Thomas Kemper Gives Remarks to 2009-2012 Women’s Division Directors
The General Secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, Thomas Kemper, gave closing remarks on the legacy of the organization at their final meeting of the 2009-2012 quadrennium, the Semi-Annual board meeting in Plano, Tex., March 15-19, 2012.
He articulated in his speech how he envisions United Methodist Women and Global Ministries working together if proposed legislation for the structural separation of the two entities passes at the upcoming General Conference, to be held in Tampa, Fla., April 24-May 4.
Thomas Kemper's Remarks
Greetings. I am glad to have a few minutes with directors and staff of the Women’s Division because if all goes as planned at General Conference, and I see no reason why it won’t, this is the last meeting of directors of the Women’s Division of the General Board of Global Ministries. Your fall meeting will organize the board of United Methodist Women, Inc.
I want to use this opportunity to briefly look back at the relationships between women organized for mission in American Methodism and the church wide mission agency. The relationship goes back to the late 19th century when women began to organize themselves for mission, sometimes with open or subtle opposition. The Foreign and Home Missionary Societies came into being.
1939 was a big year for Methodism and mission. Three denominations united into The Methodist Church, and at that time the Woman’s Division of Christian Service came into being as part of a federated Board of Missions. Linda Gesling describes this moment in Mirror and Beacon, the history of mission in the almost 40 years of The Methodist Church. The new division brought together work done by several agencies in each of the uniting churches. The purpose was to:
- ...develop and maintain Christian work among women and children and home and abroad; to cultivate Christian family life;
- To enlist and organize the efforts of Christian women, young people, and children on behalf of native and foreign groups, needy childhood and community welfare;
- To assist in the promotion of a missionary spirit throughout the Church;
- To select, train, and maintain Christian Workers;
- To cooperate with the local church in its responsibilities, and
- To seek fellowship with Christian women of this and other lands in establishing Christian social order around the world.
This strikes a familiar cord?
The General Conference of 1964, a prelude to the union of 1968, would have other results for the Women’s Division. There is considerable agreement that the Division forfeited—or was stripped—of much of its direct mission involvement in the 1964 agreements. You have studied them in developing the structural proposal submitted to the 2012 General Conference. But not even the 1964 decisions denied the Division’s right to determine the use of funds given by United Methodist Women to mission.
Now we are entering into another alignment. United Methodist Women will be structurally and visibly distinct from Global Ministries. There will be a strong spirit of collaboration between the two entities and some organizational links, including representatives from United Methodist Women on the Global Ministries board – should General Conference adopt certain proposals that would assign Global Ministries its own board.
Regardless of what General Conference does, there will be a mission agency or office in our church and there will be women of United Methodism organized for mission in the U.S.
With that in mind, I want to express four hopes about our mission relationship going forward:
- I hope that United Methodist Women will continue to bring to the global mission of our church, and to Global Ministries, a strong sense of social justice. I have heard people of long involvement in our denomination say that the Women’s Division, beginning in 1939, was the primary social justice advocate in the mission outreach of the board and the church as a whole. Your forerunners pioneered in the arena of Christian social action; you brought to the church the Charter of Racial Justice; from your ranks have come saints for righteousness and peace. Let that legacy never cease! Keep a bright light for justice that will shine into Global Ministries and all other United Methodist places.
- I hope that United Methodist Women will continue to be advocates and educators for mission on all levels of your organization. From the local unit to Women’s Assembly you have been educating women and men young and old for mission. The schools of mission or the mission studies are just examples of many other tools and programs of mission education. Thank you for this work and please keep it up as we continue missionally connected.
- I hope that our collaboration will be innovative and exciting; I hope that as organizations we will not lapse into mission routines or, worse, complacencies. We can dare to dream big as separate agencies and together. Since we have decided to move into this direction, Harriet and I are meeting more regularly --more intentionally -- this has been good for both our organizations. You become more conscious of why and who you want to be together in a time of structural separation. Thank you Harriet for these meetings and this spirit of innovative collaboration. Indeed, some new joint ventures are already developing. We have a Memorandum of Understanding. We have joint tables on key issues of our work like Migration or Poverty, and many more concrete ways of collaboration. We will need to find ways for staff of each to relate in ways that result in creative, profound mission collaboration. This will take deliberate consideration, frequent association, and mutual respect; it can happen. We would never want our two organizational selves to move in conflicting mission directions.
- I hope we will be patient with each other as we work out the details of the new relationship. There may be some snags, some glitches, misunderstandings, but we can deal with whatever comes along if we are kind, gentle, loving, and Christian in our mutual interactions—qualities not always easy in institutional frameworks.
I personally want to also thank you for the welcome that you—directors and staff of the Women’s Division—gave me as general secretary of Global Ministries when I came into this office two years ago. Thank you for your support of some of my mission dreams, and for your friendship.
Dana Robert reminds us that the history of mission must focus on women because the majority of Christians in the world are women, and Dana goes on:
Missionary women have typically placed the cross-cultural transmission of the gospel within a framework of service, healing, teaching, and hospitality.
Please, United Methodist Women, Inc., continue in this course for the sake of God’s mission and that of the church.