Program Advisory Group

Helping the Church to See

Bishop Bill McAlilly calls on United Methodist Women to continue to help the church see with the eyes of Jesus during the opening of the 2019 United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group meeting.

Helping the Church to See
Clara Ester (l), VP Board of Directors, and Noriko Yokokawa Lao, Pacific Northwest PAG, at the 2019 PAG annual meeting.

The 2019 annual meeting of the United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group at Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee, began with opening worship and a time to discuss General Conference 2019 with Nashville Area Bishop William McAlilly, who joined United Methodist Women for the evening.     

Preaching on Mark 10:46-52, Jesus’ healing of blind Bartimaeus, McAlilly spoke of the times he’s been blind and the people in his life who have helped him see with the eyes of Jesus.

“Culturally I’m blinded to racism. I’m blinded to immigration,” he said. “I have been blind to the plight of LGBTQIA+ persons and the struggles of those who are in the church and are disregarded. I wonder if I'm making any progress on my quest for cultural competence. I've taken the test—I don't know if I want to see the grade. But I do want to see with the eyes of Jesus.     

“United Methodist Women has helped, for 150 years, the church, the world, see with the eyes of Jesus,” he said.

The United Methodist Women spiritual growth study for 2019 is Practicing Resurrection: The Gospel of Mark and Radical Discipleship, which will be studied by United Methodists at Mission u events and in churches across the country. It focuses on the radical women of the Book of Mark and their bold and faithful support of Jesus and his teachings.

Part of what United Methodist Women offers the church is a place for transformative education, to hear the Gospel in new ways and, like Bartimaeus, see with new eyes.

“United Methodist Women does a better job than anybody I know of helping the church to see,” said McAlilly. “For 150 years you have gone to the margins. You have reached into the places of pain and suffering and you have loved on children who have been left. You have put your nickels and dimes and dollars in that offering every year and then sent those dollars into the mission field so that people can be touched and offered hope and possibility and promise.”

Special Session of General Conference

The opening also included discussion of the 2019 special session of General Conference.

“Since the conference, the church has had a variety of responses to the work that’s in front of us,” said General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson. “Conferences, churches, pastors and others have expressed discontent with the decisions that were made at General Conference. Others have said that the outcomes of General Conference were not what they anticipated but are actions of the church and they will abide accordingly. And others have urged the outcome and are ready to proceed in the direction the church has decided.”

Olson explained that there’s a spectrum of opinion across the church and within United Methodist Women.

“We’re in an extended, long-distance conversation about what it means to be a United Methodist Church at this time,” she said.

After the 2019 General Conference United Methodist Women released a statement acknowledging the pain experienced within the church and calling on United Methodist Women members to live into its purpose of being a creative, supportive fellowship and inviting women into leadership in the church.

“We have some members who feel the church is on the correct path and some who do not believe it’s on the correct path. And we have other friends and members who wish us to make a stronger statement,” Olson said.

She shared an open letter from the Upper New York Conference directed to the board and program advisory group written by three clergypersons and a layman and signed by thousands from across the denomination calling for “a prophetic witness” from United Methodist Women, asking the board “to publicly affirm and work for full LGBTQ+ inclusion.”

“We want to hear perspectives that we resonate with, and we want to hear perspectives we may not resonate with. We want our meeting to be a place where we can truly share and think about how United Methodist Women should, could, might, will live in this church and what we want to contribute to it.”

Deaconess Cindy Johnson spoke of United Methodist Women always being a place of community.

“We have different perspectives, but we do have shared values and core beliefs as United Methodist Women,” she said. “And one of those values is to love every single person.”

McAlilly reminded United Methodist Women that General Conference decisions affect the organization and called on them to use their unique relationships to help lead the denomination to becoming a better church.

“We’ve lost our capacity to have good conversations,” said McAllily, who encouraged United Methodist Women to continue to teach the church “how to have good conversations.”

“I want to say to you tonight,” he said, “that The United Methodist Church needs you more now than it has ever needed you.”

Tara Barnes is editor of response.

Posted or updated: 4/10/2019 12:00:00 AM
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