The role and contributions of women in the church and in society have changed dramatically over the last 60 years. We celebrate the empowerment that was achieved while at the same time confessing that we still have a ways to go to fully embody our stated values about the equality of women with men.
This Mother’s Day is a time to express our deep appreciation for the empowered women who have shaped our lives, our families, our churches and our society. In light of recent events in the church and society, we need to reaffirm our deepest Christian values that women and men are both made in God’s image (Genesis 1:26), that they are equal in the body of Christ (Galatians 3:28) and all of us have contributions to make. In a society that all too often devalues women, we should continue to seek ways of empowering them in the service of Christ.
I am the son of a woman who helped shaped the 1989 United Methodist Hymnal. I am the husband of a successful businesswoman who is an active layperson in her church. I am the father of a woman who is a successful businesswoman and a great Mom. I am truly surrounded by empowered women and we will be celebrating this Sunday all that God has done in their lives.
But we United Methodists still have our issues. At the recent Council of Bishops meeting I authored and the Council passed a statement expressing our dismay that the two constitutional amendments about women and gender failed to pass. We said,
The Council of Bishops notes with dismay that two amendments to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church regarding gender equality did not pass. While we are not completely clear concerning the motivation that caused them to miss the two-thirds required majority by slim margins, we want to be clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church. Our Social Principles are clear: “We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another.” (¶161(F)) We also state, “We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life.” (¶162(F)). With regard to clergy, our principle has been clear for more than 60 years: “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline that refer to the ordained ministry. “((¶369.2). Throughout our Book of Discipline, the General Conference has enacted provisions to protect women’s role and to enhance their full participation in the life of the church. This includes the establishment of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and their related structures in annual conferences. We confess we have a long way to go to fully live into our deep commitment to the equality of women in our many countries and in the life of The United Methodist Church. Sexism still exists at all levels of our church, and we confess our sinful actions and structures. We acknowledge that we have not yet reached a place where we fully embody the gospel promise that “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28). We recommit ourselves as individual bishops, and the Council of Bishops, to leading the church toward the goal which Christ has given us to fully include both men and women in the life and ministry of Christ’s church.
See Full Statement (.pdf)
Let’s celebrate and continue to empower women in the name of Christ. Have a blessed Mother’s Day!