Program Advisory Group

United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group Looks Forward

United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group Looks Forward
General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson speaks to members of the United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group March 6, 2020.

The 2016-2020 United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group gathered for its final meeting of the quadrennium March 5-7 at Scarritt Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee. The theme for the meeting was “Looking Forward,” as United Methodist Women continues the work of women organized for mission in a changing church and world.

A new board of directors will be elected at United Methodist Women jurisdiction events and a new program advisory group established for 2020-2024.

Program advisory group members heard reports from National President Shannon Priddy, General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson and United Methodist Women Treasurer Tamara Clark and participated in a workshop on implicit bias led by the Rev. Michelle Ledder with the General Commission on Religion and Race.

“You resemble the women in Luke 8, who supported the work of Jesus with their means but were also alongside him as he proclaimed the Gospel,” said Clark. “Our giving is changing the world every day.”

United Methodist Women members gave over $10 million in Mission Giving in 2019. Twenty United Methodist Women conferences met or exceeded their pledge, and 14 conferences increased their giving.

Meeting just after a large storm cut through Nashville, causing extensive tornado damage and loss of life, program advisory group members took up a collection for the United Methodist Committee on Relief’s U.S. Disaster Response fund, or Advance number 901670.

Attendees also heard from the Legacy Fund and Reading Program committees and the deaconess and home missioner community.

The time together included meeting as jurisdictions and in teams to help inform the United Methodist Women National Office strategic plan. The group also discussed the 2020 United Methodist General Conference, including United Methodist Women’s submitted legislation, which the group helped finalize during its 2019 meeting, and strategizing to support women’s leadership at all levels of decision-making in the church today and to come. They also heard from Bishops Cynthia Fierro Harvey and LaTrelle Easterling, who discussed and answered questions about the protocol of reconciliation and grace through separation. Olson also discussed legislation from the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and United Methodist Women’s presence at General Conference.

The gathering began with opening worship and communion led by program advisory group member the Rev. Eunice Vega-Perez, district superintendent in the Greater New Jersey Conference and member for the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, and closed with a message from Regional Missionary Grace Musuka.

Step out in faith

In her address, Priddy spoke of the need for United Methodist Women’s leadership, even as program advisory group members begin new chapters of leadership.

“There is work to be done at home and around the world for women, youth and children in the name of Jesus the Christ, who loves each and every one of us as whole persons. As we are. This is not goodbye; this is the beginning of the next chapter in our book of life,” Priddy said.

Romans 1:7-10 guided Priddy as she celebrated her four years as national president.

“We have done all the work to prepare and now it is time to step out in faith,” she said.

Olson acknowledged all of the work done over the past four years, on the new strategic plan, on membership, identity and relationship, on engaging social justice priorities, and on being careful stewards of the organization’s assets. United Methodist Women also hosted the Power of Bold Assembly in 2018 and celebrated 150 years in mission.

“It’s no small thing to celebrate 150 years, and you have been the leaders during this moment,” she said.

“We’ve focused on our identity in Christ—women becoming whole persons through Jesus Christ and tending to our own spiritual rootedness and growth. We’ve claimed our identity as women who listen and learn and act—in giving, serving and advocating. We’ve engaged in empowering women through scholarships, leadership development and in elevating women’s voices. We’ve raised our own voices in the church and in our communities and continue to stand with our global sisters as they do the same.”

Olson spoke of the organization’s commitment to being inclusive, from LGBTQ siblings in our midst to women whose conferences or churches may leave the denomination, highlighting the organization’s work to amend its bylaws to help ensure all women’s inclusion and its grants to the Trevor Project and Tyler Clementi Foundation to help prevent suicide among LGBTQ youth, a population whose rates of attempted suicide and suicidal ideation are much greater than for heterosexual youth.

Like Priddy, Olson reminded program advisory group members that even though their term may be ending, their leadership is still needed.

“As we think about how the work will go on from here, we might ask ourselves: What’s my role? Can I be one of the people who help my conference cultivate younger and more diverse leaders? Can I start a new unit or circle that experiments with a fresh approach? Can I ensure that United Methodist Women is recognized for our work—not because we need applause but because there is such a need for good news and focus on alleviating suffering and speaking up to change systems.

“Our organization will change, but our Purpose will remain steadfast,” she said. “Our relationships with partner organizations and with one another will change, but our relationship with God through Jesus Christ will never waver. Our giving model and grant-making practices may evolve, but funding the work that grows out of our commitments will continue. The tools we have available for advocacy and for the urgent causes of the day will change, but we will continue to speak up for justice especially for women, children and youth. The types of service we engage in will expand with the creativity of our members and the needs of the moment, but we will continue to put faith, hope and love into action.”

The group also celebrated Vidette Bullock-Mixon, corporate secretary, who is retiring in May, and celebrated one another at a dinner at the Frist Museum to honor the work done over the quadrennium.

“I am longing for a future where women thrive and are no longer quelled by systems of oppression. I long to spread the message of God to those around me,” said Priddy. “This is not the end; this is another beginning.”

Tara Barnes is editor of response.

Posted or updated: 3/24/2020 12:00:00 AM