Some United Methodist bishops have joined the conversation as the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women continues to assess how the church is meeting its mandate for full inclusion of women in all areas of church life.
The agency hosted the latest in its series of listening sessions at the Council of Bishops this week, and about 20 women and men attended. The hosts were GCSRW board president Debra Wallace-Padgett, bishop of North Alabama; vice president Joaquina Nhanala, bishop in Mozambique; and GCSRW General Secretary Dawn Wiggins Hare.
Hare said the bishops gave good feedback on the perception of GCSRW in their conferences, the push for inclusive and expansive language, and GCSRW’s monitoring of annual conference meetings and General Conference. In particular, she said bishops offered suggestions on how the monitoring reports could be improved in the future. They also raised some concerns about the “desk audit” now under way and whether they had been given enough time to thoroughly answer questions about demographics of conference employees, clergy and lay leaders.
The need for GCSRW programs in the Central Conferences was a big topic of conversation, Hare said, yet, the bishops noted differences in the types of programming needed inside and outside the United States. For example, while bishops were encouraging GCSRW to continue working on inclusive and expansive English language research, one Central Conference bishop noted that God was neither masculine nor feminine in his language.
Hare said some of the bishops took printed copies of a GCSRW-produced Bible study, “Women Called to Miinistry,” and expressed interest in recommending it to churches or other groups wanting to study women’s roles in the UMC, including why the church ordains women. The six-session study is available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded at no charge here.
Again, as in earlier sessions, participants indicated that while the church has made strides toward “full and equal responsibility and participation of women,” much work still lies ahead before women are “sharing fully in the power and in the policy-making of all levels of the Church’s life,” as called for in the Book of Discipline (¶2102).