Book chronicles women’s struggles for full clergy rights
April 10, 2006
By Vicki Brown*
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) — A book recounting the stories of the first women
to receive full clergy rights in the Methodist Church has been published by the
denomination’s Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
Courageous Past–Bold Future chronicles the
historic journey of the first women to receive full clergy rights and looks
still facing clergywomen
50 years later.
”The stories of the women in these pages carry hope for the younger
generation of United Methodist women. They are living narratives that bear
the pain and joy of ministry that represents the paradox of Christ’s
call,” said the Rev. HiRho Park, director of Continuing Formation for
Ministry at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
The book was published in conjunction with this
celebration of the 50th anniversary of the 1956 General Conference vote giving
rights to women clergy in the Methodist Church. It recounts the stories of
the 27 women who were received on probation at the 1956 legislative assembly.
Written by the Rev. Patricia Thompson, the anniversary book also tells the
stories of three women elders from the Methodist Protestant Church still serving
that year, as well as women elders in the Evangelical United Brethren Church,
which merged in 1968 with the Methodist Church, forming the United Methodist
Church. Thompson is pastor of Puffer United Methodist Church, Morrisville,
Vt., and Wolcott (Vt.) United Methodist Church.
The Rev. Patricia Thompson
First-person accounts of more than 280 women who were the first in their annual
conferences or central conferences to receive full clergy rights are included.
In the United States, these are the stories of the first woman in every annual
conference in every ethnic group represented in that conference to receive
full clergy rights. Many of the stories recounted in its pages have never been
told and recorded in one place before, Thompson said.
”This has been an exciting project for a couple of reasons,” she
said. “First has been the discovery of four Methodist Protestant women
who were ordained as elders in the 1870s in Kansas and Missouri before Anna
Howard Shaw was ordained in 1880, along with the first African-American woman
to be ordained an elder in the United Brethren Church in 1904.”
The stories reveal that God indeed calls women
to the preaching ministry, Thompson said, and they reflect the strength,
pain and sacrifice
that it took for women — especially women of color — to answer
Bishop Judith Craig said the book is “a marvelous way to gather the
cloud of witnesses that surrounds the descendant sisters and daughters given
birth by the wonderful array of ‘firsts’ recounted.”
”And the last chapter makes it clear that the journey is not finished.
More challenges confront women who feel the call to ordained ministry and the
United Methodist Church, whose polity insists on their inclusion,” said
Craig, compiler of Leading Women: Stories of the First Women Bishops of
The United Methodist Church.
Courageous Past-Bold Future is available at Cokesbury bookstores ($24.95,
ISBN 0-938162-00-4), and may be ordered by calling (800) 672-1789 or online
*Brown is an associate editor and writer in the Office of Interpretation,
United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.