General Conference 2016

COSROW, United Methodist Women Host Briefings for Women Delegates

COSROW, United Methodist Women Host Briefings for Women Delegates
Harriett Olson addressing Central Conference women delegates in Portland, Oregon.

Make your voices heard.

Those were the words to women delegates at two briefings jointly sponsored by the Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) and United Methodist Women at the Portland Convention Center May 9.

About 100 people attended a Monday morning gathering for Central Conference women delegates with French, German, Kiswahili, Korean, Russian, Spanish and Tagalog translations. Another hundred women attended a second gathering opened to all women delegates held later in the day.

The briefing for Central Conference women included practical tips on self-care during General Conference—like wearing layered clothing to keep warm in cold committee rooms and taking time alone throughout the event to reflect, journal and go outside for fresh air. It also included brief updates on proposed legislation of particular concern to women, like the readoption of the resolution on The Girl Child.

But the primary focus of the meeting was on encouraging Central Conference women delegates to assert their full rights and responsibilities as delegates.

“This meeting stands in a long tradition of working to make the voices of women heard,” said United Methodist Women General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson in opening greetings at the gathering for Central Conference women. “The fruit of that work is your presence here and your voting credentials.”

In a devotion based on Ephesians 3, Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala of Mozambique assured the Central Conference women they were not General Conference delegates by accident. “Whatever the process, God saw that you were the right person for this job,” she said. “God has a plan for the church. I believe that God has chosen you as an instrument for that plan.”

A panel of former Central Conference women delegates shared lessons learned from their terms as delegates.

The Rev. Eunice Lliya, a panelist from Nigeria, told the Central Conference women to read and re-read the Advance Daily Christian Advocate so that they knew the legislation before their committees and what their responsibilities as committee members were.

She also told them not to be afraid to speak.

“As women in the Central Conference, we can come from societies where women don’t have power, where women are told what to do. So to find ourselves here can be an eye opener,” Ms. Lliya said. “Know that you are created in the image of God and have the same rights as any other delegate here. So speak up.”

Panelist Emma Cantor, a United Methodist Women regional missionary, told the women to keep the issues of women, children and youth at the forefront by consistently bringing them up in committee deliberations and in conversations. “Issues are not separate from relationship. Make the choice to bring up issues impacting women and children,” she said. “If we can bring these issues to the front in General Conference, we have done our best.”

Panelist Helene Bindl of Austria shared her experience of being a delegate in a committee addressing a controversial issue.

“I was amazed at the harshness of the discussion about human sexuality,” Ms. Bindl said. “I come from a Central Conference that is very diverse, many cultural backgrounds, but I’d never heard anyone tell another to go away from the church because your views are different than mine.”

Dawn Wiggins Hare, COSROW general secretary, told the women if they felt threatened, harassed or bullied during the legislative sessions or elsewhere, they should report the incident to General Conference monitors assigned to each committee.

The event for Central Conference women also included time for small group discussion.

Some of the women expressed concerns that their votes and voices would not be heard because of the new technology being used to recognize speakers. “For us Africans, it would have been better to have had these tablets given to us a year ago so that we could learn how to use them,” one participant said.

The all-women’s delegates briefing likewise challenged women to assume their place as leaders at General Conference.

The Rev. J. Kabamba Kiboko, first clergywoman to be ordained elder in the Southern Congo Episcopal Area, opened the all-women’s briefing with a reflection on women’s leadership and the biblical story of Esther.

Esther, though initially hesitant, answered God’s call, heard through prompts from her family, and accomplished with support of her community, she said. “Everyone in this room is a leader. You would not have been elected as a delegate if you were not a leader,” said Bishop Debra Wallace Padgett of Birmingham Episcopal Area and president of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women. Ms. Padgett explained how the legislative committee process works, including the nomination and election process of chair, vice chair and secretary. She also directed attendees to the in-room monitors and the United Methodist Women and General Commission on the Status and Role of Women booth for further resources.

Sung-ok Lee of United Methodist Women and Becky Williams with the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women helped attendees practice the process of evaluating legislation by reviewing United Methodist Women and Status and Role of Women legislation. Women broke into groups based on the legislative committees they serve on. Facilitators lead groups through the committee process.

Critical Questions for Legislation

Women delegates at both gatherings were given a list of questions to help them as they considered legislative proposals in their various committees, including:  

  • Who is proposing this legislation? Who supports it and why? Who is opposing it and why?
  • How does this legislation affect the empowerment of and full participation of all women in The United Methodist Church?
  • Does this petition address or correct any existing patterns of inequality in our Church?
  • How will this petition enable more United Methodists to be effective in ministry and mission?
  • Does this petition embrace our United Methodist Social Principles and theological task? If my perspective differs from the “folks at home,” can I articulate confidently my reasons or rationale?
  • Does this petition require more money to be budgeted? Is the global nature of our Church reflected in the petition?
  • Are there groups or individuals who have dominated the discussion or debate? Did I seek input from key persons or groups who have not been heard?

United Methodist Women President Yvette Richards closed the gathering in prayer. “God, we are grateful that you have chosen us for such a time as this to make a difference in this world and church.”

Briefing participants said the event was helpful.

“They are trying to promote us as women,” said Gertrude Mukalay of North Katanga Conference. “Our voices need to be heard. We are not supposed to keep quiet.”

Tara Barnes is editor of response, the magazine of United Methodist Women. Yvette Moore is director of communications for United Methodist Women.


Posted or updated: 5/10/2016 11:00:00 PM
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