A bold move was made by Dr. Zack Johnson 60 years ago on the floor of General Conference in Minneapolis, Minnesota. After a great deal of debate, discussion, amendments, and amendments to the amendments, Dr. Johnson went on to the floor and said “I move that we amend the substitute motion by changing the phraseology so that paragraph 313 will read as follows: ‘women are included in the foregoing provisions, and may apply as candidates for the traveling ministry as provided for in Chapter 3 of the Discipline.’” This statement changed the lives of all women who have felt called by God to serve in ordained ministry.
The strength of ordained clergywomen began slowly, but today there are nearly 10,000 clergywomen doing ministry across the globe. In the North Carolina Conference, there are nearly 300 clergywomen.
The first women to be ordained elders in the North Carolina Conference were Gladys Williford and Helen Crotwell in 1975. Helen Crotwell later became the first female district superintendent in the North Carolina Conference.
Others recognized on June 18, at the North Carolina Annual Conference were the longest tenured clergywoman: Gayla Collins, with 39 years; the first woman clergy elected a delegate to General Conference: Ruth Harper Stevens, elected in 1984; the first female bishop from the NC Conference: Bishop Hope Morgan Ward, elected in 2004; and the youngest clergywoman being ordained: Sara Beth Pannell.