Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name and spirit of our Risen Christ!
This is a disquieting time for those concerned about women’s rights and gender discrimination in The United Methodist Church. Two amendments to the Church’s Constitution were proposed at General Conference 2016 in Portland, Oregon. They, along with 3 other amendments to our Constitution were approved. By United Methodist Church law, these amendments were then presented for ratification to all the Annual Conferences in the denomination across the globe. The final step in the process was the presentation of the tally of all the votes cast to the Council of Bishops for a final examination and verification.
At our Council meeting last week, the results were shared. When it was announced that Amendments #1 and #2 had not passed, many of your bishops were shocked with disbelief, surprise, anger, and despair. We could not imagine how those two amendments could fail, since they dealt with something that many of us feel very strongly about, namely, the equality of women and men in God’s eyes, and the need to mirror that same love of God keeping girls and women from harm through our ministries, in our lives, and in our advocacy. In response, a pastoral letter was written by the female bishops to the church and a letter from female clergy, including many from the Desert Southwest Conference was posted.
Here in the Desert Southwest Conference, we have been strong proponents of stricter laws to combat human trafficking. We have stood courageously to declare that girls and women are to be protected from violence and mental, emotional, and spiritual harm. We have declared ourselves to be a church that is open and inviting to all persons, regardless of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status or economic condition. That is who we strive to be as a Conference of The United Methodist Church. Our votes, taken at Annual Conference 2017 and submitted for the tally that was announced last week, demonstrate this firm commitment to the elimination of discrimination against girls and women.
But we also confess that there is much that we yet can and need do. What we say does not always coincide with what we do. There are places in our Desert Southwest Conference where the evils of gender discrimination persist. Sometime intentionally, and sometimes unintentionally. Even though we proclaim ourselves persons who do not practice gender discrimination, our words and our actions demonstrate otherwise.
I join with many who confess and admit our blindness to our gender discrimination. I would like to believe I am on a journey with my colleagues and friends toward gender equality in my life. But I know myself to be one who can and must be continually trying to do better. And I pray that I can and will.
Such is also the case for constitutional amendment #1. We have just learned that the amendment will be re-submitted to the whole denomination again in the next annual conferences. It was announced that an error was discovered in the text that was sent to the annual conferences and that for amendment #1, the wording that we voted on was not the same wording that was adopted at General Conference 2016. So, we will vote on amendment #1 again when our annual conference meets next month. I pray that this time, the global vote will reflect an unwavering commitment to speak strongly against harm to girls and women, a desire to confront such discrimination and a pledge to work to eliminate harmful discrimination in the name of Christ.
With deep appreciation, I give thanks for the laity and clergy of the Desert Southwest Conference who with courage and conviction give voice to the voiceless and prod us to become better Christ-followers by working toward elimination of discrimination and harm against girls and women. I acknowledge the love and patience of women who have shaped and continue to shape my life and make me a better person.
Will you forgive my shortcomings? Will you pray for and with me? Will you work for and with the girls and women of the world who need the reassurance that we will hold them as precious and equal?
- Click here to find the article titled, “United Methodist Clergywomen Respond to Amendments’ Defeat.”
- Click here to find the UMNS article titled, “Error forces revote on failed constitutional amendment.”
- This message was originally published via Facebook on May 11, 2018. Click here to find Bishop Bob on Facebook.