Responsively Yours: Partners in Mission

Responsively Yours: Partners in Mission

As we look back over the history of mission service of United Methodist Women and its predecessors, we can see periods of great change.

In our earliest days, we created ways for women to serve in mission at home and overseas and built a legacy of listening to God’s call, preparing and deploying women in a wide array of settings. Many settings were connected to the mission of the church, but the independent work focused on women, children and youth preserved the independence of the women in our organization. This created a context within which our members and our sisters around the world could come to know God and become whole persons through Jesus Christ. Our tradition of independent funding is a strategic part of this work.

This took us to a level of engagement with racial justice in the United States that remains remarkable today. Methodist Women in the South participated in anti-lynching movements at the same time as some of their family members supported segregationist policies. It allowed women to express their own moral agency and work with others to make a difference. This work involved building relationships with African American women in the anti-lynching movement and in the Methodist Church’s segregated Central Jurisdiction.

In the 1950s and 1960s, church leaders outside the United States expressed a need for less control by mission boards and for the development of culturally appropriate ways to be the church together. Our own history of building institutions and staffing them with U.S. mission personnel had sometimes allowed for flourishing and at other times did not. The dependence on mission personnel inhibited independence and sustainability.

Also around this time, mission agreements and church merger created more centralization and weakened United Methodist Women’s relationships with the institutions we had helped build. In the 1990s this came to a head, and we created Working Conferences to hear from women overseas. Many of them felt abandoned. The decision was made, and negotiated with the Board of Global Ministries, to develop a new kind of relationship. We created regional missionaries, who would focus on women’s leadership development, rebuild relationships and create a new kind of mission partnership. Since 2000, our regional missionaries have been doing this work. We support the leadership of women in our partner organizations. We stand alongside each other in partnership.

As we look ahead to General Conference in 2020, we may see another evolution of mission relationships. The Committee on Central Conference Matters is working on a general or global book of discipline. How would this apply to the work of church agencies? Some have more work in the United States than in the Central Conferences, and some Central Conferences have their own counterpart structures.

In thinking about the possibilities for United Methodist Women. We began talking with members and leaders throughout Africa in 2017 and had similar conversations with women in the Philippines this year. We will also be collecting input from members and leaders in Europe and working with our own board and program advisory group to imagine the next phase of this connection of women in mission, supporting and encouraging one another, as we all become whole people through Jesus Christ.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 2/9/2018 12:00:00 AM