|COSROW calls for work against racism, sexism|
Ending racism and sexism in both the church and the world is an
emphasis of the women’s justice organization of The United Methodist
Church. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
March 20, 2007 | MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (UMNS)
A commitment to justice for all and continued efforts to exorcise sexism
and racism are needed if The United Methodist Church is to meet new
M. Garlinda Burton
That is the opinion of the 45-member United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
During its Feb. 22-24 meeting in Myrtle Beach, the commission
affirmed "in spirit" a proposed four-pronged mission emphasis by which
the United Methodist Council of Bishops and worldwide Connectional Table
would set the future course of the denomination’s work and life.
However, the church’s women’s justice organization reminded
denominational leaders that "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the
transformation of the world" – what the church understands as its
"primary task" – must include working to end worldwide racism and
sexism, beginning in the hearts of each church member and in the "bones"
of each congregation.
Transforming the church and the world
The bishops, the executives of churchwide agencies and the
Connectional Table have proposed that all levels of the denomination
work together to transform the church and the world by promoting
leadership development, starting new congregations, addressing global
heath concerns and tackling root causes of poverty.
Members of the women’s commission said those strategies should include:
- Offering ministries with the poor that address systemic political
and social concerns and recognize that most of the world’s poor are
women and children;
- Making deliberate efforts to include women’s expertise, styles and
perspectives in developing effective leadership as laity and clergy;
- Recognizing young women, women of color and poor women as gifted and
essential to the growth and effectiveness of the church’s life and
- Countering sexism and sexual misconduct in the church through
dialogue and training about power dynamics and the rights and
responsibilities of leaders;
- Respecting cultural contexts of communities and churches, along with
committing to cross-racial and interracial evangelistic and
- Allocating financial and other resources to empower ministries in
rural and urban poor communities, as well as middle- and upper-income
- Including women and people of color at all levels of planning, ministry and leadership development; and
- Insuring that Christian education stresses the sacred worth and gifts of all people.
"A congregation that doesn’t invite and welcome people from other
races can’t transform the world," said M. Garlinda Burton, COSROW’s top
executive. "A disciple who rejects a pastor just because she’s a woman
is not following Christ.
"United Methodist Christians have nothing transforming to offer the world if we continue to cling to sexism and racism."
-M. Garlinda Burton
"United Methodist Christians have nothing transforming to offer the
world if we continue to cling to sexism and racism," Burton added.
The Rev. Rosetta Ross, a United Methodist clergywoman and professor
at Spelman College in Atlanta, echoed those sentiments. "Getting people
to come to church is one thing. But the church must also foster
compassionate justice in disciples and ask what it means to be
responsive and responsible Christians."
A look at South Carolina
Commission members heard from a panel of South Carolina clergy and
laity that opportunities for African-American women in the state have
expanded, and two of them now serve on the annual (regional) conference
However, black women still face challenges including a lack of
cross-racial pulpit assignments, racist stereotyping and resistance to
woman pastors – often by lay women, panel members said.
The United Methodist South Carolina Annual Conference historically
has boasted one of the largest black memberships of any region in the
United States. At the same time, while the rest of the denomination
banned racial segregation in 1968, a few Southern conferences, including
South Carolina, remained segregated until the early 1970s.
Bishop Mary Taylor
Today, however, racial and gender inclusiveness in leadership are
evident in congregations and other church agencies. Of the 780 pastors
serving churches in South Carolina, more than 19 percent (155) are
women, according to Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor, president of COSROW.
And nearly one-fourth (24 percent) of those women pastors are African
"Folks are learning in our churches that women can count money and
preach, that women can chair the trustees, women can scrape paint off
the walls," said Geneva Stafford, pastor of two United Methodist
churches, Jeremiah and Mount Seal, in Hemingway, S.C.
Laywoman Evelyn Gethers Burwell of North Charleston, S.C., agreed.
"Black women are now represented at almost every level of work and life
in South Carolina," said Burwell, a member of New Francis Brown United
Methodist Church. "Our unique gifts and approaches to leadership are
being recognized, and we are pushing for more and more inclusion of
women and people of color."
Panelists said roadblocks remain for racial-ethnic women with
leadership gifts. "Women, especially black women, are penalized if we’re
not ‘nice’ enough," said the Rev. J. Jeannette Cooper Dicks, pastor of
Cumberland United Methodist Church in Florence, S.C.
Along with fostering more dialogue and "sister-circles" of support
among black clergywomen and laywoman and mentoring younger women into
church leadership, the panelists encouraged the women’s commission to
push for cross-racial appointments and support for financially or
spiritually struggling congregations.
*Information for this story was provided by the Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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