response: Sept./Oct. 2021

Responsively Yours: Charting Our Path

Responsively Yours: Charting Our Path

When national mission institutions and partners around the world celebrate significant anniversaries of mission service, I get to hear wonderful stories of change and new beginnings. Organizations that were founded to address one issue in 1880 have adapted to address changes in their neighborhoods and world many times. Some have moved locations. Some have grown into a network of sites. All have restated their purposes, updated their objectives, carried forward the call to serve God and neighbor. And most have changed names and logos several times.

The same is true for United Methodist Women. Women came together to respond to God’s call in all of the constituent denominations that are now part of The United Methodist Church. They founded schools, homes, missions and community centers. They trained missionaries and deaconesses and spoke out against injustice and in support of marginalized people. They worked in cities and rural areas in the United States and around the world.

They also navigated changes in the church. The 1939 merger that created The Methodist Church brought together women from home and world mission societies of the merging denominations. The women found their common mission heart. They worked to come together with their different histories and form new societies. Women in the Evangelical United Brethren Church had a similar history of joining together through changes in the church. We all came together in 1968, bringing our rich histories with us.

We have also seen changes in how women related to the church. Societies that began as independent organizations were merged, sometimes over the women’s objections, by General Conferences in which they did not have the right to participate. Independent societies became “divisions” of the churches’ boards of mission, with varied levels of independent authority. In The Methodist Church, the women’s mission projects were assigned to the mission board in 1964, where they remained until recently. An unintended outcome of this move was that the Women’s Division concentrated its efforts on mission education and Christian social action. We have changed and deepened our work in the midst of challenges, focused on women, children and youth and the call of Christ.

Nothing is constant but change, so the saying goes. Our current church landscape is unsettled, and changes are coming. United Methodist Women has prepared by taking needed action now.

We are and will be a place for all women who want to work together in mission focused on women, children and youth. Women have always been able to be members of United Methodist Women without being a member of The United Methodist Church, but we have made bylaw changes to make it clear that no matter what a woman’s church or conference decides about leaving or staying in the denomination, she can remain at home in United Methodist Women.

We are also looking at our own landscape and the great opportunity we have to welcome new members. Through research and testing, we have been working with members, leaders and nonmembers to make plans for new opportunities for women to join and participate, working together locally and globally for women, children and youth. Our churches and our communities are full of opportunities to make new connections! We are excited for our bright future.

Change is part of our history of following God’s call. Preparing for change and charting our path is also part of our history. God continues to call us, and we continue to respond.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women
holson@unitedmethodistwomen.org

 

Posted or updated: 9/2/2021 12:00:00 AM
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* Tara Barnes: Editor