European clergywomen will have consultation experience
Aug. 22, 2006
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
A consultation for European clergywomen will be held in 2007, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner announces.
By Linda Green*
CHICAGO (UMNS) — The experience of the United Methodist Church’s
international consultation for clergywomen will be transferred to Europe
Feb. 25-28 to bring women pastors on that continent together for
worship, support and affirmation.
Bishop Rosemarie Wenner, the denomination’s first woman bishop elected
outside the United States, made the announcement Aug. 15 to directors of
communications and editors of annual conferences and publications,
churchwide agencies and organizations during a media luncheon at the
2006 International United Methodist Clergywomen’s Consultation.
In addition to Wenner, the communicators met with other pioneering woman
bishops — Violet Fisher, the first African-American woman bishop
elected from the Northeast Jurisdiction, Minerva Carcaņo, the first
Latina bishop, and Janice R. Huie, president of the Council of Bishops.
The bishops spoke about current issues, the challenges they face as
episcopal leaders and on the progress women have made in the
denomination since the 1956 General Conference vote that gave women the
same clergy rights as men.
Wenner, who leads three annual conferences in Germany, expressed her
delight at participating in the Aug. 13-17 clergywomen’s consultation
and in celebrating the 50th anniversary of full clergy rights for women
in the denomination.
In Europe, the Methodist church is the minority church, she said. “Being
with such a big and huge number of sisters is amazing. I wish all of
the clergywomen from Europe would have had a chance to be a part of this
very powerful event.
“We want to transfer our experience and invite other European
clergywomen to come together in Europe and celebrate,” she said. She
also wants to transfer the encouragement, empowerment and anointing that
the clergywomen at the Chicago consultation received, she said.
The European United Methodist clergywomen’s consultation will be held
near Frankfurt, and Methodist clergywomen from Great Britain have been
invited to attend, she said.
Wenner told the audience she was the “first” in all areas of ministry in
her annual conference, and she expressed pride at being a member of a
global church at the consultation and in sharing with clergywomen from
Sierra Leone, the Philippines, Congo, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Katanza,
Angola, Germany, India, South Korea, Liberia, Norway, the Dominican
Republic, Ghana and the United States of America.
She said the Methodist Church in Europe is small and has few clergywomen
— just 15 percent of the 350 ordained clergy in Germany are women. The
women pastors are sometimes on their own in areas where they often feel
the same isolation as their counterparts in the United States, she said.
“We want to transfer to them that they are anointed by God to their culture and their situation to share the Gospel,” she said.
?Feminization’ not a problem
Bishop Huie focused on recent discussions about the book, Why Men Hate
Going to Church by David Murrow. The author suggests that men don’t
attend church because it has been “feminized.” The bishop admitted to
the media that she had not read the book but she’s been hearing worries
about “feminization” of the church since 1970.
Arguments about a feminized church have been around a long time, she
said. “I was ordained deacon in 1970; by the time 1975 came along, I
heard worries about the feminization of the church. I would not say that
was a problem in 1975, and I quite frankly don’t think it is a problem
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
Bishops Janice R. Huie (left) and Violet Fisher meet with conference communicators.
She noted that since 1956, when women were given full clergy rights, the
number of ordained women has increased from 27 to 9,749 today. One in
five United Methodist clergy is a woman and 36 percent of seminary
students are women.
“It can be saying that we need to work clearly to help men become all
they can become,” as women have been helped to ascend to their current
levels in the church, Huie said.
The fundamental matter is the Wesleyan church has always had a strong
female component, she said. Research has shown that women were the
majority in the early bands of societies and classes, and women began
preaching then to fulfill the leadership needs, she added.
“I don’t think the increase in women is pushing men away by any stretch
of the imagination,” Huie said. “There is room for all of us at God’s
table. We need to help one another become all that God wants us to be.”
She thanked God for the 1,500 women who came to Chicago to celebrate
service to God and to the church. “Women are the backbone of the church.
Women get it done,” she said.
The conversation turned to challenges in their ministries and in the episcopacy.
Bishop Fisher told the media that one of her “biggest” challenges as a
bishop is “affirming women in appointments in a system that marginalizes
women to small membership and often rural churches.” She wants to
address that issue by changing the appointment process to a system that
empowers women. “I have done this very openly,” she said, adding she has
made sure that women pastor some of the “key churches” in the annual
Fisher said “it blows my mind” not to have African-American and Hispanic
churches when the population in the urban areas of Rochester and
Buffalo, N.Y., is basically African American and Hispanic. She said that
out of 600 United Methodist churches, only two are African American and
two are Hispanic.
For Huie, the challenge revolves around diversity. She is challenged to
encourage and support gifted, young and diverse women. The population of
the world is younger and very diverse, she said.
“As we look at clergy leaders, we don’t match the population. We need
more diversity in women and to help them find their call and support
them on the way,” she said.
Wenner told the media she is challenged to make sure the European church
does not say, “Oh, we have a female bishop; we don’t have to support
women in the church anymore.”
The critical issue, Bishop Carcaņo said, “is the hundreds of thousands
of people who are yearning for a ray of hope. Whether a man or woman
gives it to them, what difference does that make?” she asked.
While the church engages in its internal and institutional struggles
about power, Carcaņo said the world is becoming globalized, driven by
economics that are shaping the types of communities that we are going to
have. “I am not sure I want a community that is a cookie-cutter
community where everyone loves Coca-Cola ... and we’ve lost the
diversity of our cultures and our understanding of the spirit of God.
|A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert
Bishop Minerva Carcaņo speaks on issues and challenges she faces as an episcopal leader.
“Where is the church?” she asked.
Responding to questions about her vision for ministry, Fisher said it is
time for the denomination to get serious about the ministry of
invitation, which is evangelism. “Disciple-making for the transformation
of the world starts in the home first,” she said.
The church has the tendency to use programs for those already in the
church family “and does not seem to have a clear vision as to how we
take what we have to our communities,” Fisher said. “We have folk (who)
are looking for a word of hope, and we feel as if they don’t come inside
our doors, we cannot accommodate them. Something has got to change, and
it is called evangelism.”
*Green is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in Nashville, Tenn.
News media contact: Linda Green, (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.