RESPONSE: September 2018 ISSUE

Responsively Yours: Planning for the Future

Responsively Yours: Planning for the Future
Harriett Jane Olson, the general secretary/CEO of United Methodist Women, addresses the closing session at Assembly 2018 in Columbus, Ohio.

Assembly 2018 was a powerful experience for me. It was wonderful to greet so many sisters (and a few brothers), sharing hugs and a few tears as we caught up and learned and worshiped together. My heart was open to the biblical text in new ways through the dance and reflections and prompting to personal reflection. And the singing! I loved singing with thousands of women and that great band—sharing in praise to God, prayers for ourselves and encouragement for the mission. I learned things. I always do when I’m with United Methodist Women.

Assembly was also affirmation of the work that the program advisory group (which includes the board) and staff have put into United Methodist Women’s strategic plan and new operating framework. In addition to behind-the-scenes work, we made sure United Methodist Women staff and program advisory group members were leading workshops and community gatherings, showing front and center that United Methodist Women members are faith leaders. We included representatives from other United Methodist agencies and partner organizations as well, and we learned a lot from them too. The emphasis on partnership was visible in the large group of national mission institution leaders, the group of deaconesses and home missioners seated together in the plenary and in the bishops who were part of the event.

We also devoted attention and action to our four social justice priorities. We focused the call for workshop proposals on the topics and skills that are important to these priorities, and we lifted up the importance of inviting new women and teens. We even tried to plan for self-care with healthy meals and more space in the schedule (and yes—we have your feedback!).

Participants’ enthusiastic response to Assembly and the way we are already seeing the learnings being put to use are a testimony to the strategic plan and its implementation. Look for more innovation to come!

Moving ahead with the plan also means reducing expenses. The whole work of United Methodist Women is funded by member giving. Mission Giving is current funding from current members, and proceeds from endowments and other funds are the gifts of prior members. While Mission Giving has been on a declining trend, last year’s decline was more than projected. This year’s market volatility makes it unwise to expect that proceeds from prior giving will provide a needed cushion. Cutting expenses is always difficult, especially since it will involve staff reductions, but we trust that persons who accept the voluntary severance offer announced in July are following God’s call. We will miss them terribly, but we know God will continue to empower us to move forward creatively and effectively in mission.

As always, we rely on your prayers and on your giving. I hope you will join me in looking ahead with anticipation for innovation growing out of the strategic plan as we, together, turn faith, hope and love into action.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women

Posted or updated: 9/10/2018 12:00:00 AM