Four Regional Clergywomen’s Consultations Planned for 2011

2/10/2011

Regional clergywomen’s meetings allow greater participation by all clergywomen, especially those from the Central Conferences, and provide an opportunity for deeper discussions about issues that might be unique to a certain area, the Rev. HiRho Park said. The first of four regional conferences in 2011 is scheduled for February 27 - March 2 in Lancaster, Pa.

“Having regional consultations will provide opportunities for clergywomen from both the Philippines and Africa to have their first historical gatherings, which was not possible when we had quadrennial U.S.- centered clergywomen's consultations,” said Park, director of Continuing Formation for Ministry, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s Division of Ordained Ministry. GBHEM is providing seed money for each regional meeting.

Regional meetings scheduled so far are:

  • The Northeastern Jurisdictional Clergywomen’s Consultation, Feb. 27- March 2, 2011, Lancaster, Pa. View the schedule and registration information here. The theme is: Bodacious & Bold: Bubbling Up, Bursting Out, Breaking Through.
  • The South Central Jurisdictional Clergywomen’s Consultation, March 22-25, 2011, New Orleans, La. View information here. The theme is Wade in the Water.
  • The Southeastern Jurisdictional Clergywomen’s Consultation, April 4-7, 2011, Orlando, Fla. View information here. The theme is: Sister Strength: Grace, Growth, Grit.
  • The Philippines Clergywomen’s Consultation, Oct. 5-7, 2011, Teacher’s Camp, Baguio City, Philippines. The theme is Clergywomen: Lift Up . . . Level Out . . . Lead On.
  • Park said the design team which is planning the meeting in Africa meets in Kenya in February. A date for the consultation has not been set yet. Bishop Joaquina Filipe Nhanala of Mozambique, elected last summer as the first female United Methodist bishop in Africa, will attend.

The large gatherings every four years were too expensive for Central Conference clergywomen to attend. They could not fully participate because of the high cost of travel, Park said.

In the U.S., there are 41,379 United Methodist clergy, including 9,135 clergywomen or 22 percent of all clergy. Park said that means clergywomen still make up a fairly small percentage of all clergy, adding that clergywomen also make less money than clergymen.

A recent study of clergy salaries funded by GBHEM found substantial salary differences between male and female pastors (13 percent), and white and non-white pastors (9-15 percent). However, those differences were largely attributed to differences in seniority between male and female pastors, and the assignment of non-white pastors to congregations that pay lower salaries. “Most of the gender/race gap disappears once congregational, personal, and position attributes are taken into account,” the report states.

“The report concluded that the gender gap can be expected to decrease over time as more female pastors gain seniority, and in fact diminished somewhat from the beginning of the study period to the end,” Park said.

However, she said that given the lower numbers and salaries compared to men, women clergy “still need the kind of encouragement, affirmation, and cohesiveness that they can get from these meetings.”

The smaller gatherings also allow a focus on racial-ethnic clergywomen. Park said each U.S. event will include a roundtable discussion on racial-ethnic clergywomen.

In addition, with episcopal elections on the horizon in 2012, Park said women clergy hope to use the events to organize in support of more women leaders in the church.

“The regional consultations have already provided ownership to clergywomen, increased accountability, a sense of responsibility, and an empowered grassroots leadership. The regional consultations will provide cohesiveness and support among regional clergywomen and mobilize local leadership for clergywomen’s continuing education opportunities,” Park said.

Also, the regional consultations are a model for the collaboration of leadership – bishops, district superintendents, annual conference staff, general agency staff, and pastors – and cost-sharing among annual conferences, GBHEM, local churches, and pastors.

*Brown is associate editor and writer, Office of Interpretation, General Board of Higher Education and Ministry.

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