Response: April 2016 Issue

Responsively Yours: Learning, Leading and Relationship-building

Responsively Yours: Learning, Leading and Relationship-building

Like people, organizations have "personalities" that shape their activities and structures. Like people, organizations are most vital and effective in activities that call on all of their attributes and strengths.

United Methodist Women's personality has at least four components. First, our reason for being and our energy for the work comes from our faith in God, from saying yes to God's saving work through Jesus Christ and allowing the Spirit to move us to lives of discipleship and growing faith. Spiritual growth and spiritual foundation are essential to who we are. We know God calls others, too, and that they are fully capable of responding to God and offering their own gifts. This means that we are sisters to those we serve, not "in charge" but in partnership.

Second, we invest in and create leadership development opportunities for members and for women, children and youth in all the places we work. From organizing and participating in the work itself to programs at mission institutions and other supported organizations, leadership development is everywhere you look in United Methodist Women. Many women are already leaders, and to them we offer support and skills enhancement. Other women and girls don't think of themselves as leaders but can be. We also believe that our church, communities and world need the leadership of women in order to flourish.

Third, to equip ourselves to be partners, we study and learn from experts of many kinds, including through the stories of women near us and far away. Our learning is not just to acquire information and understanding — we allow the learning to change us. This means that our learning has many dimensions and takes place in structured settings and when we least expect it.

Finally, the expression of all of this learning, formation and relationship-building is consistent work providing direct service and participating in advocacy to change systems and conditions that exclude and oppress. Our serving, faith and learning compel us to get involved. Resolutions at General Conference, bringing concerns to business and government attention and working for policies that recognize women's gifts and needs are the natural outgrowth of our United Methodist Women personality.

These aspects of our personality are deeply interconnected. For example, this year's new mission study is on climate justice. Our theological rootedness is in God's creating work and God's love for all of this diverse creation. God has invited humanity to see themselves as deeply connected not only with our own "kind" but with the whole creation. How we treat the creation, including one another, and how we honor or exploit it is a profoundly spiritual matter. So we study and learn and allow ourselves and our patterns to be changed.

We also develop leaders through seminars, scholarships, grants and projects. Our "be just, be green" jurisidictional guides have been increasing attention to our commitment to environmental care and social justice concerns. Beginning at Assembly 2014, we have incorporated our 13 Steps to Sustainability in our contracts with meeting venues, affecting menus, linens reuse, recycling, racial justice and other matters to align our practice with our commitments.

Finally, in addition to learning from scientists and experts, we are listening and responding to those who are most affected by environmental exploitation so that we work in solidarity to advocate with businesses and governments to prioritize the wellness of marginalized communities.

Thanks be to God for the precious opportunity to stand as stewards and caretakers of creation and to bring all of who we are to this work. May God bless our learning and our doing!

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women 

Posted or updated: 4/4/2016 11:00:00 PM

March 2016 cover of response

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