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21 out of 25

As I often proclaim, I am bad at math. But sometimes the numbers are so easy to figure, even I can see it: 25-4=21. 

For 21 out of the last 25 years -- in other words, from July 1994 until now, July 2019 -- Woodridge UMC has had a female Lead Pastor. We recently celebrated Pastor Danita's official reappointment, meaning that number will continue to grow. The United Methodist Church has ordained women for more than 50 years-- and the earliest known woman ordained to preach came in 1866! So our little statistic really shouldn't be that big of a deal. But I'm convinced that it is. 

Here at WUMC, with that 21 out of 25 number, we're so used to having women as Lead Pastor we may be fooled into thinking women are doing fine in churches everywhere -- or at least all over the UMC.

Yet, even in the UMC, women make up only about 25% of our clergy. Further, women of color make up only about 4% of our clergy. Male pastors are more likely than female pastors to be appointed to biggest congregation and the wage gap is especially egregious with female clergy paid 76 cents for every dollar a male colleague makes. As followers of Jesus, seeking justice is our calling. Having an unjust and unequal pay system for our clergy makes for a horrendous witness. That is wrong and needs to change.

Simultaneously, we have to continue to change hearts regarding female clergy. This is obviously true in the larger Christian landscape where the two biggest denominations (Southern Baptists and Roman Catholics) refuse to ordain women at all; and very, very few nondenominational evangelical churches do. But hearts and attitudes need to change in the UMC as well.

Here's a video the North Carolina Conference of the UMC recently released. The Conference emailed its female clergy asking for comments they have received about being a woman in ministry. For the video, male clergy colleagues were asked to read the responses*.

(I really wanted to embed the video here so you wouldn't have to follow a link to view it. But, alas, the tech isn't cooperating. Please click the link and watch the video from the NC Conference.)

We as a church and as a society need to do better and be better. As we strive toward that goal, let's give thanks to God for those 21  years and counting -- and give thanks for the ministry of The Reverend Linda Foster-Momsen, The Reverend Linda Misewicz-Perconte, and The Reverend Danita Anderson

 

*This reminds me so much of the award-winning video Chicago-based sports journalists, Julie DiCaro and Sarah Spain, released a couple years ago. It's much more graphic, but very much worth your time and revulsion to watch

 

Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

441 to 79

Back in January and February, we used a bunch of pixels on this blog on the lead up to the Special General Conference. (Connect to the 6-part series here.) Admittedly, after all that happened in St. Louis, it took a while to post reactions here. Like most of you, I was stunned, saddened, and angry. I just couldn't believe -- or at least didn't want to believe -- that the denomination we love could be so cruel. But the naked truth is that passing the "Traditional" Plan* actually increases the UMC's discrimination against, and harm of, LGBTQ persons.

Our Northern Illinois Conference's (NIC) Annual Conference (AC) met the first week of June.  What -- if anything -- did our Annual Conference do to resist the "Traditional" Plan?

I'm happy to report that the resistance is alive and well in NIC!

The NIC passed "10 pieces of legislation to be sent to the General Conference in 2020 for consideration. Most of the legislation supports the Simple Plan and the removal of discriminatory language against LGBTQ in the Book of Discipline." As I've previously written, I believe the Simple Plan to be the best way forward for the UMC. 

Next, the NIC "voted to suspend payments to the General Administration Fund until changes are made to the structure and practices of the General Conference particularly in light of questions over voting irregularities at the February Special Session. The General Administration Fund underwrites General Conference and the Judicial Council."

Finally, the NIC took a "non-binding straw poll to gauge the annual conference on which direction it would choose for its future. The two choices included: 1) a conference whose policies allow for clergy to officiate at same-gender weddings, allow for consideration of ordained ministry people of varying sexual orientations and gender identities, and in which appointments are made with consideration given to the full range of contextual realities, or 2) according to the Book of Discipline as amended in 2019."

I'm thrilled to pass along that our Annual Conference voted "441 for option #1 and 79 for option #2." (And now you know the inspiration for the title of this post.) 441 to 79 gives me hope

Read more about all the NIC AC legislation here.

Read a broader summation of the AC here.

The NIC AC Mission Challenge was to provide "new clean towels, soap, toothbrushes, and many other personal hygiene items to help people locally and globally through a disaster or humanitarian crisis thanks to Northern Illinois United Methodists." The effort brought in "50,000 items or 5,271 pounds!" That's pretty awesome. Read more about the Mission Challenge here

But don't think it will easy sailing to full LGBTQ inclusion. One of the NIC's leading voices against loving affirmation retired at AC, but vowed to continue "developing the network of the Northern Illinois Wesleyan Covenant Association." The Wesleyan Covenant Association is the main group behind the passing of the "Traditional" Plan.

Still, I'm hopeful for the future of the NIC and for the UMC. Let us all remember that "resistance is built on hope."

 

*I will always use scare quotes when naming the "Traditional" plan. I concede that, in the strictest sense, maintaining the virulently anti-LGBTQ+ language and actions in that Plan continues the tradition of the United Methodist Church. However, from the beginning of the Jesus movement, a gender fluid person was baptized and welcomed as a disciple of Christ without hesitation or question (e.g. Acts 8). That scripture is obviously much, much older than the "tradition" of the UMC (and the incident itself is even older still), so why isn't welcoming and affirming our tradition? Why does the plan that excludes and cruelly punishes get to claim "tradition"?

Posted by Pastor Dave Buerstetta with

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