Program Advisory Group

Friendship, Partnership and Relationship

Program Advisory Group gathers for its spring meeting

Friendship, Partnership and Relationship
Yvette Richards, president of United Methodist Women, at the Program Advisory Group meeting in March.

The United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group gathered March 5-7 at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee, for its annual spring meeting.
“Faithful and Flexible” was the unofficial theme director Vickie Newkirk gave the gathering as the group adapted and awaited snow-stranded advisors and staff traveling through a storm covering the eastern seaboard. The group heard reports from General Secretary Harriett Olson and national president Yvette Richards and on other program areas and partnerships.
“I am delighted to give you a little view into what you bold, edgy, loving, faithful and—yes—unreasonable women are doing to Make It Happen,” Ms. Richards said. “Since the last program advisory meeting we celebrated Assembly, gathered for a 150th anniversary and legacy training, hosted a breakfast at the Black Clergy Women’s Conference, and offered summer Mission u events and three regional Leadership Development Days,” she said. Ms. Richards also reported on her visit to the East Congo with other United Methodist leaders as part of the Global Ministries board, and she spoke of conference, district, local United Methodist Women and other events she attended.

Staff reported four new priority areas will be launched at National Seminar in August and serve as United Methodist Women’s priority issues for the 2016-2010 quadrennium.

“United Methodist Women members’ legacy is one of faith, caring for women and children, giving attention to the marginalized, advocating for justice and supporting Mission Giving,” said Susie Johnson, United Methodist Women executive for public policy. “In 2016, United Methodist Women will carry forward the work of our foremothers with spotlight issues that will build on the existing priority issues of domestic violence, human trafficking, immigration and climate change.”

The new priority issues will be:

  • Climate justice: Life-giving stewardship that promotes sustainability.
  • Maternal and child health: Life-saving access and education that promotes well-being.
  • Racial and gender justice: Protecting women and families by ending criminalization of people of color.
  • Economic justice: Inequality is a women’s issue.

Becky Louter of the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner explained why the world still needs women organized for mission in her report to the group.

“Because in the 21st century, we as global citizens are not sustainable in our relationships with another and with the earth. Because every two minutes, somewhere in the world, a woman dies during pregnancy and childbirth. Because criminalization incarceration, detention and deportation are being used as tools to control the most vulnerable in our society. Because the top 1 percent of our society holds 25 percent of the total wealth in the United States,” she said.

Treasurer Martha Sherman Knight shared good news on conference giving.

“In 2014 United Methodist Women members came closer to meeting their total pledge for any year since 2008,” Ms. Knight said. “In 2014 you all came within 99.2 percent of your pledged giving.”

In addition, 28 conferences exceeded their pledges, and 19 conferences increased their giving over 2013, Ms. Knight reported.

“We thank God for the gifts of every member,” she said.

Program Advisory Group members also participated in a workshop on eliminating institutional racism.

“As human beings, we’re drawn to righteousness, but institutional racism is alive and well,” said Anita Phillips, executive director of United Methodist Native American Comprehensive Plan and co-facilitator of the workshop.

Ms. Phillips shared an open letter to all United Methodist bishops serving in the Unites States on the Act of Repentance Toward Healing Relationships With Indigenous People.

“For Native American people, I lift up this letter to you. Please read this letter [PDF]. In it are some very concrete descriptions of actions you can take within your conference,” Ms. Phillips said.

“Do not grow weary in this work,” she said. “Hang in there. There is no other place in The United Methodist Church that is tackling racism the way United Methodist Women is.”

Cynthia Kent, chair of the United Methodist Native American International Caucus and co-facilitator of the workshop urged the Program Advisory Group members to affirm Native American peoples.

“We have to respect what Native peoples say and affirm who they are and where they come from,” Ms. Kent said. “United Methodists come from that traditional way of saying you have to stop being Native American to be a Christian. That’s a part of our history. We did a lot of damage. We’re going to have to go back and clear that up. And sometimes you’re going to just have to say you’re sorry.”

Program Advisory Group members heard reports on the growing deaconess and home missioner community, with 43 people currently in candidacy, and about United Methodist Women’s work with the Division on Young People, United Methodist Women’s Membership and Leadership Development section reported on Leadership Development Days, a three-day training event held in three regions for conference, district and local women; and Voices, a training event for United Methodist Women language ministries coordinators and conference presidents. The Communications section led the group in an exercise to help members tell their mission stories. The National and International Ministries section shared how Mission Giving is changing life for women, children and families in the United States and around the world. Assistant General Secretary Andris Salter cited work at Camden Community Center, a national mission institution in Camden, New Jersey, described anti-Ebola work in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and shared the stories of several scholarship recipients as examples of life-changing mission supported by Mission Giving.

Members also met in small groups with members of the board’s planning and assessment committee to talk about United Methodist Women’s strategic aims and to discuss how the work of the national staff and leadership in strategic areas would connect with work in their conferences, with the World Federation and with regions where our staff and regional missionaries are serving.

Preparation for the 2016 General Conference was also on the Program Advisory Group meeting agenda. Members discussed legislation United Methodist Women plans to bring to General Conference, the denomination’s highest legislative body. Legislation adopted by the body is published in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church or The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. Many current resolutions that relate to United Methodist Women work must be readopted, as they are set to expire.

Since November 2014 members of the Program Advisory Group and staff have been reviewing such legislation, said Sung-Ok Lee, assistant general secretary for the section on Christian social action.

“These resolutions were worked on in collaboration with other agencies as well. It is a collaborative effort along our relevant work,” Ms. Lee said. “Attempts were also made to ensure global perspectives to the resolutions.”

Once finalized and approved by the board, United Methodist Women will share the legislation it plans to bring to General Conference.

Tara Barnes is  editor of response, the magazine of United Methodist Women.

Posted or updated: 3/25/2015 11:00:00 PM