Program Advisory Group

We Still Have Work to Do

United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group meets in Nashville

We Still Have Work to Do
United Methodist Women President Yvette Richards at the Program Advisory Group meeting, March 2016.

The United Methodist Women Program Advisory Group gathered March 3-5, 2016, at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tennessee, the final gathering of the 2013-2016 group.

Those gathered heard reports from General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson and President Yvette Richards as well on leadership development, conference giving, work with young people, Legacy Fund and General Conference. They also heard from the deaconess and home missioner community. The weekend began with a discussion of the Doctrine of Discovery and the Flint, Michigan, water crisis and ended with a workshop on ending institutional racism.

The group also heard from United Methodist Women’s regional missionaries, celebrating the 15 years since the regional missionary initiative began in 2000.

“The regional missionaries are our eyes and ears and heart on the ground,” said United Methodist Women Assistant General Secretary Andris Salter. “What we have here is a gift. I am so appreciative of what they do, of who they are, for all their gifts and graces, for the dedication and commitment to the work of United Methodist Women.”

United Methodist Women regional missionaries are not assigned to a conference or single project but to a region, with focus on women, children and youth. United Methodist women has worked hard to ensure that the missionaries aren’t coordinators of projects; the goal is to build relationships within the Link opens in a new window. Central Conferences, offer leadership development and support and learn what needs must be met, Salter said.

The regional missionary initiative was started to ensure that missionaries—and mission money—reached women.

“That has proved a very wise decision,” said regional missionary Catherine Akale. “The impact is immeasurable. Even within our church there is gender discrimination.”

The Program Advisory Group consists of the 25 members of the board of directors, the five United Methodist Women jurisdiction presidents, a representative from each conference not already represented on the board of directors, representatives from United Methodist agencies and the deaconess and home missioner community and, with voice but no vote, United Methodist Women regional missionaries and representatives of Link opens in a new window. World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women.

“Four years have come, and have gone,” said President Yvette Richards. “But not quite yet—we still have work to do.”

“We still have work to do” became the weekend’s refrain as the outgoing program advisory members gathered for their final meeting. Though for many women their role on the program advisory group may be ending, their leadership in their communities and in United Methodist Women remains.

“The past four years have been beyond measure. We are all blessed because God has us together. As powerful women of God, we must not be ashamed of our passion for mission,” Richards said. “We must get out and about in the community. We must get in the mix.

“The work we have done is simply remarkable. Be bold in letting others know—everywhere we go—we are United Methodist Women, and we can be proud about it. We are not going anywhere.”

Richards praised the sisterhood of grace and support that is United Methodist Women

“I thank you for being a bright light in a world that thinks we’re worth only 79 percent. You are change-makers in the lives of women, children and youth.”

Despite a downturn in giving at the end of 2015, United Methodist Women members gave $12 million in Mission Giving in 2015. Twenty-seven United Methodist Women conferences exceeded their pledge to mission in 2015.

“I like to stop at this time every year and really celebrate the giving of each and every United Methodist Women member,” said treasurer Martha Knight. “United Methodist Women is an awesome movement organized for mission.”

Total giving in 2015 was $14.2 million. Legacy Fund giving reached over $426,000. In the past 4 years, United Methodist Women has provided 1,500 grants for a total of $25 million as well as 326 scholarships amounting to $1.6 million.

“United Methodist Women is changing the world,” said Knight. “It is transforming lives. We always want to celebrate the gift as well as the giver. I can’t say enough that each member is a blessing.”

A longtime advocate for racial justice, United Methodist Women furthered its commitment to ending systemic racism with a final plenary featuring Link opens in a new window. Heritage University professor Sarah Augustine, co-director of the Link opens in a new window. Suriname Indigenous Health Fund.

“It remains true that indigenous peoples do not have ownership or control of their own land,” Augustine said. “They are fighting to survive in a world that wants their resources.”

The Doctrine of Discovery is not a historical artifact but a modern-day practice. Augustine lives on the Yakama Reservation, the largest Native American reservation in Washington State.

“I live 150 years after the invasion. The land, wealth and the economy were taken away from the people. Families were divided by the Link opens in a new window. internment of indigenous peoples’ children in boarding schools. The language and spirituality of the people was made illegal,” she said.

“Today the reservation where I live faces massive unemployment, hunger. There are more children in foster care today than there ever were interned at boarding schools. Young people ages 15-21 are 40 percent more likely to commit suicide than national average. We have poor air quality from dumping of animal waste by agribusiness, and that’s causing respiratory disease in children. We have water contamination due to dumping that is both legal and ongoing. Link opens in a new window. Hanford, a national nuclear waste superfund site, is in the seated territory, and there are increased rates of cancer on the reservation as a result. We also have enormously Link opens in a new window. high rates of anencephaly, and this is linked to toxic pesticide and herbicide use.

Augustine directed the program advisory group to ask:

  • Do we value the work of indigenous peoples in indigenous communities monetarily?
  • Do we most readily and generously serve those who most readily and generously contribute to our institutions?
  • Are we able to understand how words and ideas we believe represent a backdrop of oppression to others?
  • Do we expect the least resourced, most vulnerable among us to do the majority of the work dismantling oppression?

“Indigenous people are not just oppressed people—they are a people with a vision of hope for humanity. And that vision is the ability to live in harmony and sustainability. Wiping them off the face of the planet will only serve to remove that hope. Indigenous people are leading the way toward a true understanding of sustainability.

“We believe in a different world. We believe we are empowered to realize the kin-dom of God,” she said.

Tara Barnes is editor of response.

Posted or updated: 3/29/2016 11:00:00 PM
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