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Agency Q&A: Status and Role of Women


General Conference 2012

Editor’s Note: As the 2012 General Conference approaches, United Methodist News Service is looking at details of legislation and offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. A number of proposals are aimed at restructuring the denomination and its general ministries, so UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church. This is the response from the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

Logo for the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

1. One issue to be debated at General Conference is restructuring. What would the church miss if your agency no longer existed?

Without the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women, the church would miss accountability for full inclusion of women. We still have a significant number of annual conferences or regions that are not fully committed to having women pastors, clergy, finance chairpersons, pastors of large-membership churches and church planters. Status and Role of Women is the only entity in the denomination that is consistently reminding us that the Jesus movement was — and is — countercultural in its equalization of women and men in all realms of our faith.

2. What is your agency’s primary mission? How do you accomplish this in the most effective manner?

We exist to uphold the call of Galatians 3:28 that all are one, all are equal and all are part of God’s plan through Christ Jesus. Specifically, we challenge the church to overcome the sin of sexism, sexual exploitation, gender discrimination and idolatry as expressed in patriarchy. Either we are all equally beloved, called, sent and anointed as children of God or we fall short of the gospel mandates we proclaim.

Garlinda Burton
A web-only photo courtesy of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
Garlinda Burton
A web-only photo courtesy of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

3. Name at least one exciting thing in which your agency has been involved during the current quadrennium. How does it relate to the Four Areas of Focus?

We have provided support for central conference women’s self-determination by supporting the African clergywomen’s consultation and a survey of, by and for lay and clergywomen in the Philippines on the critical issues they face. We also pulled together the largest-ever consultation on misconduct intervention and prevention to help church leaders confront the issues of clergy/leader sexual abuse. If we want The United Methodist Church to be a credible witness to the gospel, we have to deal with hard issues that threaten to blunt that witness.

4. How does the average United Methodist pastor or member benefit from your agency’s work? Social advocacy? Curriculum? Scholarships? Please give a concrete example, ideally quoting a testimonial from someone outside of your agency.

If you have an effective woman bishop, superintendent or pastor, it is because Status and Role of Women advocated and challenged the church to open those doors. Our agency took the lead and invited us to explore the role of language and its impact on our worship, devotional life and biblical understanding. We were the agency that called General Conference to mandate policies and practices to address sexual harassment and misconduct for every annual conference. We have launched key church leaders into their roles. Many of the women — and men — bishops serving now have been members of the commission at the congregational, conference and churchwide level. We believe what they learned about justice-making, inviting all voices to a common table and engaging women and men in a more loving and egalitarian way have served the church — and our Christ — well.

5. How much money and how many employees does it take to maintain the work your agency is currently doing?

We are getting more requests than we can handle right now, as central conference women and men are discovering our work. At least four new commissions have started in Africa, and at least one is active in the Philippines. We do a lot with the relatively small budget we have, thanks to partnerships with other agencies. But if we could have $1.5 million a year (about $6 million a quadrennium), we could provide more resources and support more advocacy beyond the United States. We also want to invite more young women, more low-income women and more new-to-church women into connection with our church and the opportunities it provides.

Learn more: Website of the United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

For more information, visit the 2012 General Conference website.

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