Response: October 2015 Issue

Responsively Yours: Rooted in Christ

Responsively Yours: Rooted in Christ

Recently I have been reading deeply about the history of our movement of women in mission. Some of this has been prompted by the anniversaries we are celebrating; we are looking ahead to celebrating 150 years of mission service in 2019, and this year the church is recognizing the 130th anniversary of protestant mission work in Korea.

I am also aware of how little other people know about our history. As one way to share our history with others, United Methodist Women sponsored an interesting and provocative history conference at Methodist Theological School in Ohio, led by some leading United Methodist history and theology faculty. We heard fascinating papers from them and others who are working to find and tell stories about our predecessors.

From the beginning the women who were part of the mission societies and associations were touched by the needs of sisters in many places. (There are at least 14 predecessor organizations to United Methodist Women. A list is included in The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 2012, ¶1322.) For many years they operated on the rubric of "women's work for women," and they formed direct bonds of mutual support with women — bonds not mediated by church or congregational structures. This included meeting immediate needs as well as sustained efforts to equip local women, establish schools and make it possible for women to obtain education in places where necessary education was not available.

A significant part of the organizations' work included welcoming and equipping local women around the world as Bible Women who reached out to other women far and wide, sharing the gospel and training them in literacy and basic health care.

From the very beginning, our Methodist and Evangelical United Brethren predecessors knew that this work was spiritual work. It was part of the call of God to them, as it is to us, to put our faith into action through prayer, giving, study and service. Then, as now, the women who joined the societies and associations wanted to be involved in something bigger than themselves. Many of their articles and prayers talk about their desire to "do something useful" — something that honored God and that made a difference for women, children and youth. This theme endures today.

For us and for our predecessors, doing something useful involved compassionate alignment with other women whose situations touch our hearts. Our commitment to justice impels us to speak out when we see people treated unfairly and to strategize to change hearts, minds and structures. Then as now, the women's mission movement did not see opening the soul to God as something separate from work for health, wholeness, peace and building of a society in which all can find their own flourishing. Being deeply connected to God through Jesus Christ is what impels and sustains our long commitment to direct service and advocacy for justice.

From footbinding, lynching and denying women the right to preach in the eras that precede us to mass incarceration, maternal health, wealth inequality and climate justice today, our rootedness in Christ takes us into engagement in the world. What a blessing it is to be "at home" in a movement that is bold enough to respond to the call of God!

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

 

Posted or updated: 9/30/2015 11:00:00 PM

October 2015 cover of response

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