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European clergywomen will have consultation experience

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A consultation for European clergywomen will be held in 2007, Bishop Rosemarie Wenner announces.
Aug. 22, 2006

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.

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A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

Bishops Janice R. Huie (left) and Violet Fisher meet with conference communicators.
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 in 2005.”

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 conference.

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.

Evangelism needed

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A UMNS photo by Kathy L. Gilbert

Bishop Minerva Carcaņo speaks on issues and challenges she faces as an episcopal leader.
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.

“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

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