|Clergywomen of color build unity to build
United Methodist clergywomen sing and
celebrate during an opening procession of drums to begin
the church's Racial-Ethnic Clergywomen's Consultation.
About 300 women from six racial-ethnic groups
participated. UMNS photos by Marta W. Aldrich.
By Marta W. Aldrich*
Jan. 14, 2008
| LOS ANGELES (UMNS)
Sharing stories of serving God amid the vestiges of racism
and gender bias in The United Methodist Church, clergywomen of
color convened for the first time in 25 years to worship,
network and organize to build their influence within the
"This day, we finally acknowledge that
there will be no systemic changes unless we are united as
women of color," said the Rev. HiRho Y. Park, a leader with
the Board of Higher Education and Ministry, to open the United
Methodist Racial-Ethnic Clergywomen’s
Almost 300 women attended the Jan. 3-5
event, sponsored by the Board of Higher Education and
Ministry. Registered participants included 125
African-American clergywomen, 54 Asian-American and Pacific
Islanders, 30 Hispanics/Latinas, 18 Native Americans and 10
affirmed each other’s call into ordained ministry, discussed
ways to recruit and nurture young women of color to answer
that same call and spoke out against institutional racism and
gender bias in the denomination.
"… There will be no
systemic changes unless we are united as women of
color," says the Rev. HiRho Y. Park to open the
They reviewed a 2004
study that found that United Methodist clergywomen of color in
the United States do not feel substantive support from the
denomination, struggle with lack of opportunities for
appointments and visible leadership roles, and receive
salaries lower than their male and female
Leaders of churchwide agencies reported
to the consultation on their efforts to address such concerns.
The Commission on the Status and Role of Women will
spearhead a wider survey with other agencies during the
2008-2012 budget period on the status, salaries and career
tracks of United Methodist clergy, specifically to compare
racial-ethnic clergywomen’s status to those of white women,
white men and men of color.
The Board of Higher
Education and Ministry offers scholarships for women of color
and is working with United Methodist Communications to develop
a "Women of Color Scholarship" Web site. The board provides
annual funding for racial-ethnic clergywomen’s associations
and is supporting the formation of the Racial-Ethnic
Clergywomen Coalition as a result of the consultation. The
Women’s Division of the Board of Global Ministries is
developing seminars to address ethnic clergywomen and
A unique voice
Clergywomen expressed that part of their calling into
ordained ministry is to speak to critical issues––ranging from
poverty to immigration to discrimination to family life––with
sensitivities based on personal experience as women of
Delivering the sermon at the opening worship
service, Bishop Minerva Carcaño of the Phoenix Area urged
people in the United States to love immigrants as children of
"God has found a
brand new way to speak to issues of the day, and it is through
you and me, women of color," said Carcaño, the only female
Hispanic person serving on the church’s Council of Bishops.
"For some it is too radical a way and too radical a word, but
it is God’s way and God’s word."
"God has found a brand new way to speak
to issues of the day, and it is through … women of
color," says Bishop Minerva Carcaño in her opening
The United Methodist
Church has approximately 1,050 racial-ethnic clergywomen in
the United States among its 45,000 U.S. clergy members, which
includes more than 10,000 clergywomen.
statistics, consultation participants said it is easy to feel
isolated as a clergywoman of color in the denomination. Many
receive cross-racial appointments as associate pastors in
churches that are white or predominantly white.
called for more frequent churchwide racial-ethic meetings and
other initiatives to nurture women of color pursuing
theological training. The last churchwide gathering was held
The 2008 consultation gave birth to an
association for Asian American and Pacific Islander
clergywomen. The association approved by-laws and elected
officers on Jan. 5 as Wisconsin Bishop Linda Lee blessed the
group at the event’s closing worship service. Associations
already exist for other racial-ethnic clergywomen in the
"I truly believe that God is starting a
new thing, and starting the association is great news for
Asian American-Pacific Islander clergywomen and the wider
community," said the Rev. Motoe Yamada, a Japanese American
who was elected vice chair of the group.
Positioning for leadership
Speakers urged the clergywomen to position themselves for
appointment and election to denominational leadership roles in
the future, from the regional conference level to the church’s
boards and agencies to the Council of Bishops.
"We are seeing a trend
toward excluding people of color from the tables where
decisions are being made," said Erin Hawkins, chief executive
of the church's Commission on Religion and Race.
Bishops Linda Lee and Beverly Shamana
share a laugh prior to opening worship.
is less diversity, she said, among U.S. delegations heading to
the 2008 General Conference, the top United Methodist
legislative body which meets this spring in Fort Worth, Texas.
In addition, many bishops have no racial-ethnic representation
on their cabinets, she said. And the Council of Bishops will
lose two of its African-American bishops––Violet Fisher and
Beverly Shamana––to retirement in 2008, leaving Carcaño and
Lee as the only racial-ethnic women among active
"I challenge us as a collective group of women
of color to work to elect both an Asian woman and a Native
American woman to be our next bishops," said the Rev. Colleen
Chun, a Korean American serving Trinity United Methodist
Church in Pearl City, Hawaii. "I know that will not happen
unless we are unified in spirit and in power."
jurisdictional meetings, some participants explored building
coalitions and supporting candidates to the episcopacy across
racial-ethnic lines. The goal, they said, is finding leaders
who can serve the whole church, including people who are
oppressed and marginalized.
needs these voices at the leadership table," said M. Garlinda
Burton, chief executive of the Commission on the Status and
Role of Women, in an interview with United Methodist News
Service following the consultation. "It is a different council
because we have women and people of color at the table. The
sensitivities are different; the perspectives on evangelism
are different. There is no way a white man can speak for and
really understand all the struggles, complexities and cultures
of people of color."
The Revs. Ingrid Wang (from left),
Motoe Yamada, Nizzi Digan and SungJa Lee Moon are
officers of the new United Methodist
Asian-American/Pacific Islander Clergywomen
While the presence of
racial-ethnic men on the Council of Bishops is critical,
Burton said they do not speak to the total racial-ethnic
experience. Women of color elevate the conversation, she
"It’s one thing to talk about Jesus walking with
people on the margins and the oppressed. But someone who has
actually lived on the margins can interpret that message and
speak it in a way that’s very different. We have a unique
perspective of the Gospel that is vital to our core understand
of what Jesus Christ is all about."
*Aldrich is news
editor of United Methodist News Service.
contact: Marta Aldrich, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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