By General Secretary Ivan Abrahams
I recently had the privilege of speaking at the unveiling of a portrait at the World Methodist Museum, where we gave visibility and voice to Helen Alder Davisson, a circuit-riding preacher who was amongst the first women to be ordained in the Methodist Church in the United States.
That afternoon spent at the museum reminded me of my own mother and the many passionate and committed women of faith whose contagious zeal for the gospel propelled me on my spiritual journey into the ordained ministry. I give thanks to God for the rich wisdom and grace of women who despite patriarchy, bigotry and marginalization carried on the tradition and faith.
I’m deeply inspired by the continuous witness of women within the World Methodist Council like our Vice-President Gillian Kingston, our Steering Committee members Ruby Beech, Emmy Lou John, Bishop Theresa Snorton, the new Director of World Methodist Evangelism Dr. Kimberly Reisman, and our Youth and Young Adult co-chairs Rev. Lauren Matthew and Christy-Anna Errington all of whom bring a unique perspective to the work that we do. I look forward with great excitement to working with Bishop Janice Riggle Huie from the Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church and the Program Chair Sarah Wilkie as we look towards the 21st World Methodist Conference in Houston, Texas.
While we celebrate the women in ministry we can’t gloss over the pain, suffering and injustice that many endured to have their voices heard. Even though today women are more visible, there is still a profound silence in churches about issues like rape, abuse and violence against women.
Unfortunately patriarchy still continues to shape societies throughout much of the world. Currently in the United States there is an engaging conversation about domestic and familial violence which involves two prominent sports stars, Ray Rice and Adrian Peterson. The responses have been both encouraging and troubling. There are those who want to downplay each incident as private matters between families and others who want to continue the discussion about how we deal with violence within our society.
The World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women are participants in the Thursdays in Black Movement, which was born out of the World Council of Church’s Ecumenical Decade of Churches in Solidarity with Women. I had the pleasure of being part of this campaign and seeing this movement expand and flourish. The movement has become an international campaign with links to the 1999 recipients of the World Methodist Peace Prize, the Mothers of the Plaza de Mayo. It has a global footprint and is strong in places like Bosnia, Palestine, South Africa, India, and Australia. To join and show solidarity with victims and survivors of gender abuse, people are simply asked to wear black on Thursdays.
October is Domestic Violence Awareness and Prevention Month. Please join me in challenging patriarchy and working towards the day that the Global Methodist family will be a joyful community where we can celebrate equitable relationships between women and men in a world free of violence.