|Bishop celebrates God’s grace on clergywomen’s anniversary
Bishop Sally Dyck
May 8, 2006
By Victoria Rebeck*
MINNEAPOLIS (UMNS) — A United Methodist bishop
called May 4, 1956, a day of “prevenient grace” for clergywomen.
Bishop Sally Dyck, leader of the denomination’s Minnesota Area, preached May 4
at a service recognizing the 50th anniversary of clergywomen receiving full
clergy rights in the United Methodist Church. The celebration took place in
Wesley United Methodist Church, next door to the Minneapolis Convention Center,
where the Methodist General Conference cast the historic vote exactly 50 years
More than 100 United Methodist clergywomen from Minnesota and across the United
States marched into the sanctuary wearing their clerical robes. About 60
laypeople and clergymen also attended.
During the service, Dyck noted that some clergywomen present had not yet been
born at the time of the vote, or were small children not yet thinking about
“There was only one path for women like me” in her faith community in 1956, she
said. “And I scarcely had the imagination to think beyond that path myself. But
God was at work without my even knowing it.
“Thank God for prevenient grace because it is at work before we even have an
imagination of who we can be and what we can do.” “Prevenient grace” refers to
the belief that God’s grace is present in one’s life before that person even
|A UMNS photo by Julie Price
Ordained women process in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the denomination granting full clergy rights to women.
After the one-hour service at Wesley Church, which included communion, the
clergywomen recessed out of the church and down Grant Street to the convention
center next door. The clergywomen walked behind beribboned banners marking the
decade of their ordination. Each pole held a ribbon for each Minnesota United
Methodist clergywoman ordained during that period. There were only three ribbons
on the 1956-65 pole, but two rows’ worth on the 1997-2006 pole.
The celebration continued with a luncheon, where participants heard a recounting
of the history of Minnesota women clergy in the United Methodist Church and its
predecessor denominations. Three women and four men delivered an enlightening
and sometimes humorous readers’ theater skit with quotes drawn from the Daily
Christian Advocate record of the debate on the clergywomen’s rights motion. The
record showed that many of the objections to the proposal focused on the
difficulty of appointing a woman pastor to a church that refused one.
“Pity the poor district superintendent is the sum and substance of most of the
arguments (against women’s full clergy rights) that have been presented,” said
one delegate who supported the motion. “When I was a district superintendent,
the only time I needed any pity was when I was at the mercy of fellow district
Following an example in the Book of Habakkuk 2, worshipers were encouraged to
write on a sheet of paper their visions for the future, which were displayed at
the convention center. A number of the postings addressed inclusion: broader
recognition of the ministry of ordained deacons and the inclusion of gay,
lesbian, bisexual and transgender people in the ranks of the ordained.
|A UMNS photo by Julie Price
At the anniversary celebration, United Methodist clergywomen rejoice in song.
Half a century after women gained fully clergy rights, nearly 12,000 United
Methodist clergywomen serve the church at every level, from bishops to local
“The struggles we encounter on account of our gender aren’t the worst things
that can happen to us,” Dyck said. “They can make us strong and develop our
inner resources, even our trust in God.”
*Rebeck is director of communication for the Minnesota Annual Conference and an
ordained United Methodist deacon with full clergy rights.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Dyck recalled that after delivering a speech at her eighth-grade graduation
ceremony, her pastor congratulated her by saying, “It’s too bad you’re a girl;
you’d make a good preacher.” It was through her college chaplain, a woman who
was ordained in the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), that she encountered “her
calling made flesh” and realized she could be an ordained clergyperson, Dyck
Video Clip From Western N. Carolina Conference
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