Program Advisory Group

Program Advisory Group Meets in Nashville

The United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group met March 28-30 at Scarritt Bennett Center to worship and work together for women, children and youth.

Program Advisory Group Meets in Nashville
Harriett Jane Olson at the Program Advisory Group meeting in March 2019.

The United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group met March 28-30 at Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee. Climate justice was the theme as the 90-member group gathered to worship and work together to ensure women, children and youth are a priority for the church.

Those congregated heard reports from National President Shannon Priddy, General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson and United Methodist Women Treasurer Martha Knight and from the Legacy Fund and Reading Program committees and the deaconess and home missioner community. Attendees also participated in speaker coaching, a joint workshop on ending institutional racism and educational sessions on United Methodist Women social justice priority climate justice.

As part of United Methodist Women’s Just Energy for All campaign, before the start of the gathering United Methodist Women representatives joined representatives from Tennessee Interfaith Power and Light to deliver a letter to local Ford dealership Wyatt Johnson Ford in Nashville and call on the car company and its dealerships to honor clean car emissions standards. You can read the story here.

Program advisory group member Mary T. Nelson also led attendees in Native American pottery making before the opening plenary.

Nashville Area Bishop William McAlilly joined United Methodist Women for the weekend’s opening worship. Preaching on Mark 10:46-52 he spoke of the people in his life who have helped him 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 opening also included discussion of the 2019 special session of General Conference.  

Olson explained that there’s a spectrum of opinion across the church and within United Methodist Women about the decisions made in St. Louis and the church’s next steps.

“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.

“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.”

Program advisory group members also discussed the ways women can lead in the church, including serving as and supporting General Conference delegates. Working groups also discussed United Methodist Women legislation to be brought to the 2020 General Conference in Minneapolis.

Offering an invitation

In her Saturday morning address, Priddy told program advisory group members that now is the time to invite women into United Methodist Women.

“Membership in United Methodist Women is open to every woman,” she said. “However, membership takes time. Invest your time in women who share the Purpose of United Methodist Women and in women in the church if you want to see United Methodist Women membership grow. I am here today, a leader of the national organization, because someone invested time in me.”

Mentorship, faith and courage to seek and try new ideas are key to growing the organization and thus to growing the mission possible for women, children and youth, Priddy shared. New members help the organization grow, but the organization also helps members grow. But it all starts with inviting women to join.

“I believe United Methodist Women can provide a place for all women in every local church,” she said. “They may know we are Christians by our love—but they won’t know we are United Methodist Women unless we tell them.”

Knight shared that 26 United Methodist Women conferences met or exceeded their Pledge to Mission in 2018, up from 2017. 

Total Mission Giving for 2018 was $11.4 million. 

“Eleven point four million dollars for mission is a very important thing,” she said. “Every single gift is precious, blessed, and we are grateful for it every day.”

The weekend also included a celebration of United Methodist Women’s 150th anniversary, a milestone reached on March 23, 2019.

“It is time to celebrate the way our predecessors responded to the call of God in their lives,” said Olson in her address to the group. “In a context in which they had much less personal independence than we do, at a time when their ability to organize was sometimes constrained by law and certainly was challenged by church leadership, and at a time when their work was truly groundbreaking, these women took the risk of following God’s call.”

She challenged attendees to learn from predecessors’ practices of prayer and risk-taking and from their persistence even through internal debates to show up on the side of justice.

She also challenged program advisory group members to look to United Methodist Women’s Purpose in this time of transformation in the church.

“With sisters around the world we are praying for what comes next as we look ahead to General Conference in 2020. My question for us today is, can we take this time as an opportunity to become more truly ourselves?” she said. “In many ways, in the strategic plan, we find some guides in this direction, and so also do we find this in the commitment expressed by our board of directors to the important and countercultural work of staying together, focused on mission with women, children and youth.

“To do this, we will need to really go deep into our Purpose,” she continued. “We will need to stand with our LGBTQIA+ siblings, acknowledging their hurt and our own and standing for sacred worth, civil rights, human rights, protection from violence and bullying. We will need to deepen and strengthen relationships between women working for full inclusion of LGBTQIA+ persons and those who support the church’s current position.” 

It's a time for women to be alert to the changes happening in the denomination and for United Methodist Women members to live into their roles as faith leaders across the church, Olson explained, working for the good of the whole church and building a strong platform for United Methodist Women into the future.

“The future of United Methodist Women is what we make it,” she said, “with God as our helper.”

Tara Barnes is editor of response.

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