response: January/February 2020 Issue

United Methodist Women General Conference Legislation

United Methodist Women brings four new petitions to General Conference 2020 that call on the church to prioritize women, children and youth.

United Methodist Women General Conference Legislation
United Methodist Women Regional Missionary Hikari Chang at a vigil for climate justice at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference.

In 2019, United Methodist Women celebrated its 150th anniversary. If the past 150 years have taught us anything, it’s that women organized for mission are essential for the church to be the church God calls it to be. God is still looking for women committed to improving lives of women, children, youth and neighbors finding hard times and being pushed aside. As United Methodist delegates from around the world prepare to meet this May at General Conference, God is calling women to organize for mission for such a time as this.

The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church requires every local church, district, conference and jurisdiction to have an organization of United Methodist Women. It also requires a national organization to, among other duties, interpret United Methodist Women’s role in fulfilling the church’s mission; recommend programs and policies; develop mission theology; provide resources; secure funds; support regional missionaries, national mission institutions and deaconesses and home missioners; and express the concerns of women organized for mission (¶1903). One way in which United Methodist Women fulfills its Purpose is by bringing petitions to the General Conference that prioritize women, children and youth.

In 2020 United Methodist Women will be bringing four new pieces of legislation to be included in the church’s Book of Resolutions, on observing Children’s Sabbath, protecting the girl child, protecting voting rights, and the status of women and realizing full human rights. The current titles of the legislation are “Children’s Sabbath,” “The Girl Child,” “The Status of Women,” and “Voting Rights Protections in the United States.” You can read the complete text at unitedmethodistwomen. org/gc2020.

All delegates and legislation at General Conference are first assigned to committees before coming before the full conference. At the 2020 General Conference, 862 delegates will be assigned to 14 committees, with likely more than 1,000 petitions divided among the committees. Petitions that pass in committee come to the full body for a vote. As the May conference gets underway, United Methodist Women will keep members updated on the status of its legislation on its website and social media, and you’ll be able to track legislation at umcgc.org.

Prioritizing children

The petition “Children’s Sabbath” identifies the third Sunday in October as The United Methodist Church’s U.S. observance of Children’s Sabbath and adds it to the program calendar of the church. Children’s Sabbath is a multifaith weekend encouraging worshippers across the country to focus prayers, programs, services and action on learning about problems facing children and on sacred teachings calling us to love and protect children. The observance is endorsed by the General Board of Global Ministries, United Methodist Women and the General Board of Church and Society as well as the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA, an ecumenical agency of which The United Methodist Church is a member. Resources are produced and distributed by the Children’s Defense Fund. The petition does not seek for the observance to be one of the church’s Special Sundays, so no offering collection is involved, just a call for the church to designate time to prioritize children.

The Girl Child” focuses on the wellbeing of girls and the challenges preventing girls from living lives free of gender-based subjugation. This petition calls on the church to engage in advocacy to rectify conditions that limit girls from reaching their fullest potential in safe and healthy environments, asking for the church’s help in ending child marriage, female genital mutilation and child labor and in ensuring girls have access to clean water, safe homes and quality health care and education.

The rights of women

In 2020 the United States celebrates the 100th anniversary of the passage of the 19th amendment giving women the right to vote. As we honor the work of the women’s suffrage movement we also recognize and lament that women of color in many cases did not reap benefits from passage of the 19th amendment. Despite the active work of women of color for women’s suffrage, many were left without the right to vote for many more years. The history of voting rights in the United States has been fraught with practices of extreme violence, intimidation and systemic disenfranchisement of people of color, and recent research shows that African American and Latinx voters are far more likely to face obstacles to voting than white voters.

The United Methodist Church has a historic and present commitment to racial justice, equity and equality under the law. “Voting Rights Protections in the United States” calls attention to the disproportionate impact of voter suppression and disenfranchisement of communities and women of color in the United States and recruits the church into ensuring all communities have access to full and equitable rights in the voting polls.

In the 21st century, women have still not achieved equitable status in church and society, with the poorest and most marginalized women experiencing the greatest inequality. Efforts toward women’s equality must specifically address these different realities. “The Status of Women” calls on the church to address rights of women and work toward women’s equity globally in areas such as education, health, violence against women, migration, climate justice and media—work that moves us all toward Beloved Community.

What can you do?

Tell your story: Why are you a United Methodist Women member? How does God call you to put faith, hope and love into action? What does being United Methodist mean to you?

Pray: Pray for the denomination and General Conference organizers and delegates. Pray especially for women delegates and fellow United Methodist Women members serving as delegates as they work to make sure the church prioritizes women, children and youth.

Celebrate: Be sure to celebrate and support United Methodist Women members who have stepped up to leadership in the church.

Learn: Learn more about what The United Methodist Church believes, about General Conference and about the plans and petitions delegates will be voting on.

Reach out: Let your conference’s delegates to General Conference know that you’re a United Methodist Women member and are praying for them. Ask how you can support them.

Promote: Talk about United Methodist Women’s legislation to change lives of the marginalized. Talk about our Christ-centered mission to protect the vulnerable. Tell the church to listen to women.

Give: Giving to United Methodist Women has gone up in 2019. Members know United Methodist Women is a faithful steward of mission dollars. In the past quadrennium, United Methodist Women has allocated more than $30 million for member development programs and support for more than 90 national mission institutions and projects and international ministries and scholarships. Our international presence is driven by our regional missionaries, who partner with Methodist and United Methodist Women organizations in 21 African countries, 24 annual conferences of the Philippines, 12 countries in the Caribbean and 10 countries of Latin America through program and mission leadership. We’ve educated and acted on a living wage, climate justice, ending the school-to-prison pipeline and maternal and child health, and we’ve consecrated deaconesses and home missioners, laypeople with a passion for God and a commitment to full-time ministry in service vocations such as parish nursing, social services, photojournalism and Christian education.

Love: Love God. Love one another. Love the church. Be open to nudges from the Holy Spirit and to the voices you may not always hear. Let love be the lens through which you view all of God’s children.


Tara Barnes is editor of response.

Posted or updated: 1/2/2020 12:00:00 AM
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