Response: April 2014 Issue

Responsively Yours: Be Inspired. Be Challenged.

Responsively Yours: Be Inspired. Be Challenged.
First Lady Hillary Clinton speaks at the U.N. Conference on Women in Beijing, China, in September 1995.

Assembly is amazing. Every four years, thousands of women from all over the country and all over the world gather for worship, challenge and transformation. The energy, commitment, colors, spiritual connection and joy of being together pulses in hallways and gathering places. We gather to see friends, meet new sisters in faith, root ourselves in scripture and the love of God and to learn about the needs of women, children and youth and how we, called together by God, can work to meet needs and challenge systems of oppression and exclusion.

Over the years we have heard from Nobel Prize winners, a U.S. Surgeon General, journalists, leaders of nonprofit organizations, bishops and theologians, women leaders in other faith traditions, and musicians, dancers, artists, writers, activists, leaders of large and small groups and members of United Methodist Women. We invite people who inspire and challenge us and who have something to contribute to growing as a movement of United Methodist women loving God, self and neighbor.

United Methodist Women has invited former Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to speak to us about global women’s leadership and the role and power of women with influence to make a space for grassroots leaders. Some of us think this is fabulous, and others worry it will be seen as a political statement or endorsement. Of course, we cannot determine how others see our invitation and the secretary’s acceptance of it, but I want you to know what I think: As a woman who is working to make a difference for women, children and youth, I want to hear what Ms. Clinton has learned from her lifetime of work. She was formed by Methodist Youth experiences, as I was. She worked for women and children while engaged in work outside the home while also raising a daughter who is now an activist in her own right. When she was tapped for high office, she brought these commitments into the U.S. Department of State and made changes in everything from budgeting to travel and schedule to invest in developing women leaders.

When Bishop Richard Wilke introduced Ms. Clinton to the United Methodist General Conference in 1996 he said, “Her concern for children reaches back to immunization of children in Arkansas, to presidency of the Children’s Defense Fund. Each year she and the governor honored volunteers of Camp Aldersgate, our United Methodist work with children having illnesses or handicapping conditions [and United Methodist Women National Mission Institution]. … I was not surprised when she spoke so forcefully in China, pleading for children, women, human rights.”

With our colleagues at the United Nations, we are working to make the 20th anniversary of the U.N. World Conference on Women in Beijing more than an historical marker. Ms. Clinton crystalized the basis for the contemporary work for women by declaring “women’s rights are human rights,” and I’m looking forward to what she has to say to us.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 3/31/2014 11:00:00 PM
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