The Future United Methodist Clergywomen’s Consultation in a Global Context

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HiRho Y. Park, Baltimore-Washington Annual Conference

The first United Methodist Clergywomen’s Consultation occurred in 1975. Held approximately every four years, consultations provide a support system for clergywomen. In 2006, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) sponsored the International United Methodist Clergywomen’s Consultation in celebration of the fiftieth anniversary of the granting of full clergy rights to women in the Methodist tradition.

According to the 2006 data, there are a total of 8,892 United Methodist clergywomen.1 The 2006 Clergywomen’s Consultation in Chicago brought together more than 1,500 clergywomen from around the world, including 18 bishops and 128 seminary students and ministerial candidates. More than 350 racial-ethnic clergywomen, with 22 as international clergywomen, participated in the event. Clergywomen received spiritual refreshment by participating in 16 Early Morning Spirituality groups and gained new knowledge and information from 42 workshops.

Although excited to attend a big event every four years, the 2006 Clergywomen’s Consultation participants expressed these yearnings in their evaluations: in-depth discussions on issues that clergywomen face in their own contexts, more cohesiveness and support among clergywomen in their regions, more leadership from female bishops and district superintendents, need for African and European United Methodist clergywomen to have their own gatherings, opportunities to listen to global issues, organization and mobilization of clergywomen in the jurisdictional level, substantial participation of Central Conference representatives, and true inclusiveness beyond superficial multiculturalism.

The question is, how can the GBHEM respond to these yearnings of the Church’s clergywomen?

Significance of the Need for a New Structure

Roland Robertson, a sociologist, introduced the word glocalization, which encompasses the co-presence of particularizing and universalizing socioeconomic tendencies without losing the authenticity of the locality.2 The concept of glocalization causes us to ponder about particularizing the roles of clergywomen and their communities within the Church to pinpoint their needs in the midst of globalization.

Globalization has challenged the Church to provide women and marginalized persons with an alternative vision of cultural resistance and solidarity. To respond to this challenge, GBHEM proposed to reconstruct the clergywomen’s consultation so that it responds to clergywomen’s needs stated earlier and promotes the climate of a global Church.

The Glocal Structure of the United Methodist Clergywomen’s Consultation: Regional Clergywomen’s Consultations

Leadership development of United Methodist clergywomen is one of four focus areas identified for the denomination for the 2009–2012 quadrennium. Leadership development is also one of GBHEM’s strategic priorities, namely, to expand GBHEM’s support of global higher education, leadership development, and theological education.3

To empower United Methodist clergywomen’s leadership locally and globally, GBHEM has proposed to hold regional and global consultations on a rotating basis every quadrennium. For example, GBHEM will finance regional United Methodist clergywomen’s consultations in the five jurisdictions in the United States, in Africa, in Europe/Eurasia, and in the Philippines during the 2009–2012 quadrennium; and one global consultation during the 2013–2016 quadrennium.

In January 2009, Dr. Jerome King Del Pino, general secretary of GBHEM, sent a draft proposing the structural changes of the future clergywomen’s consultations to all active bishops to solicit their input. The final document was presented to the bishops of the Central Conferences and all female bishops of The United Methodist Church during the Council of Bishops meeting in May 2009. The proposal was translated into Portuguese and French and distributed to the bishops in the Central Conferences. To honor clergywomen’s desire to have more leadership from women who are bishops and district superintendents, they have been asked to initiate the plan and organize the leadership team for the regional consultations during the 2009–2012 quadrennium. The Philippines is the only region where The United Methodist Church does not have a female bishop; however, male bishops have expressed their support and commitment for clergywomen’s leadership development through the regional clergywomen’s consultation. GBHEM is excited about assisting the African regional United Methodist clergywomen’s consultation under the leadership of their first female bishop, Joaquina Filipe Nhanala.

Each U.S. jurisdiction has been requested to hold a round table forum for racial-ethnic clergywomen of the region one day prior to the Jurisdictional Clergywomen’s Consultation for the full inclusion of racial-ethnic women in the Church. The unique issues related to racial-ethnic clergywomen of the region will be documented. The information from these documents will be incorporated into the content of the Global Clergywomen’s Consultation so that United Methodist clergywomen will truly honor and appreciate inclusiveness with integrity and respect. The United Methodist Racial-Ethnic Clergywomen’s Alliance (UMRECA) will be available to assist jurisdictions as they plan these forums. UMRECA was formed in January 2008 as a result of the historic gathering of the United Methodist Racial-Ethnic Clergywomen’s Consultation in 2008. Five United Methodist racial-ethnic clergywomen associations—Asian American/Pacific Islanders, Black, Native American, Hispanic/Latina, and Korean American—came together to support each other systematically in the Church.

Each jurisdictional leadership team is accountable to the Office of the Continuing Formation for Ministry at GBHEM. After each regional consultation, the unique issues of clergywomen in the region will be submitted as a document with an evaluation form to GBHEM. These documents will provide the foundation for the Global Clergywomen’s Consultation as GBHEM designs the event and plans the agenda.

Global United Methodist Clergywomen’s Consultation

The plans for the consultation in 2014 fall under Goal IV of the GBHEM’s Strategic Plan: “Support, strengthen and enhance global United Methodist higher education and ordered ministry.” The consultation aims to bring global clergywomen communities of The United Methodist Church together to listen to and learn from one another, and to celebrate clergywomen’s ministry and their contributions around the world. GBHEM will be responsible for implementing the plan. The planning team will be formed in consultation with female bishops of the United States, Europe/Eurasia, and Africa and with male bishops of the Philippines, since the Philippines presently has no female bishops. The planning will begin in 2012. The consultation plenary will be designed around the unique issues that each regional consultation brings to the table.

Conclusion

The new structure attempts to encompass both local and universal characteristics of clergywomen’s leadership development without losing the authenticity of clergywomen’s issues and leadership styles in their specific locations. Theglocal structure of future clergywomen’s consultations is a prime example of how the global Church can utilize connectionalism to provide clergywomen a sense of ownership and responsibility for their own leadership development. Innovative and creative leadership is expected of clergywomen as the Church creates ecclesial space where United Methodist clergywomen can dialogue, celebrate mutual learning, and befriend one another in a global context.


1 Michelle Fugate, “Clergywomen’s Local Church Appointments: 2006” (Nashville: The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry, 2007). Women’s participation in church leadership will be increasing continually as the Church moves toward being an inclusive faith community.

2 Roland Robertson, Globalization and Indigenous Culture: Comments on the Global Trade and Glocalization (Institute for Japanese Culture and Classics, Kokugakuin University, 1997).

3 Strategic Plan 2009–2012, http://www.gbhem.org/site/c.lsKSL3POLvF/b.3554121/k.327D/Strategic_Priority_1.htm (accessed October 28, 2009).

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