by Dawn Wiggins Hare
In 2015 when announcing his diverse cabinet to the citizens of Canada, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau famously retorted when asked why he implemented diversity, “Because it is 2015.” Church, it is 2020!
For more than 24 years, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has sought to amend Paragraph 4 of Article 4 of The United Methodist Church’s Constitution to add the word “gender” to the list of discriminatory categories that will not be tolerated to exclude persons from membership in the church. The word “gender” is used 64 times in The Book of Discipline in our shared acknowledgment that women are created in the image of God and are to be equal in the church and in our communities.
Why is the amendment necessary? Because we know that women are discriminated in the life of the church. We know that women who are divorced or who are in polygamous relationships have been denied membership in churches across the connection, and in some areas, women have been denied the sacrament of communion.
In 2016, for the very first time, the amendment to add “gender” as a protected category passed General Conference with the requisite two-thirds majority vote. Screams were heard across the floor of the convention center in Portland; friends ran toward one another in celebration, as women and men who support equality felt the crash of a pane of the stained-glass ceiling.
Because this was a constitutional amendment, the next step was for the legislation to be ratified across the connection by a two-thirds cumulative vote. Over the next year, annual conference by annual conference voted on the legislation. The votes were tallied, and the Council of Bishops announced in May of 2018 that the ratification had failed to pass. The amendment received only 61.3% of the votes. There were 29,049 votes for the amendment and 18,317 votes against. Really? 18,317 votes AGAINST in 2016?
Why? Why in a church that seeks to include women could this amendment fail?
Why in a church with petitions pending before the next General Conference to dismantle the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women because the commission’s work and independence is unnecessary, would this vote be the outcome?
Why in a church with female clergy making $.84 on the $1.00 compared with male clergy in the United States, would this ratification vote fail?
The mandate of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women by General Conference through The Book of Discipline is to challenge The United Methodist Church.
Church, it is 2020! Consider yourself challenged.
Dawn Wiggins Hare is an attorney and the first woman elected in the 35th Judicial Circuit as circuit judge in Monroeville, Alabama. Hare was named General Secretary of The United Methodist Church’s General Commission on the Status and Role of Women in January 2013. She served on the governing board of the UMC’s General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits from 2008 to 2012, where she was recording secretary and a member of the appeals committee. Hare was a General Conference delegate in 2008, 2012, 2016, and 2019 elected from the Alabama-West Florida Annual Conference. She served as delegate to the Southeastern Jurisdictional Conference in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. Served on the Appeals Committee and chaired its Investigation Committee. In 2012, Hare received the Alice Lee Award from the Alabama West Florida Commission on the Status and Role of Women. She has been a member of First United Methodist Church of Monroeville, Alabama since 1988 and holds bachelor of science and law degrees from the University of Alabama. She and her husband, Nicholas S. Hare, Jr., are the parents of two adult sons.