By Jennifer Starr-Reivitt from hopeasmyanchorblog.wordpress.com
This isn’t a Pinterest post in which I show off my bright green jewelry, but if you’re Free Methodist….this post is for you….
I’m going green.
Not really the green you think of when I say “going green.”
Green is the color of growth, of change, of something new. Every Spring we are reminded of new life, from barren trees and fields to a world that is full of life.
I believe there is some change and new growth that needs to take place in the Free Methodist Church. Once founded on members who were passionate about social justice, we have become lackadaisical about causes we once cared about. We need to bring some of these issues to the surface again. We need to poke and prod a little. We need to get uncomfortable.
I’m talking about women in ministry.
Our founder, B.T. Roberts once wrote a book about ordaining women. I’m sure he took a lot of grief for that book and it took another 80 some years before the Free Methodist Church fully ordained women.
We need to bring this issue front and center because it’s a social justice issue. We say we fully support women in ministry and we fully ordain women, but women account for less than 20% of our pastors in the United States and many of them are unpaid. We say we support women but some of our MEG and MAC boards have NO women clergy represented on them. We say we support women in ministry yet we have countless women who are ordained and acknowledged by their conference to serve, yet remain without an appointment year after year. We say we support women in ministry yet we have only had 3 female superintendents…ever.
My plan is to wear green to all conference and national events for the Free MethodistChurch and every pastors’ gathering. The following are suggestions that need to be discussed together…..one-on-one, in small groups, among pastors, among the laity, and among the leadership. We need to wear green to remind us of where we have come and how far we need to go.
Suggestions to address:
1. Women need placements. We cannot expect our congregations to understand why we ordain women when they don’t see women in action. All women who are conference ministerial candidates or who are ordained should be appointed by their conference at a church whether volunteer or paid. (Churches should not use paying in to retirement as an excuse to not place a woman in a volunteer or part time, under 20 hour a week, job. This is an unacceptable excuse not to place a woman. We also need to address requiring delegates per pastor when some struggling need more help and women are willing to volunteer as appointed pastors without the added financial strain of required number of delegates)
2. Women should be interviewed for job openings. Every church should interview any capable man or woman who is available in the conference. Superintendents should require churches to interview qualified women for their positions. This does not mean they need to hire her, but again, we are not educating our churches about our beliefs when they never see women even interviewed. Superintendents should always look for qualified men and women within the denomination.
3. If a church states it will not hire a woman or call an ordained woman a pastor, the pastor and the superintendent must educate the leadership team concerning our theology. We wouldn’t allow someone to teach false doctrine concerning the Trinity in our church, so we should not sit idly by while our churches continue to ignore our beliefs on the Bible and women in ministry.
4. Let’s make sure our conference leadership begins to look like we believe that women are capable of leadership at all levels. All conference boards, leadership teams, MEG, MACs, etc should be equally women and men. MEG, MAC and leadership boards should have equal numbers of male and female clergy. We need more women considered for Superintendent roles as well.
5. We can no longer say this is a secondary matter. We are all one in Christ and if we are about Kingdom living we can’t view this as anything but necessary and urgent.
6. We need to encourage Wesleyan Holiness curriculum and speakers that are not in contradiction to our teachings on women. Our women clergy should not have to be subject to listening to false teachings concerning their calling at camps and denominational gatherings. We certainly hear enough of this in other Christian gatherings. We should be able to attend Free Methodist gatherings and not feel our hearts race because we have to hear teaching on gender roles we will have to argue against. Superintendents and pastors must call this out when they hear it.
7. If at all possible, women clergy should be paid for their positions. We do not communicate we value women in ministry when all of the paid positions go to men.
8. We would petition for a Center for Gender Equality and Diversity to work towards education in our denomination.
Would you consider “going green” with me? To enter in to the discussion? To ask the tough questions? To admit maybe you have not been actively supporting your sisters and ask them how you can begin to do that?
When we wear green we will be reminded we have a ways to go. Process is good, the journey isn’t always easy, but to not address the hurt, pain and oppression many women are experiencing in our denomination is a travesty. So many are afraid to speak up for fear of never getting placements….that they already don’t have.
Wearing green shows that you are willing to hear, listen, share and to respond.
Note: I’m especially grateful for our benevolent male advocates who see the beauty of everyone having a place at the table.