UMW: Mapping Our Way Forward - Chief Executive Report at Fall 2013 Annual Meeting

Date Posted: 10/29/2013

One year into its new life as an independent agency of the church, United Methodist Women is mapping its future in mission with women, children and youth, said Harriett Jane Olson in her chief executive report at the organization’s annual meeting in New York City, Oct. 11-14. The smaller 25-member board of directors met at the United Methodist Women-owned Church Center for the United Nations.

The General Conference vote making United Methodist Women’s national policymaking body autonomous after nearly 75 years as a division of the church’s global ministries board went into effect Oct. 1, 2012, and nearly a year to date Olson spoke of innovations since then as points on a map that will help future generation of women continue to organize for mission.

Olson pointed to changes in the organization’s annual new officer training events as an example. United Methodist Women’s annual training event for newly elected conference officers is now three regional Leadership Development Days not only for conference officers but also for district and local members who want to attend.

“In this first year of our organization, we’ve made a big transition,” Olson said of the new and expanded program. “We’re not training for particular officer positions now; we’re training to develop leaders.”

Olson said other points on United Methodist Women’s new “map” for mission include:

  • “Voices” training event for language coordinators charged with helping conference United Methodist Women reach out to women and communities whose first language is other than English. Voices training materials are available in eight languages. “The language ministries events help conference presidents think about radial hospitality,” Olson said. “Sometimes we need to set our expectations so that we can see all of the talent in our areas.” 
  • New outreach to young women launched at “Limitless: Redefine Tomorrow” in Durham, N.C., Aug. 2-5, 2012. Conference and district United Methodist Women groups around the country have since organized similar events for teens and young women in their areas. An April 24 reunion of the national Limitless participants will help kick off United Methodist Women’s quadrennial Assembly in Louisville, Ky., April 25-27, 2014.

Olson said since ancient times, maps have helped societies understand their place in the world and the way to move forward. The United Methodist Women map for mission that she laid out will likewise help the organization prepare for another century of putting faith, hope and love into action.

“Artifacts, maps and globes reflect how people thousands of years ago observed time and the space they occupied,” Olson said, referencing a recent exhibit in the city on ancient maps. “The Greeks measured the world by the stars. They understood their place by referring to thing they thought were not moving. The Romans on the other hand built roads, so they mapped everything by distance. How far was it from Rome to that other place?

"We Are Mapmakers"

“In a lot of ways, we are mapmakers. We’re helping members to understand the world—where we are in mission and where they are the in world. If we’re looking at a child’s needs, we’ll draw a different map than if we’re trying to show the nearest post office. Our map might show where the nearest schools are, where the most drive-by shootings occur, how close the child is to healthy foods, how far her mother travels to work. 

“That’s what we do at mission schools, in our mission studies, in the Seminar Program, at Assembly: We construct a map of the world.”

Olson said United Methodist Women “mission map” shows the strengths and talents of women, children and youth, not just what they lack. “If you think about women or youth bring to the table, you’ll draw a different map of mission,” she said.  

United Methodist Women scholarships for students in developing countries, leadership development, skills building and income-generating projects, literacy programs and other educational and health care opportunities for women, children and youth are examples of United Methodist Women’s mission map that sees people’s strengths, she said.

Justice advocacy continues to be a critical part of United Methodist Women’s map for mission, Olson said.

“Our work is not just about service, it’s about worship, it’s about standing up, stepping up making our voices heard,” she said. “We try to help governments see the world the way we see the world because it will positively impact the lives of women, children and youth.

“That’s how we’re mapping the world and equipping new leaders to work together with others in creating their own maps. We’re mapping our way forward.”

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*Yvette Moore is editor of response, the magazine of United Methodist Women