face violence and sexual abuse across the globe. After participating in this worship service in the Philippines, GCSRW’s director of leadership development and accountability, Rev. Pamela Pirtle, recreated the liturgy for the board.
"I experienced a powerful worship service during a board meeting for GCSRW,” Rev. Mark Norman said. “I was introduced to Thursdays in Black: Towards a world without rape and violence, and it was truly a ‘God sighting.’ I was hit with the brutal realities that all women endure globally. My soul was taken back as I heard the ripping of cloth during a praise dance that was tied back together. My heart ached as I heard the libations of women from all over the world. As the worship continued people were so moved that began to share what was on their heart and not just on the paper. With each libation, there was the pouring of water that reflected the pouring out of their pain. We joined in worship and joined in prayer, and my Thursdays will never be the same. I will wear black to remember this worship experience and the struggle against rape and violence."
“The Legislative Task Force has been very intentional in its process for drafting General Conference 2020 legislation,” Katrena King, Legislative Task Force co-chair, stated. “Over the past few months and through several rounds of edits, the legislation has been crafted with the input of both board members and GCSRW staff. One of the forthcoming pieces includes proposed legislation to add the word ‘gender’ to the language of Paragraph 4.” The board of directors approved six pieces of legislation that will be submitted to the General Conference, including adding the word “gender” to the Constitution in what’s known as Paragraph 4, Article IV. Adding “gender” to the list of categories constitutionally protected from exclusion in the church will ensure that no United Methodist Church can discriminate against a person because of their gender. GCSRW’s legislation will be available online to view at the end of August.
The board uplifted and affirmed the work that GCSRW has completed throughout this quadrennium, satisfying the goals that the board set early on in the quadrennium derived from GCSRW’s mandates. Alongside their affirmation of GCSRW’s completed work, the board approved the proposed 2020 spending plan, developed continuity plans for the next board of directors, and worked on quadrennial reports to General Conference. The board will meet via conference call next March to finalize General Conference work.
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.”