I beg you to join me in Paul’s callPosted: May 8, 2018
I had intended to write a follow-up blog to my post yesterday regarding the Council of Bishops report on the Commission on the Way Forward. Due to the release yesterday of the report of the Annual Conferences voting on Constitutional Amendments, I will postpone that blog post until later in the week to speak into a very critical matter in the life of the United Methodist Church.
Carol Napier is a mother of two daughters. Steve, her husband, was in my first youth group when I was a student at Millsaps College. They are lifelong United Methodists. I had the privilege of performing their wedding ceremony. Currently, Steve is a Deacon in the North Georgia Conference and Carol is a lawyer with a government agency in Georgia.
Carol was one of those who offered the resolution to General Conference 2016 calling for language that both men and women are made in the image of God and that we as a church seek to eliminate any discrimination against women and girls. That we would fail to affirm and support our siblings in Christ based on their gender in this day and age is hard for me to fathom.
The Memphis and Tennessee Conferences in the Nashville Episcopal Area have been faithful in establishing the “Mama Lynn Center” in Kindu, East Congo to minister to women who are battered and abused by the ravages of war. They have been raped and beaten and are now viewed as scarred women. Your gifts and offerings make it possible to restore their dignity and give hope to help them find a way to provide for their families.
As a father of a daughter and a grandfather of two granddaughters, a brother to a sister, I need help to understand why we fail in the 21st century to affirm and embrace as a denomination, all women and girls.
It further saddens me that we continue to have congregations across the area who are unwilling to receive a woman to serve as their Senior Pastor.
I feel it is important for me to share my disappointment that two of the amendments did not receive the necessary 2/3 aggregate vote of all the annual conferences in The United Methodist Church (click here for statistics on the vote). Both are related to the rights of girls, women, and other groups deserving of full access for a meaningful life. Each amendment worked to provide a richer tapestry of community.
I am deeply saddened that in the Memphis Conference, the vote on amendment 2 fell short of reaching a 2/3 vote with 64.45% in favor. Additionally, in the Tennessee Conference, the vote for amendment 1 was 65.55% just a bit less than needed to achieve a 2/3 majority. It’s puzzling to me that amendment 1 passed in the Memphis Conference and amendment 2 passed in the Tennessee Conference. What this tells me is that we have work to do related to equality.
I stand in support of the statement from the women bishops of the United Methodist Church which included a renewed commitment to ensure that all people, no matter their gender or other qualities, are treated with respect, compassion and grace.
The Memphis and Tennessee Conferences are blessed with many outstanding women in leadership, both lay and clergy. We have a long history of many strong United Methodist Women units. In addition, women are currently serving or have served in the roles of Director of Connectional Ministry, Council on Finance and Administration Chair, Board of Ministry Chair, Conference Lay Leader, District Superintendent, Missionary, Large Church Senior Pastor, Chancellor, Assistant to the Bishop, Music Director/Minister, Executive Director of Connected Non-Profit, Youth Minister, General Conference and Jurisdictional Delegate, Certified Lay Minister, Deaconess, Chaplain, Staff Parish Chair, Trustees Chair, Campus Minister, Camping Ministry Director, and the list could go on.
The Council of Bishops has also offered a response saying, “we want to be clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church.” You may read the full statement here.
As I think about the effect this vote is having on the women of the Nashville Episcopal Area as well as the entire United Methodist Church, I grieve. I grieve for the women who faithfully serve, lay and clergy, and how this must make them feel. Apparently, we have a long way to go.
I will again quote from Ephesians 4:1-6:
Paul writes, I beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, 3 making every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism, 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.
I beg you to join me in Paul’s call to lead such a life that all persons will know the value of being created in the image of God and all are given a meaningful life – regardless of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition.