Bishop Ward shares the role women clergy serve in The United Methodist Church and the challenges still faced by females in the the pulpit.
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ.
This week, clergywomen from across the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church, gather at St. Simon’s for a convocation. We’re gathering at Epworth-by-the-Sea, our United Methodist historic retreat center there. It’s good for clergywomen to come together to worship, to learn, and to celebrate strong community as we grow in Christ.
Next year, 2016, will be the 60th anniversary of the granting of full clergy rights to women in The United Methodist Church. Women had long been preachers in the Wesleyan tradition, but it was at General Conference in 1956 that a lay man stood and made a motion that the General Conference affirm full clergy rights for women. There was debate and the motion passed. Since that time, the horizon has opened for women to serve in myriads of ways across our church. We give thanks for the courage of our church in opening wide this door of opportunity.
We, however, need to continue to work together to make opportunities available for lay and clergywomen in our places of work and in the world. The vision of our church is very clear. We yearn for expansive opportunity for all people, and yet, there are places where we have yet to achieve and embrace all that God intends for us. For example, when the Cabinet and I engage in appointment making, we still have pastor-parish committees and churches who push back against the idea of a woman pastor. When we look at the salaries across the annual conference, we see that the salaries of clergywomen lag behind the salaries of clergymen, just as the salaries of laywomen in the wider work place lag behind the salaries of men in similar occupations. We see the need to focus on this area of our life together, and so in the new quadrennium, we will be configuring a Commission on the Status and Role of Women to address and engage, to analyze, to be a catalyst for change so that we might be all that God intends for us to be in life together.
May you this day be blessed with a sense of God’s abundant grace. Let us love one another as God in Christ loves us.