Halsey helps United Methodists watch out for women, children
4/22/2003 News media contact: Linda Bloom · (646) 369-3759 · New York
NOTE: A head-and-shoulders photograph of Peggy Halsey is available.
A UMNS Feature By Linda Bloom*
By Linda Bloom*
NEW YORK - When the Catholic Church sex-abuse scandal became
public, Peggy Halsey knew exactly how to handle queries from United
Methodists regarding the policies of their own denomination.
and others working for the church not only had already put procedures in
place regarding sexual misconduct and child abuse, but also had
produced "how-to" manuals and trained a number of people in the
denomination's annual (regional) conferences to respond to such
For more than 20 years, Halsey has tackled such
issues as executive secretary for ministries with women, children, youth
and families for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. After
a total of 33 years with the mission agency, she will retire June 30.
59-year-old native of Gainesville, Fla., had her first prolonged
exposure to mission work as a young adult in the board's US-2 program.
In 1970, she joined the staff of the board's Women's Division and worked
in financial interpretation for the next decade.
The creation of
her current office, first called "Ministries with Women in Crisis,"
came about as the church realized that mission work also encompassed
such societal ills as rape, incest, child abuse and sexual harassment.
it came to confronting such issues, "secular women in local communities
led the way," Halsey recalls. "But we joined in pretty quickly."
credits the late Lula Garrett, leader of what was then the board's
National Division, as being among those with the foresight to see that
the church could help these women and children and to ensure that the
work was taken seriously by making it a program of the board unit on
national and community ministries, rather than just part of the Women's
"If we hadn't done it that way, we wouldn't have had
access to men and clergy the way we did," Halsey explains. The Women's
Division, however, has always offered strong support and involvement
with the program.
Back in 1980, she didn't find as much
resistance as expected to tackling topics like sexual abuse - as long as
it was in the outside community. A more difficult task was "getting
people to acknowledge that people in the church were both victims and
Pastoral care then was basically confined to
dealing with death and, occasionally, divorce. Seminaries didn't touch
upon issues like child abuse or incest, she says. The first resource
book on such topics wasn't available until 1983 or 1984.
Marie Fortune, a United Church of Christ pastor, became a pioneer in
the area of domestic violence. As early as 1978, she participated in a
consultation with the board's National and Women's Division on this
special mission with women and children. "From the very beginning, her
perspective helped us to shape what we were going to do," Halsey
The Board of Global Ministries always has worked with
other denominations on addressing issues of violence and abuse. Much of
that work has been coordinated through the National Council of Churches'
Justice for Women Working Group and the Center for the Prevention of
Sexual and Domestic Violence, founded by Fortune. "We made an early
commitment that whenever we could, we would provide excellent ecumenical
and interpretation resources," Halsey adds.
resourcing, training and networking are key parts of her job. Within the
denomination, she has worked with the United Methodist Commission on
the Status and Role of Women, particularly in the area of clergy
In 1994, for example, Halsey's office and COSROW
co-sponsored a national training event for annual conference advocates
of clergy misconduct victims. That was a direct result of the many pleas
both agencies were receiving from those victims, she says. Every bishop
and cabinet was invited to send a team to be trained. Such training
opportunities, along with other resources, have continued over the
Halsey's work with the United Methodist Board of
Discipleship led to the establishment of policies and procedures for
churches on child abuse issues, as well as the development of a how-to
manual on "Safe Sanctuaries." Demand for the manual surged again last
year in the wake of the Catholic Church sex scandal.
years, she also has focused on issues like welfare reform and has been
especially pleased with the work being carried out under the United
Methodist Council of Bishops' Initiative on Children and Poverty.
has served as the board's liaison on the initiative since 1996. "I've
been moved by the commitment by a lot of the bishops to this," she says.
The work on children and poverty has given her a new depth of awareness on what it means to be from a Wesleyan heritage.
only real reason to be a separate denomination (in Wesley's time) was
to be with the poor," Halsey notes. "This initiative has tried to
recapture why we exist."
Through consultation work, Halsey plans
to continue pursuing some of these issues in her retirement. But she
also wants to devote more time to watercolor painting, a longtime
While much progress has been made through her office,
she believes the work related to abuse and violence and poverty is far
from over. She adds: "I hope it is not too long before someone young and
energetic and visionary picks up this unfinished mission agenda and
runs with it."
# # #
*Bloom is United Methodist News Service's New York news director.
Back : News Archives 2003 Main
“We believe in God and in each other.”The people of The United Methodist Church
Still Have Questions?
If you have any questions Ask
Purchase a $20 buzzkill t-shirt and help save a life
Buy a t-shirt