Responsively Yours: What Can You Imagine?
The 2012 General Conference has launched United Methodist Women into a new future! The joint proposal from Women’s Division and General Board of Global Ministries received so much support that it was overwhelmingly approved May 1 while restructuring of the rest of the church was passionately debated. Structurally separate from Global Ministries, United Methodist Women will have increased visibility in the church. For example, this fall I will join the meetings of the church’s 12 other general secretaries, and United Methodist Women will participate in the Connectional Table. Bringing to the table the perspectives and the wisdom of the women of the church who are organized for mission will let the denomination’s leaders know a little more about our work.
We hope that changes at the district, conference and jurisdiction levels will spark conversations among United Methodist Women members about how best to organize for our work. The proposals about United Methodist Women that we took to General Conference don’t require any specific change beyond the national level, rather, they allow us more freedom to change ourselves once we’ve re-examined how we’ve been doing things and determine how best to accomplish these tasks in the future. For example, some of our leadership teams may be too big and others may be too small. Further, we know that both our “a day apart” events and our justice advocacy work enhance our spiritual growth. Could we strengthen the formational power of our work if we made that connection directly when describing the work of our leadership teams?
This will not be primarily the work of United Methodist Women’s national staff. Staff will offer leadership, support, experience, etc., but this is work that will be undertaken by United Methodist Women members and leaders, including the new Program Advisory Group. And, it is not work that must be done all at once. So, we have the wonderful opportunity to ask ourselves: What have we learned — and what can we imagine?
Structural configurations alone will not make us the multigenerational, multicultural, multilingual, multiracial, Spirit-filled organization that we want to be. But if we imagine it and build it and work toward it, I believe that God will bless our efforts beyond our wildest imagining. Ours is a Pentecost movement in which prophecies are fulfilled, and the work of the Holy Spirit is affirmed in our sons and our daughters. We are who we are because the Holy Spirit is living in us — bursting forth so that the world may hear us speak the good news in their own languages.
What if we could be a force connecting our congregations to our communities in deeper and more powerful ways so that the good news of Jesus’ love was told and lived more visibly? What if we could find ways to work with our sisters in the Central Conferences that model mutuality and respect for others in the church in contrast to patterns with roots in relationships based on power and wealth? What if we could bring the needs and wisdom of women to coalitions working on disaster response or economic development or peace and security in the church and at the United Nations? What if we could help people making policies on everything from banking to tax structures to learn that if it doesn’t work for women, it doesn’t work? What if we could bring the questions, pain and experiences of the unnamed women in the biblical text and in the world to the forefront of how we hear the Word of God?
What’s that you say? This is our assignment? Wow. United Methodist Women, we need to pray like we’ve never prayed before. This is big.
Harriett Jane Olson
Deputy General Secretary