RESPONSE: September 2018 ISSUE

The Power of Bold

Harriett Jane Olson encourages women to nurture and use their Power of Bold at the 2018 United Methodist Women Assembly

The Power of Bold
Alisha Gordon, executive for spiritual growth of United Methodist Women, helps lead opening worship for the United Methodist Women Assembly.

“Do you have a sense of the Power of Bold? Do you have a sense of that energy, of the world turning? Have you got a glimpse of the fires of justice or the dawn of a new day? Do you feel the power of bold within you?”

United Methodist Women General Secretary and CEO Harriett Jane Olson addressed Assembly 2018 in Columbus, Ohio, during closing worship Sunday May 20. She spoke about the power of relationships and about the need for women’s leadership today and into the future.

“There’s a relationship with a grandmother, with an aunt, with a sister, with the sisters in United Methodist Women that has planted and raised up this power of bold within you,” Olson said. “These relationships are so important to us. In many ways, they help us to see who we really are. They’re a place where the Holy Spirit works in us.

Olson encouraged United Methodist Women members to build strong bonds with one another while also making space to invite new women into the opportunities for spiritual growth, transformative education, leadership development and service and advocacy that is United Methodist Women. It’s in relationship that women can equip one another and discern the needs of sisters close by and far away, Olson said.

The need for women leaders

“Our organization has always, consistently equipped women for leadership. We know that the leadership is needed, and we know that we have the capacity within us, and so we do the work.”

Unequal pay, women’s underrepresentation in government and on corporate boards, and sexual abuse and harassment are reasons Olson cited for needing women faith leaders.

“I believe United Methodist Women is as needed today as it has ever been,” she said.

United Methodist Women priority areas

Olson shared the advocacy areas in which United Methodist Women has determined it can make the most impact: economic inequality, climate justice, maternal and child health and the criminalization of communities of color. Specifically, these take the form of advocating for a living wage, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, pushing for state maternal mortality review boards and disrupting the school-to-prison pipeline.

Olson also spoke of a fifth area needing the organization’s attention: The United Methodist Church.

“We’ve got work to do—right in our own United Methodist Church,” said Olson, referring to two failed amendments to the denomination’s constitution that would name gender equity an urgent matter of the church.

“Sisters, this is a great time to invite more and more people to attend Mission u,” she said, naming it as a place where United Methodists can learn the theology that opens them to gender equality.

Olson talked about the strained relationships within The United Methodist Church as the denomination approaches a special session of its General Conference during which the church will vote on whether to allow or continue banning LGBT individuals from serving as clergy or being married in its churches. The United Methodist Council of Bishops brought together a cross-section of the church to meet and determine a plan to keep the church united while not harming any of its members.

United Methodist Women members took part in praying for this Commission on the Way Forward and in conference and local conversations about their vision for how the church can grow in mission and discipleship while acknowledging deep differences of perspective.

“I thank each of you who have engaged in these conversations on The Way Forward. It’s a commitment that we have to listen to one another, to hear the stories from our sisters that are their real stories and to love one another and to listen to how God loves us,” Olson said. “One thing that we know in this organization is that there are many things that we see differently. We’ve discovered, however, when we’re committed to common work, we can do so much together.”

And as part of United Methodist Women, members learn, grow and transform.

Securing the future

“We know that we are a solid organization. Our past is a springboard—but it’s not a guarantee of our future. To be the organization that we want to be in the next 10, 20, 30 years we will need to invest ourselves. It requires a lot to keep up in a rapidly changing world and a rapidly changing global system. We need to attend to it. We need to be willing and courageous and encouraged to make deep change in our organization, because God is calling us forward.”

United Methodist Women foremothers left a solid financial foundation for the work of women in mission today, and members’ Mission Giving is what sustains this work for women, children and youth. Now, the Legacy Fund endowment has been set up to secure funds for the future. As United Methodist Women celebrates its 150th anniversary in 2019, the Legacy Fund has been established to ensure work for 150 more years.

“And United Methodist Women, you have never been worried about struggle. In fact, you were formed to struggle. We have a history of struggle. We know how to do this. In fact, change, and working for change, is part of who we are.”

Called to be bold

Olson ended her address with three key instructions for Assembly attendees: Lead, invite and mobilize for justice.

“Our organization leads. Our members lead. The organization has a role in your church and your community. I invite you and maybe even challenge you to stretch your personal leadership role and to think about the way your unit, your district, your conference can engage as a leader in the causes to which we’re committed,” she said.

“This is also a time for inviting new voices. Today’s women need a place to join this organization and offer their leadership,” Olson continued.

Olson also called on attendees to mobilize for justice, to commit to advocacy on at least one of the priority areas Assembly participants learned about at the event. She encouraged United Methodist Women members and partners to step outside their comfort zones in discerning and acting on needs in their communities and states.

“This is the time for our own, bold, action! United Methodist Women, Elizabeth said yes to God. Mary said yes to God. Our predecessors said yes to God. You are also saying yes to God! You are bold. You are leaders. Together, we are powerful. And the time is now!”

Tara Barnes is editor of response.

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

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