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Eleven women receive seminary scholarships

By Vicki Brown*
June 9, 2008 | NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)

Georgia Harkness

The 11 scholars awarded the 2008-09 Georgia Harkness Scholarships will visit Honduras in December as part of a continued program of global women’s leadership development begun in 2007.

Last year, the scholars visited Honduras and El Salvador to immerse themselves in the experience of women there and to share their own determination to respond to God’s call to ordained ministry. Heather Flaherty, a senior at United Methodist-related Candler School of Theology and a part-time chaplain at Atlanta Union Mission Community Ministries, found the trip and the women she met inspirational.

"One constant I found between the women in leadership roles in each of the countries was what seemed to be a shared sense of assurance and confidence. I found it remarkable that each of these women had found their voice, their place, and were making great strides in local churches to bring the message of God’s love," Flaherty said.

"The countries they grew up in are known for their machismo and holding women to their place, but these women, for all intents and purposes, seem to have broken through and found at least a small space where they can find equal footing with their male counterparts," she wrote of the trip.

The Rev. HiRho Park

The Rev. HiRho Park, director of continuing formation for ministry at the United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry, said the members of the selection committee found choosing this year's recipients difficult because all the applicants were highly qualified. The recipients are chosen by a committee of United Methodist elders and agency staff.

"We were also pleased to see an increase in the number of applicants from the 13 United Methodist seminaries," Park said. The board increased the number of recipients who will get the $5,000 a year scholarship from 10 to 11 last year as part of its strategic plan for 2007-2012.

Passing the torch

Harkness, the first woman theologian to teach in a Protestant seminary in the United States, dedicated her life to dismantling racial and sexual discrimination in The United Methodist Church and the world.

She taught at Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Ill., and was instrumental in the 1956 decision giving women full-clergy membership in The Methodist Church. She died in 1974.

The seminary scholarships are awarded to women over 35 who are preparing for ordination as United Methodist elders as a second career.

The endowment for the Georgia Harkness Scholarship Program is now more than $500,000, and the agency plans to increase that to $1 million by 2012 in conjunction with the United Methodist Foundation for Higher Education. Local churches will have opportunities to invite Georgia Harkness scholars to speak about their faith journey as women leaders of the church.

The scholarship recipients for 2008-2009, their schools, hometowns, churches and annual conferences are:

  • Kimberly Ladish Burke, a student at Perkins School of Theology, of San Marcos, Texas, is a licensed local pastor at Buda United Methodist Church, Southwest Texas Annual Conference;
  • Peggi Jo Eller, Drew University, is a member of First United Methodist Church in Endicott, N.Y. She is a member of the Wyoming Annual Conference;
  • Meg Kerry Hegemann, Saint Paul School of Theology, of Fulton, Mo., is a pastor, serving the two congregations of Riggs and Sturgeon United Methodist churches, Missouri Annual Conference;
  • Tonya Nicole Lawrence, Princeton Theological Seminary, of Princeton, N.J., is a member of Cascade United Methodist Church, North Georgia Annual Conference;
  • Nancy Sophia Lynn, Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary, of Evanston Ill., is a member of Chelsea First United Methodist Church, Detroit Annual Conference;
  • Genova McFadden, Gammon Theological Seminary, of Columbia, S.C., is a member of St. John United Methodist Church, South Carolina Annual Conference;
  • Melissa Self Patrick, Candler School of Theology, of Birmingham, Ala., is a member of Birmingham First United Methodist Church, North Alabama Annual Conference;
  • Dawn Marie Swartz, Methodist Theological School in Ohio, of Ashley, Ohio, is a member of Kilbourne United Methodist Church, East Ohio Annual Conference;
  • Joan Susan Utley, Drew University Theological School, of Huntington Station, N.Y., is a student pastor at the United Methodist Church of Lake Ronkonkoma, Lake Grove, N.Y., New York Annual Conference;
  • Kathy Lynn Williams, Saint Paul School of Theology, of Emporia, Kan., is a pastoral assistant at Grace United Methodist Church, Emporia, Kansas East Annual Conference;
  • Sherry Cothran Woolsey, Vanderbilt Divinity School, of Whites Creek, Tenn., is director of community ministries, West Nashville United Methodist Church, Tennessee Annual Conference;

For more information about the Georgia Harkness Scholarship Program, or to invite a Georgia Harkness scholar to speak at your church, visit www.gbhem.org/Harkness or contact the Rev. HiRho Park at (615) 340-7409.

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, United Methodist Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

News media contact: Linda Green, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or newsdesk@umcom.org.

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