The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women celebrated two milestones within the life of the United Methodist Church at an order of the day in today's plenary session at General Conference 2016. Narrated by Rev. Grace Imathiu of the Community UMC in Naperville, IL, a video entitled, “Are We There Yet?”
explored two significant milestones related to female clergy. In 1956, the General Conference session held in Minneapolis, MN, allowed full clergy rights to twenty-seven Methodist clergy women. Today we celebrate the 60th anniversary of that moment in history.
Also, at the 1976 General Conference session in Portland, OR, clergy women were elected to be delegates for the first time in history. Retired Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher was one of thirteen women to be a clergy delegate in 1976. This marks the 40th anniversary of that memorable moment.
Despite the celebration, Imathiu and Christopher ponder why it took twenty years for clergy women to be decision makers at the table. Brown attributed the slow movement to a cultural detriment known as patriarchy, or the assumption that maleness is the norm and standard. She said, “ When our hearts close, there is no room for God’s spirit to work within us. Close heartedness has been part of the context that has made it difficult for women to move through ministry in the life of the church.”
Moving forward Brown gives thanks for allowing all of God’s people to be at the table. She references wisdom from John Wesley saying, “Though we may not think alike, can we not love alike? And though we may have difference of opinion, can we not be of one heart?”
Dawn Wiggins Hare, General Secretary of COSROW and Alabama-West Florida delegate reflected on the special time this morning by saying, "How wonderful that we are able to choose to be a member of a church, our church, The United Methodist church, that honors the call of women."