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:
- 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.
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).