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The Great Divide: The Womenís Division and the Women in the Pews
by Faye Short
January/February issue Good News magazine

There is a disconnect between the Womenís Division and local United Methodist Women. Itís rather like a marriage relationship where the two partners have drifted apart, no longer sharing the same interests and goals. Only itís far more serious, for it has to do with disagreement about programs and policies that impact the spiritual lives of women.

Again, using a marriage analogy, not all women within United Methodist Women are aware of the serious divide that exists between them and the Division. They are unaware of actions on the part of the Womenís Division that have betrayed their trust. Or, they have heard inklings about it, but donít want to believe that it is so. However, there comes a time when the separation is so great that it becomes obvious to all who will see it.

Renew believes such a time is now. Over the past two years, there have been numerous actions on the part of the Womenís Division that have been extreme to the point that they cannot be ignored. Surely, they cannot continue to be overlooked or supported financially by United Methodist Women whose personal beliefs are in sharp conflict with the Divisionís theology and ideology. [emphasis added]

While many actions on the part of the Division could be recounted (Renewís White Paper - 14 page PDF - for detailed documentation), let me share as example a few decisions that were made at the Fall 2001 board meeting of the Womenís Division.

  • Following many disparaging remarks in committees about U.S. policy and expressed disdain for the national show of patriotism, a resolution was passed opposing the U.S. war on terrorism, and a campaign was launched to oppose the recent Anti-Terrorism Act that passed both the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan support.
     
  • Directors voted to continue official status for a District Unit of UMW, "Sophia Circle," whose stated purpose is to gather monthly "for an hourís lively discussion on material from the Re-Imagining Newsletter." (For those of you unfamiliar with "Sophia" here is an article by by Katherine Kersten, participant at the original Re-Imagining gathering)
     
  • It was announced that Barbara Lundblad was invited to be a plenary speaker at the upcoming UMW Assembly next April. Barbara was a speaker at the 1993 and 1998 Re-Imagining conferences. She endorsed lesbian practice and referred to God as "Sophia."

In the light of these actions, and many others documented in the White Paper, The Renew Network, along with its parent group, Good News, is calling upon directors of the Womenís Division, district and conference UMW officers and United Methodist Women at the local level to begin a campaign for reform and accountability of the Womenís Division in New York.

Because we know the essentialness of undergirding such a reform effort with prayer, we have put together a packet calling for fasting in the Wesleyan tradition (Thursday after dinner until Friday around 3:00 p.m.), and providing Scripture prayers to use in seeking Godís guidance for this campaign. This packet also contains informational pieces for you to use to document your concerns and prepare to address them.

It is our expectation that individuals and groups will begin praying, fasting, and studying the actions of the Womenís Division with an eye toward genuine reform and accountability. Then, clear and decisive action will be essential to see this accomplished.

Because of the autonomy of the Womenís Division and its unresponsiveness to grass roots questioning of its policies, it would seem that reform will only come from the bottom up. Therefore, contacting other United Methodist Womenís groups in your immediate area to pray with and to share information with would be a good first step. Next, you might want to contact the district and conference officers of United Methodist Women to let them know your concerns and to ask for the support of your elected leadership in the effort to bring reform and accountability to the Womenís Division.

It is important to solicit support and to honor the spiritual leadership of your church by informing your pastor of any actions you plan to take. It would be in order to send a note to your district superintendent and possibly your bishop outlining your concerns and planned action you plan to take. Your entire church family will likely want to provide moral and prayerful support.

Most United Methodist Women understand missions to mean reaching men and women, boys and girls with the gospel of Jesus Christ, and ministering to the real needs of those individuals in whatever ways possible. They are not adverse to engaging spiritual, social or political structures in order to achieve that goal.

The Womenís Division, on the other hand, rallies to the cry of social justice as interpreted by a liberal, feminist theology and a narrow, left-leaning political/social witness. The Division has been able to further its ideological agenda with funding from the women of the church and with their quiet acquiescence.

The women of the church have not seen the promotion of their understanding of biblical mission.

Isnít it time to close this divide? (top)

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