Women celebrate International Women's Day in Madurai, a city in Tamil Nadu state in southern India.
Deaconess Cindy Johnson (left) in Brownsville - on the Texas-Mexico border - where residents are rallying against a wall being built by the U.S. government.
Minnesota's Hmong community and others protest outside the headquarters of a local radio station that broadcasted a song making fun of Hmongs.
Young women organize at a community center in the Jabalya refugee camp in the Gaza Strip.
Old Testament reading:
“God has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” -- Micah 6:8 (NRSV)
New Testament reading:
“Give to everyone who asks you for something, and when someone takes what is yours, do not ask for it back. Do for others just what you want them to do for you.” -- Luke 6:30-31?(Good News Translation)
Reflect on these two readings as you encounter this Bible Study.
Several years ago, I heard Benedictine Sister Joan Chittister speak at an Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) women’s national gathering in Salt Lake City, Utah, the heart of the Mormon faith community. As she spoke passionately about women and social justice, I said to myself, “She sounds like a good United Methodist Women member!” I chuckled a bit at the apparent ease of the ecumenical coming together of women: a Catholic sister speaking at an ELCA gathering of women in the Mormon “capital” with a United Methodist Women member serving as a presenter and an exhibitor.
For 17 years in my work with Women’s Division and General Board of Global Ministries in the Office for International Ministries with Women, Children and Youth, I witnessed the ease with which women come together around issues of justice like education, food security, health care, housing, immigration, and racial, economic and environmental justice. I witnessed how around the world women are the most likely to stand up against injustices impacting their children, families and communities. I witnessed United Methodist Women members standing with their sisters and in the process become leaders, spiritual leaders, in our churches and communities in “Micah moments.”
When has United Methodist Women led the church to call out injustice and stand up ?for justice?
Cutting a path
So many women tread the paths leading to justice, persistent in resisting systems that would rather not change. Women like Theressa Hoover, Women’s Division head from 1968 to 1990; Thelma Stevens; Barbara Campbell; Peggy Billings; and Rose Catchings led United Methodist Women in cutting new paths that expanded concepts of mission in the church during very turbulent times. Like them, there are many women today breaking ground to create new and more just paths in their communities, churches and in their societies.
As I worked around the world, I came to understand very quickly that the hard work was being done by the local women on the ground and that our task as United Methodist Women was to be still so that we could listen to them. Our job was to be fully present while women shared their experiences with us — then know when to boldly act. Women and women’s organizations simply wanted us to “be present” and understand their justice struggles and the challenges they and their children faced daily to simply live.
This type of ministry is called “accompaniment” and “being in solidarity.” We do not engage this mission as bankers or carpetbaggers or “experts” but as women striving to understand our sisters’ plight so that together we can create appropriate responses to poverty, food insecurity, health care needs, environmental degradation, racism and sexism, inadequate education or lack of school fees and uniforms, especially for girls, or human rights violations, sex trafficking, forced labor, substandard housing, caring for widows and other elders, disaster relief — to any injustice.
When have you or your local, district or conference United Methodist Women “accompanied” women in need? When ?did you make a decision to ?act boldly?
Micah is one of my favorite texts, maybe because it simply calls on each of us to express our humanity by taking on the powerful whose economic policies, global in nature, benefit the few who are wealthy at the expense of everyone else (Micah 2:1-7). It calls for us to challenge the false prophets who support injustice (Micah 2:6-8). We live in a world where the finance “ministers” have been in charge for a long time. We have not done well with the finance ministers in charge.
Women and their children are most often the poorest and most marginalized, bearing the brunt of the ills of society. Indigenous people and people of color in many cases fare no better than poor women, struggling just to be recognized for their humanity. Women are always on the horizon, always at the forefront, coughing to let society know that the flu is coming.
Most important, women are on the forefront of organizing and activism, mobilizing constituencies, campaigning, strategizing and demanding change where change is needed in India, Malaysia, the Philippines and Bangla-desh, in the Caribbean, in Brazil and Chile, in Europe, in Kenya, Sierra Leone, South Africa, the Middle East and in the United States, to name only a few countries and regions.
Are there any economic policies that you are willing to challenge? What are they, and why would you be willing to take action?
Who or what institutions are supporting this injustice?
One of the things I enjoyed tremendously while working with Women’s Division and Global Ministries were the reports from the women’s leadership training events and the advocacy resources that various women’s groups produced to educate their communities on pertinent issues. These reports would come posted by mail or hand-delivered by persons who were traveling to New York City.
Sometimes they were faxed or teletyped as these were the days, not too long ago, before everyone was on a computer, online and using the Internet. Most reports were typed and some were handwritten duplicated copies. Most came with photos, often original Polaroids.
As I read the reports and looked at the photos, I saw the lives of the women up close and personal. Sometimes I’d have earlier visited with them or talked with them on the phone and sometimes I had advocated for support for their event. I treasured the reports and intentionally shared them with other staff, committees and organizations.
When the war in Sierra Leone began in the 1990s, I received vivid photos and reports from the Sierra Leone United Methodist Church’s national women’s and children’s offices. Those reports captured the magnitude of the problems that society faced as many people lost limbs, children were forced to become soldiers or sex slaves, and families fled to Guinea seeking refuge, sometimes making the painful decision to leave the elderly and disabled behind.
The sad truth is these horrific events are repeated in nations around the world when war breaks out. Women organizing for peace, justice and reconciliation is vital to keep war from happening, end wars already in progress and heal the trail of wounds wars create.
We as women must continue to learn and care about the plight of others, to be still and listen, to discern and act boldly with others for our own humanity and the humanity of others, and to express faithfully the witness we can make in our own time.
Share a Micah Moment that you have experienced.
- What are some present day “Micah moments” calling women of faith to action?
End this Bible study with a prayer and sing “What Does the Lord Require of You,” no. 441 The United Methodist Hymnal.
Elizabeth Calvin worked with international ministries with women, children and youth at the General Board of Global Ministries from 1986-2003, serving on Women’s Division staff 1986-1989. Ms. Calvin administered the World Day of Prayer from 2005-2011.