The women of the UM Church need you

By Liza Kittle

In just a few months, United Methodists from all across the world will be gathering in Tampa, Florida, for our quadrennial General Conference 2012. This meeting consists of 1000 elected clergy and lay delegates who will vote on a myriad of issues and ultimately determine our church law for the next four years. This will be an especially contentious year as proposals for a complete reordering of the structure of the UM Church will be put forward to coincide with the church’s new emphasis on “building vital congregations.” It will be an exciting and challenging ten day conference.

The Women’s Division, the leadership organization of United Methodist Women, will be front and center in these debates. They will introduce legislation that will formally separate them from their current home the General Board of Global Ministries. While this separation is welcome news, it remains to be seen where the organization of UMW will fall within any new church structure. Currently, the proposal lists both United Methodist Men and UMW as membership organizations. Renew has submitted legislation calling for other women’s ministry options as well.

We pray for God’s favor with our legislation and that the delegates will see the benefit of many avenues for women’s ministry. As UMW continues to lose around 50,000 members and a thousand units annually, the Women’s Division has much at stake at General Conference 2012.

The Women’s Division has made it clear they will continue to oppose the formation of any other women’s ministry programs within the church. At General Conference, annual conferences, and locally the Women’s Division continue to oppose women who seek follow God’s calling on their lives by starting supplemental ministries. In this day when building vital congregations is a stated church goal, why does the leadership of UMW continue to undermine building strong women’s ministry programs? Perhaps it is fear of losing control and money as they see their numbers falling drastically year after year. Do they fear a loss of relevancy and voice within the larger church? Surely reaching women for Jesus is something everyone can embrace and endorse.

Women across the denomination are “opting out” of UMW due to the partisan political lobbying, feminist theological teachings, and radical social justice agenda of the Women’s Division. Women are tired of being told how to “do” women’s ministry and they demand freedom to explore other options of reaching women for Jesus Christ. Over the last few months, UMW leaders have participated in the Occupy Wall Street Movement, marched for open immigration, rallied at the White House against the Tar Sands pipeline project, and participated in feminist gatherings at the United Nations. The Division continues to be a partner organization with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (an agency advocating no restrictions on abortion or the passage of parental consent laws).

The Women’s Division does all this with the millions of hard earned mission dollars donated by loyal members of their organization. This once fruitful vehicle for reaching the lost with the message of salvation through Jesus Christ has changed drastically over the years into a vocal political action committee that spreads its radical agenda to vulnerable women across the globe.

The other day I received a letter from a disillusioned woman within the church. It mirrors many I receive from laity and clergy.

She writes, “ I have wanted to start a new women’s program in our church, but I ran into so many roadblocks with the UMW. I was so hurt. I really felt the Lord leading me to start a new program called ‘Women at the Well’. When I first joined this church, we had 4 UMW groups and over time they have dwindled into just one small group. I don’t see how anyone can deny others the right to do what God has called them to do….Is there any hope of freedom for all the women who want and need spiritual growth, a deeper relationship with God, and fellowship with other women who are growing, learning, caring for, and giving to others? I want to thank Renew for speaking out and speaking up for the true purpose of women’s ministry…we need you Renew!”

Renew will send a team of women to General Conference 2012 to work with a coalition of other faithful United Methodist, to urge delegates to embrace other avenues for vital women’s ministry programs. We will also attempt to curtail the Women’s Division from becoming its own powerful entity, resulting in an even more restrictive environment for new women’s programs.

The Renewal and Reform Coalition will also be working to retain the United Methodist Church’s traditional view of marriage as between one man and one woman. We will counter a huge presence at the Conference that will try to rally the denomination for full acceptance of homosexual practice, in marriage and in ordination. Deep-pocketed secular organizations are pumping tremendous amounts of money to pro-homosexual groups that will be present at General Conference.

This ten day conference is the most important work the Coalition does for you as a church. We work tirelessly all year, every year, to maintain the core tenets of orthodox Christianity and Wesleyan doctrine. It is an expensive undertaking as well, costing hundreds of thousands of dollars for transportation, lodging, delegate briefings, and conference newsletters. We need your help to counter this offensive onslaught and to lift high the Cross of Jesus Christ in the midst of this spiritual battle.

Your generous gift to the Coalition and Renew will enable our team to participate in this crucial gathering…..to represent the women of the church by promoting the acceptance of other vital women’s ministry programs…..to stand for truth regarding issues that are important to women and families….and to be a visible witness to our Lord Jesus Christ. Won’t you help us? We need your support?

Liza Kittle is the President of the Renew Network (www.renew-network.org), P.O. Box 16055, Augusta, GA 30919; telephone: 706-364-0166.