Chief Executive Addresses the Women's Division Board of Directors
by Dana E. Jones*
Jan Love encouraged directors of the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries to keep taking risks to be in mission during her final address to them as the division’s chief executive Oct. 8.
“Together we’ve dared to attempt great things for God, just as our foremothers asked us to do,” Ms. Love said, said at the Women’s Division annual meeting in Stamford, Ct. “You’ve certainly been willing to take some risks with me, and I’m so grateful. It’s been a wonderful partnership, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
Ms. Love will become dean of Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, Ga., Jan. 1, 2007.
Risks taken during Ms. Love’s tenure as Women’s Division chief executive included confronting a pattern of spending beyond current income, which led to staff and program cuts.
“We’ve been through some tough times together,” Ms. Love said. “I am deeply grateful that together in this gathering of directors, staff and guests, we can honor the extraordinary contributions of 33 colleagues as well as grieve their departure from our staff.”
The changes took hard work, creative determination and pain across a year and a half, she said.
“Once I discovered the depth of some of the challenges that needed to be addressed, I poured every ounce of energy I’ve had into tackling them with the greatest ingenuity I could muster,” she said. “I’ve given you my best, always praying that it was good enough. I feel that you’ve given me your best, too. It’s been a wonderful partnership, one that I will cherish for the rest of my life.”
The division is primed to move forward, she said.
“One profoundly important part of this particular board meeting is that we’re actively turning the page,” Ms. Love said. “At the same time that we are honoring the past, we are also initiating and following through on some dynamic, creative and energetic programs and possibilities for the future.”
She noted the launch of United Methodist Women’s Online Community, which in a few months has attracted more than 1,400 members
Ms. Love somberly noted the overlap of her tenure as deputy general secretary of the Women’s Division with the war in Iraq.
“This horrible war continues,” she said. “It’s gone from bad to worse, but United Methodist Women’s unceasing prayers and work for peace continue with strength and determination. We pay tribute to the extraordinary sacrifice of the men and women in our armed forces, but increasing numbers of us who are family, friends and neighbors of the these soldiers are asking, is this war worthy of their sacrifice? Moreover, is this cause worthy of the hundreds of thousands of deaths and injuries among soldiers and civilians on all sides?
“According to the Congressional Research Office, this war costs $1 billion a week. There are much better, life-giving ways to spend this money. What would it take to put an end to the madness of this war for which we as citizens of the United States are responsible? What would it take to put an end to the madness of other horrific acts of violence for which other citizens in other countries around the world are responsible?”
Ms. Love said her time with the division has been short.
“Our time together has been brief: too brief for me – in many respects, unbelievably brief,” she said. “Leaving you after little more than two years still continues to startle me and cause me grief. I will miss you terribly.”
Ms. Love shared three lessons she’s learned in the division post:
? “If you ask them, they will give.”
Recalling several recent requests for mission funds, Ms. Love said United Methodist Women are generous, willing to financially undergird mission when asked to do so.
“United Methodist Women give more to Mission Giving alone than the whole church does to the General Board of Global Ministries-administered Advance program when you subtract UMCOR contributions. These programs are not in any competition. They all represent second-mile giving for the church and, for United Methodist Women, third- and fourth-mile giving. United Methodist Women have been the strongest supporters of mission whether in the local church, the conference, the nation or across the world.
“If you ask them, they will give. Ask with more passion, with more creativity. A more vigorous witness to Christ’s mission in the world will be the reward.”
? “If you offer an engaging, hospitable organizational environment, they will join.”
Women in religion is a “hot topic,” and women have growing interest in spiritual formation in the Christian tradition, Ms. Love said.
“These trends work in favor of us reaching out to new women to engage them in the work of United Methodist Women,” she said.
The challenge is to communicate the uniqueness of United Methodist Women in a cultural milieu of competing, worthy alternatives where women can volunteer time and talent, she said.
? “We need to tell our story better than ever before.”
“I have come to believe that the single most important threat to the vitality and growth of United Methodist Women is simple ignorance and indifference on the part of many United Methodists, including church leaders,” Ms. Love said. “Many members of our denomination do not know who we are or what we do. If they did, they would get as excited as we are about the organization.”
Ms. Love recalled United Methodist Women’s history as it can inform the future, including members’ role in fighting for full clergy rights for women and their efforts to establish the denomination’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women.
“Staying focused on mission with women, children and youth is a high calling and a righteous cause,” she said. “If we do not fulfill this high calling across time and place; if we do not push the church to pay attention to the needs of women and children in poverty, war, health care, circumstances of racial injustice, human-rights violations, and so much more, we know from experience across these 137 years, we cannot consistently count on others to answer this call.
“I do not say this to disparage anyone else’s work. I say it because women in mission have consistently, as individuals but much more importantly as an institution, refused to back down from this work even when it’s really tough.
“Thanks be to God for United Methodist Women! We have a great history, and with God’s help, we will have a great future.”
In discussing her move to Candler School of Theology, Ms. Love promised to carry the message of United Methodist Women.
“As one who will soon be leading one of the official 13 seminaries in The United Methodist Church, I very much look forward to ‘raising up’ a bunch of pastors who know, respect, love and fully embrace United Methodist Women!”
She closed her remarks with a letter to United Methodist Women based on Paul’s letter to followers in Philippi as found in Philippians 1: 1-11 and 4: 4-9 . She concluded:
“Beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. Keep on doing the things that you have learned and received and heard…and the God of peace will be with you.”
*Dana E. Jones is director of communications for the Women’s Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.