Responsively Yours: What the Church Needs From United Methodist Women
United Methodist Women is an organization of The United Methodist Church. As such, it is fair to ask, "What does The United Methodist Church need from United Methodist Women?" How would you answer that question?
One thing that United Methodist Women has consistently contributed to the church and to the world is the viewpoint of women, children and youth - particularly of those least regarded by the existing power structure. We look at the impact of corporations, governments and the church on women, children and youth and then analyze, hear and tell their stories and act to make a difference on their behalf. We also read the Bible for the stories of the women, children and "outsiders." Jesus defied his culturally expected responsibilities as firstborn son and declared his responsibility instead to be to the women and men who came to hear him preach (Mark 3:32). Later at Golgatha Jesus directed John to care for his mother, Mary (John 19:26-27).
We could identify with Jesus' listeners, his adopted family with whom he declared solidarity. We could identify with Jesus himself, alert to cultural expectations that distract us from our God-defined family. We are similar to Jesus' mother and sisters and brothers when we expect Jesus to attend to our institutional needs rather than engage with the needs of the wider world. Perhaps we think Jesus is "out of his mind" (Mark 3:21) if he is incorporating new people into "our" family.
The United Methodist Church needs us to read the Scriptures with deep awareness of the women, children and youth who do not define themselves as part of the family of God or believe that God is at work in the world.
If it is God's call for our church to grow, the church will change. If we are true to our history, we will reach out to the margins of society. In the United States, this will mean that we'll become a younger and more racially and linguistically diverse community, and one with more women in leadership roles.
United Methodist Women has long committed to being a diverse community. The church's Charter for Racial Justice was written by United Methodist Women predecessors. Defying the church's segregation policy of the early 20th century, we created regional Schools of Christian Mission so that women from the all-black Central Jurisdiction could be a part of our jurisdictional programs. Our annual Voices training event for language coordinators and conference presidents explores ways to honor differences and foster mutuality while growing our various language and cultural communities.
United Methodist Women's ability to turn faith, hope and love into action is not collateral to a renewed vitality in The United Methodist Church-what we have to offer can be at the center. God is already at work! May God strengthen and embolden us to be the United Methodist Women that the church (and the world) needs today.
HARRIETT JANE OLSON
United Methodist Women