Olson Reports to Program Advisory Group
Winds of the Spirit are blowing through United Methodist Women, bringing opportunities for change, growth and service. So said United Methodist Women chief officer Harriett Jane Olson in her address to the organization’s new program advisory group assembled for their first annual meeting Mar. 7-9 at Scarritt-Bennett Center in Nashville, Tenn.
Ms. Olson emphasized the need for the women’s vision and discernment in her presentation sprinkled with photos and images—blurred and then in focus—and based on John 3:8: “The wind blows where it chooses, and you hear the sound of it, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”
“We had snow flurries when we arrived in Nashville a few days ago. Then the wind kicked up, and we had rain. Then the wind kicked up again, and it got cold. Every time the weather changed this week, we had the winds. It was a sign … of change,” Ms. Olson said. “The wind of the Spirit moving in the churches. We’re beginning to notice.”
Pointing to house churches, innovative music ministries and young mission personnel, Ms. Olson said, “A new generation of people are putting down roots in the Gospel. People are looking for chances to connect to God.” The United Methodist Women national directors from the prior quadrennium developed the organization’s new more inclusive and flexible structure—including creation of the program advisory group, which includes representatives from each conference United Methodist Women as well as six of our boards and agencies, deaconess/home missioners, world federation—but there’s more to be done. Program advisory group members must be open to discern more new directions for United Methodist Women, she said.
“Every generation of United Methodist Women since its start in 1869, on that ‘dark and stormy night’ (we were born in the wind), responded to women’s issues,” she said, referencing the organization’s legendary first meeting in Boston, Mass., that women braved a rainstorm to attend. “Women’s right to vote, full clergy rights for women, civil rights, pubic education, public education for all—these issues did not arrive in some neat, prioritized order. We worked on many of them at same time. And the women of this organization did not always agree on how the issues should be addressed. Like the wind, the Spirit can seem to move in many directions at the same time. That’s one of the reasons we need each other. Like the wind turbine, we have to keep adjusting to where the wind is moving.”
Ms. Olson told program advisory group members their job was to help the organization listen and pay attention so that the organization can “follow the dance of God in the world.”
Ms. Olson’s report was followed by presentations on United Methodist Women’s language ministries, expanded leadership development events, work to end violence against women and advocacy for the U.N. Constitution for the Eradication of Discrimination Against Women. (CEDAW).
Yvette Moore is editor of response, the magazine of United Methodist Women.