General Conference GCSRW Legislation Update #5- General Conference Adopts Legislation to Amend ¶ 4, Article IV to Include Gender, Age, and Ability

by Jenn Meadows, Director of Communications

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s (GCSRW) petition #60163, Inclusiveness of Gender & Age, was adopted by the General Conference by a majority vote of 68%. A 2/3 majority vote was needed in order for this petition to be adopted due to its amending the Constitution found in The Book of Discipline. The legislation adds ‘gender’, ‘age’, and ‘ability’ to the list of categories constitutionally protected for inclusion in the Church. To be fully adopted, this petition will now go before all Annual Conferences to be considered and voted upon in 2017.

Petition #60163 was amended in the General Administration Committee to add ‘ability’ along with GCSRW’s legislation of ‘gender’ and ‘age’. Adding these words to 4, Article IV of The Book of Discipline means a person could not be treated unfairly or denied opportunities due to age, ability, and on the basis of being a man or a woman. The word ‘gender’ in the language used throughout The Book of Discipline when addressing fairness. Adding it to this paragraph ensures consistency with the Discipline.

“The approval of this constitutional amendment is important as we continue to live into what it means to be a global church,” Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett, President of GCSRW, stated. “The amended Article IV ensures the full participation of women in all parts of the world.”

At the conclusion of General Conference, seven of the eight petitions GCSRW submitted were adopted.

DCA 9: Monitoring Report (Friday, May 20th)

As we celebrate the 60th anniversary of women’s ordination and the 40th anniversary of the creation of this commission, we recognize that we have not yet arrived at the promised land where men and women have no obstacles to the leadership tables. The need to, and the ways in which we hear the diversity of voices within the church still remains a conundrum. The question remains, are certain constituencies being passed over, are they hesitant to speak, or do they not seek to speak. Based on yesterday’s statistics of who spoke during General Conference plenary sessions, it is apparent women have not been heard. Moving forward, there are things upon which we can give our attention:

Language Matters!

  • For God…..There are so many different biblical names that can help us to celebrate and honor more fully the nature of God. He/She, Mother/Father, Creator, Rock, or simply God are all ways that express our incomplete understanding of who God is, recognizing that God need not always be addressed as male.
  • For clergy…..Clergy have traditionally been referred to as “he,” but we celebrate 60 years of the ordination of women in our United Methodist Church, and so we should acknowledged that all clergy are not all men.
  • For people….Instead of “he” or “guys” as the generic term let’s find ways in which we recognize the fullness of humanity. Let’s not leave anyone out through the words we use. “Y’All” is fully acceptable.
  • Much of the world does not speak English as their primary language, and there are many delegates at our General Conference for which this is true as well. Let’s offer the respect that every child of God deserves by using the technology provided us to hear all voices, no matter the language.

More Women Voices!

Women make up over 50% of the membership of the UMC throughout our connection. And still, women make up a much lower percentage of the delegates at General Conference. In order for our denomination to move forward, we need to hear from women’s perspectives all across our connection.

Homework before General Conference

General Conference is just two weeks. We make many important decisions during these two week, AND in between the sessions of General Conference we can, and should, be gathering information and talking with others, especially those who represent constituencies other than our own. Each delegate receives his or her legislative committee assignment prior to arriving at General Conference in order to assure time to prepare for the work. In order to work efficiently, preparation is critical.

Many delegates have talked about the importance of opportunities to speak with those different than themselves. This has informed and even moved them. This is something we can strive to do in between sessions of the General Conference. If we are to truly honor and respect one another, we must get to know one another. Recognizing that our time at General Conference is limited, social media may be one way to enable this to happen before we arrive at General Conference.

Create a statement of Ethical Behavior for Delegates

We have observed, and some behaviors have been named during plenary sessions, that were disturbing. There needs to be an understanding of appropriate ethical behavior for all delegates. This should include such things as voting only with one’s own voting device, addressing one another with respect. In addition, there should be clear instructions for the reporting of inappropriate behavior with clear consequences delineated for any behaviors that are deemed unethical.

We ask The Commission on General Conference prepare such a code of ethical behavior for all delegates attending sessions of General Conference for each delegate to sign.

Transparency

Should we are use similar technology in the future, it is important that we project “the queue” for ALL to see. Why? Delegates would be able to see each other in order to enable self-monitoring for diversity in its many forms, to be transparent in who is asked to speak, to be able to see who wants to speak, and to know when the queue is cleared for the next action.

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women thanks the General Conference for all their work and effort to ensure that all delegates throughout the connection have the opportunity to voice their opinions. We appreciate the opportunity to share our monitoring report with the General Conference each day.

For those who would like to see the General Commission on Status and Role of Women video on the 60th anniversary of women’s ordination presented during the Thursday morning plenary can find it currently at vimeo.com/162618320 or Facebook (GCSRW).

General Conference GCSRW Legislation Update #4- GCSRW Petition Not Considered by General Conference and Celebrates the 60th Anniversary of Women’s Ordination

by Jenn Meadows, Director of Communications

The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s (GCSRW) petition #60167, Prevention of the Use of Porn, was not considered by committee due to time constraints. The Church and Society 2 (CS2) Committee had many petitions to deliberate during their time together as a legislative committee and was not able to discuss this petition. Although this petition passed sub-committee, it was not brought before the full committee. This petition would have readopted Resolution #2082 – Prevention of the Use of Pornography in the Church – in The Book of Resolutions with no changes.

“Thankfully, the language that was in Resolution #2082 (petition 60167) was also in the new Social Principle adopted by this General Conference defining pornography and the harm pornography causes,” Becky Posey Williams, Senior Director of Education and Leader. “Therefore, even though we are disappointed it wasn’t voted on in CS2, we are grateful that the wording is in The Book of Discipline under the Social Principle.”

Today, we celebrated the 60th anniversary of full clergy rights to women and the 40th anniversary of the first clergywomen delegates elected to General Conference. We are incredibly grateful for the collaboration on this project with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) and the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH). We thank Rev. Dr. HiRho Park, Bishop Debbie Wallace-Padgett and Bishop Minerva Carcano for being part of our on-stage presentation. We want to also extend our gratitude to Bishop Sharon Brown Christopher and Rev. Grace Imathiu for being interviewed and featured in this video celebration. We want to especially thank Daniel Scott of DScott Media for his work on this beautiful video production. Please celebrate with us by watching, downloading and sharing this video!

You can find a transcript of our full presentation here..

DCA 8: Monitoring Report (Thursday, May 19)

As we continue in plenary, we have been led carefully by members of the Council of Bishops. They have presided graciously as they have led us through our day’s business.

One particular star of inclusion is Bishop Riggle Huie who was very careful to be sure that everyone knew “where we are” in the process. In addition she called for the body to vote again on one particular piece of legislation when it was pointed out that it should have been announced that a previous vote required affirmation by 2/3rds of the body. Inviting the delegates to put on their headphones to be about the work while others sang outside the bar, she acknowledged that we work within an institution that is not all of one mind or voice.

A second star of inclusion is Bishop Patrick Streiff who presided in French (not his first language). He gave us the opportunity to experience the work of conference from the perspective of those who must depend on the translators and the use of headphones to do this work. Perhaps that experience will help us to better work together. In addition, Bishop Streiff’s patience with the technologies we use made it possible for people to have their voices heard. Please wait while we clear the queue…Please wait while we give people a chance to enter the queue. Thank you so much.

That said, we still have ways in which we can do better as the body of Christ. In our sessions those speaking have been primarily from the United States (approximately 77%) with less said by delegates from the Central Conferences (approximately 23%). And within both the voices of women were far fewer (approximately 27%) than those of the men (73%). It is very hard, with the current system, to see whether women want to speak. Please remember it is important that we hear as many voices as possible before decision making.

And finally, a quick word about letting people speak for themselves. We have observed and had reported to us, that there have been incidents of “mansplaining.” Simply put, it is to explain something to someone, typically a man to woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronizing. Doing this discounts the voice of the speaker. In our conversations with one another, let’s allow people to speak for themselves and when more clarity is needed let that person speak for him or herself.

General Conference GCSRW Legislation Update #3- General Conference Adopts GCSRW Petition Regarding Membership

by Jenn Meadows, Director of Communications

Delegates to the 2016 General Conference adopted the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s (GCSRW) petition #60162 Membership from the Consent Calendar Saturday morning, May 14th.

GCSRW apologizes for the delay in reporting this information, it was an oversight. This Consent Calendar was presented before breaking into legislative committees on Saturday morning.

Petition #60162, Membership, was adopted 43 for, 1 against, 0 abstaining in the Independent Commissions Committee. It was placed on the Consent Calendar of Friday, May 13th ‘s edition of the Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) and adopted on the floor Saturday, May 14th morning. The adoption of this petition will amend 2104.1 b, c, h of The Book of Discipline, which defines the membership of the GCSRW board. This legislation modifies United Methodist Women’s representation on GCSRW’s board from being a voting board member to being a non-voting liaison who sits on GCSRW’s board. This not only maintains the historic working relationship between the two organizations, it also ensures that GCSRW’s board, with only 19 members, is able to commit specifically to GCSRW’s work. This amendment also avoids potential conflicts of interest and conforms to 710.5 and the Code of Ethics for general agencies.

“We are so happy to continue to clarify and reinforce the historic partnership we have established with United Methodist Women,” Senior Director of Education and Leadership Rev. Leigh Goodrich stated. “It is our great joy to work hand-in-hand with them for the empowerment of women.”

GCSRW would also like to lift up that today is Nan Self’s 86th birthday. Self was one of the first co-secretariats of The General Commission on the Status and Role of Women when it was established in 1972. Due to health reasons, this is Self’s first General Conference she’s missed since becoming secretariat. We want to extend birthday greetings to her on this special day.

DCA 7: Monitoring Report (Wednesday, May 18)

Now that we are in plenary, rather than legislative committees, we are led by our Bishops who are great presiding officers. All have been exceptional to this point, and we expect nothing less throughout the coming week. We do want to offer a bit of special appreciation to Bishop Stanovsky who reminded delegates, if they had already spoken, to consider letting other people speak. Thank you Bishop! We all know who those people are, but evidently they themselves do not. Keep those gentle reminders coming.

Up until now, the participation of men and women across the committees was fairly equal to the gender representation of the delegates overall. That is, women delegates make up just over a third of the delegates, and have been speaking about one third of the time, more in some committees, less in others. Notably though, during the Tuesday morning plenary, women made up only 22 percent of the speakers. So, while some might consider limiting their voices , others should consider the opposite.

Finally, as we have mentioned in earlier reports—and as we’ve now heard from visitors in the stands calling out—where are the women? The constant references to God, clergy and people as only male does not present the inclusive church that we claim to be and for which the Commission on the Status and Role of Women stands.

General Conference GCSRW Legislation Update #2- General Conference Adopts Two of GCSRW’s Petitions on Second Full Day of Plenary

by Jenn Meadows, Director of Communications

Delegates to the 2016 General Conference adopted the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women’s (GCSRW) petitions #60164 Pornography and #60161 Membership from the Consent Calendar Tuesday morning.

We at GCSRW are grateful the General Conference recognizes and affirms GCSRW’s work within the denomination and throughout the globe. With today’s adoptions, we continue our ministry with our sisters and brothers across the connection to eradicate sexual misconduct within The United Methodist Church (UMC) with a commitment to spread the work of justice for women throughout the globe.

Petition #60164, Pornography, was adopted 68 for, 2 against, 1 abstaining in the Church and Society 2 Committee. It was placed on the Consent Calendar of Tuesday, May 17th ‘s edition of the Daily Christian Advocate (DCA) and adopted on the floor. Until this recent adoption, The Book of Discipline did not address pornography. Pornography is notoriously difficult to define. GCSRW’s experience working within the Church in prevention and response to sexual misconduct reveals a disturbing growth of the pornography industry. Considering pornography’s pervasiveness, it is important for the Church to address the harm that pornography can cause to individuals, families and communities. This legislation defines what it is about pornography that we find objectionable. The adoption of petition #60164 will add a new Social Principle to 161 in The Book of Discipline addressing pornography.

The text we presented of petition #60164 to the legislative committee was amended. Following the second paragraph, after words, “ruin lives, careers, and relationships”, the following was inserted:

We grieve the pervasiveness of Internet pornography, including among Christians, and especially its impact on young people and marriages.

Before the last sentence (after the words, “issues of addiction”) add:

Further, all churches are encouraged to review and update appropriate child, youth, and adult protection policies to reflect The United Methodist Church’s position that the use of pornography is a for of sexual misconduct.

“The inclusion of a new Social Principle in The Book of Discipline about pornography reflects The UMC’s understanding of the prevalence of the multi-billion dollar industry in our society and the negative effects in brings to individuals, families and communities,” Senior Director of Sexual Ethics and Advocacy, Becky Posey Williams said of this adoption. “This Social Principle helps us as a denomination define pornography, which is included in the chargeable offense of sexual misconduct.”

“This is a piece of legislation that faced some procedural hurdles in 2012 and ultimately was not considered by the plenary,” GCSRW board member Rev. Tyler Schwaller said about today’s adoption. “This will be an important resource for the kinds of very real sexual ethics concerns GCSRW works regularly to address throughout our connection.”

Petition #60161, Membership, was adopted 61 for, 2 against, 0 abstaining in the General Administration Committee. The General Conference adopted this petition off of Tuesday’s DCA’s Consent Calendar. The adoption of this petition will amend 705.4c of The Book of Discipline to conforms with 2104 (GCSRW Membership) that mandates four Central Conference members on our 19 member board. This will clearly reflect commitment to the global life of the Church and harmonizes the two current provisions regarding GCSRW membership.

“This adoption makes sure that we conform to all paragraphs mandating our board membership in The Book of Discipline, thus, keeping our board inclusive globally,” Senior Director of Education and Leadership Rev. Leigh Goodrich stated. Moving onward, GCSRW will continue its commitment to being a global Commission with a global vision.