Cutting-Edge Ministries and Commissioning of Deaconesses and Home Missioners
When anyone asks about the nature of a home missioner’s or deaconess’s service, Becky Louter, a deaconess and the executive for the Deaconess and Home Missioner administrative office with the national United Methodist Women, simply points to the long history of the work dating back to 1888 when deaconesses provided hospitality and kindness to those on the margins. Ms. Louter celebrates the deaconesses who welcomed immigrants arriving to the United States in the early 1900s and the deaconesses who stood in solidarity with those who fought for Civil Rights in the 1960s. The legacy continues.
On Sunday April 29, 2012, at Palma Ceia United Methodist Church in Tampa, Fla., 17 new deaconesses and home missioners will join this long-standing United Methodist community of mercy and justice during the United Methodist General Conference.
Fifteen deaconesses and two home missioners will be commissioned along with 24 missionaries of the General Board of Global Ministries in a worship service celebrating the diversity of mission service. (The service will be live streamed.) The deaconesses and home missioners will commit themselves to continuing ministries with senior citizens, prisoners, volunteers, children and teenagers in hospitals, jails, schools, firehouses, offices and churches.
Deaconesses and home missioners are firmly planted in the United Methodist connection through annual conferences. Ms. Louter explains, “Our office works in consultation with the bishop of the area in the processing of appointments for deaconesses and home missioners. The bishops fix the appointments during a session of annual conference.”
Recently, when a detractor proposed General Conference legislation limiting the work of deaconesses and home missioners, specifically questioning the work of Rachel Harvey who is placed with the Reconciling Ministries, a network of support, advocacy and inclusivity for all people of all sexual orientations and gender identities, the Northern Illinois Conference Cabinet and Bishop Hee-Soo Jung made the following supportive statement:
Deaconesses and home missioners represent the church and God’s grace in settings within and beyond The United Methodist Church. Historically, deaconesses proclaimed Christ love on the margins of society extending the witness of the church to places of isolation where social justice could not be found.
We recognize the appointment of Deaconess Rachel Harvey, associate executive director of the Reconciling Ministries Network, as a witness to Jesus Christ’s mandate to be in ministry to those on the margins of society and their families, where the presence of the church and God’s grace are an important conduit of hope.
Deaconess Harvey has been trained and commissioned through the General Board of Global Ministries. She remains accountable to the Office of Deaconess and Home Missioner. Her appointment as associate executive director was approved by Bishop Hee-Soo Jung, affirming the inclusive nature of the church as we follow the guidance of the Social Principles, which reads: “We implore families and churches not to reject or condemn lesbian and gay members and friends. We commit ourselves to be in ministry for and with all persons” (¶161f, The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church).
The focus of the Reconciling Ministry Network invites us to engage in constructive dialogue and deep theological reflection on the issue of sexuality while proclaiming the love of Christ freely offered to all humankind.
In 2012, deaconesses and home missioners will celebrate the legacy of nearly 125 years of cutting-edge ministry and honor the foremothers and forefathers by looking toward to the future with hope and new ways of standing with those on the margins of society.
Learn how to become a deaconess or home missioner at www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/programs/deaconesses.
Join the live webcast Sunday April 29 at 2 p.m. EST.