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50 ways to honor your clergywoman

LINK: Click to open full size version of image
A UMNS photo by Tim Tanton

Women are active at all levels of the church. Bishops Charlene Kammerer (foreground, left) and Violet Fisher (foreground, right) join in a blessing at the Council of Bishops’ fall gathering.
Dec. 6, 2005

A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*

Take a clergywoman to lunch.

Or honor her with flowers on the altar, create a scholarship in her name, invite her to preach at your church.

These are some of the 50 suggestions offered on a poster marking “50 Ways to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Full Clergy Rights for Women” in the United Methodist Church.

The full-size poster, available for purchase, is a joint project of the denomination’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women and Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

Designed to give local congregations, pastors, Sunday school teachers, youth groups and others ideas on how to mark the anniversary, the poster also promotes awareness of the history and current role of clergywomen, according to M. Garlinda Burton, the commission’s chief executive.

Burton said she became more aware of the longtime contributions of women in the denomination as she worked on the poster project.

“Long before we officially started ordaining women, women have been pastors and preachers,” she explained. “In 1956, we just caught up with what had been an ancient Judeo-Christian practice of having women preach and teach.”

As the poster points out, Sarah Crosby became the first woman, in 1761, licensed to preach by John Wesley, the founder of Methodism. Today, nearly one-quarter of all United Methodist clergy are women.

Burton said the United Methodist Church has a commendable record when it comes to recognizing the gifts of women. “I’m always proud of what a pacesetter our denomination has been. People continue to look to us as a role model for nurturing and training and allowing women’s gifts to have impact.”

Among the poster’s suggestions for marking the 50th anniversary:

  • Write a note to a female pastor, missionary or bishop who has influenced your life.
  • Create a scholarship in honor of the first clergywoman in your conference.
  • Honor clergywomen in the congregation, district or conference during Women’s History Month in March.
  • Sponsor a listening event where clergywomen of color talk about the challenges they face.
  • Invite teen girls to your next clergywomen’s gathering.
  • Learn the names of the 16 active and four retired women bishops.
  • Use music, art, stories and drama to explore themes of women in ministry.
  • Visit the Anna Howard Shaw Center at United Methodist-related Boston University School of Theology.

One copy of the poster is being mailed to every local church, as well as to chairpersons of annual conference commissions on the status and role of women, according to Burton.

Her agency is also creating a button for the 50th anniversary, which she expects will be ready after the first of the year.

Ordering information will be available soon at

*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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50 Ways to Celebrate the 50th Anniversary (PDF)