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Feb 19, 2019

In April of 2016, United Methodist clergywomen gathered to explore the theme, “Birthing the Worldwide Church.” In this episode, Rev. Dr. HiRho Y. Park reviews the progress that’s been made and looks at the challenges that remain.



0:01        When women come together there's nothing we cannot do. Welcome to the WellSprings Journal Podcast, where you will hear from women who have been called by God into lives to speak grace and compassion, that share pain and anger, and that dance life's joys and laughter. Inspiration to call forth your creative spirit awaits. Listen now.

0:33        "Imagine Strong and Prophetic Leadership," by HiRho Y. Park, Executive Director of Clergy Lifelong Learning & the United Methodist Church’s Cyber Campus.

0:44        Oneness is something that many United Methodists are striving to understand as a worldwide church, especially what that means in the midst of gender, racial/ethnic, cultural, economic, and theological diversity among clergy leadership in the church. United Methodist clergywomen gathered two days prior to the World Methodist Council, (WMC) August 29-31, 2016, exploring the theme: “Birthing the Worldwide Church,” and engaging women leaders of the World Methodist Council (WMC). The gathering was held at the Hilton-Americas Hotel and Conference Center in Houston, Texas.

1:26        This Global United Methodist Clergywomen Gathering encouraged UM clergywomen to learn from each other in a variety of ministry settings and locations, an opportunity to envision, articulate, and participate in leading the worldwide church as women clergy. Gathered UM clergywomen across the world discussed what excites them about future global ministry opportunities and what would be the greatest global challenges facing UM clergywomen in the future. This special gathering strengthened networks of international relationships among UM clergywomen and other Methodist leaders, and most of all, we imagined a model of being a global church as women.

2:14        Let me share with you some history of UMC clergywomen. First, we have much to celebrate. In 2006, UM clergywomen celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of full clergy rights for women in the Methodist tradition. The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry organized the celebration in Chicago, Illinois. During our gathering in 2016, we celebrated sixty years of full clergy rights for women in the Methodist tradition and twenty years of ordained deacons in United Methodism. Deacons in the United Methodist Church are ordained to a ministry of Word, Service, Compassion, and Justice whereas elders are ordained to Word, Sacrament, Order and Service.

3:04        In 1956, there were 27 Methodist clergywomen who received full clergy rights. By 2014, the number of UM clergywomen had grown to 11, 388 active and 2,525 retired clergywomen, among a total of 54,474 UM clergy as of 2016, which means women account for 27 percent of all clergy. The number of female clergy grew 25 percent since 1992.

3:41        The number of lead women pastors serving churches with membership of one thousand or more has grown to 137 clergywomen as of 2012, compared to 64 in 2008. This is 114 percent growth within just four years.

4:01        The number of young clergywomen is growing also; 6 percent of elders are under the age of 35, 39 percent of those are female. Seventy-five percent of all ordained deacons are young clergywomen as of 2014. According to the recent report from the Lewis Center, “Young Clergy Numbers Grow among Clergywomen,” in the last ten years, the number of young clergywomen elders has increased 10 percent (31 percent in 2005, 41 percent in 2015), the highest in the history of The United Methodist Church. The number of young ordained deacons who are women has increased 12 percent (68 percent in 2012, 80 percent in 2015 of all ordained deacons). Women local pastors represent a quarter of the entire number of the group.

4:47        Along with the celebration, we have challenges to address, and we did. There are only 12 active female bishops in the entire UM connection, 10 in the United States and two in the Central Conferences as of 2015.  In 2016, we elected seven more women bishops including four African American women bishops.  Now we have 17 active women bishops since two women bishops retired. 

5:18        Since then, 350 United Methodist clergywomen of Africa and 150 Filipina United Methodist clergywomen gathered in 2018 to affirm women’s leadership in the Church and society and to seek gender justice and equity within the church system.  There will be two US based Southeast and South Central regional leadership development conferences of United Methodist clergywomen in 2019. 

5:58        What does this all mean to The United Methodist Church? If this is “feminization of clergy leadership” in the church, what does that look like in the future? Here, I use the word feminization from the perspective of women advancing in ecclesial leadership and, of course, not supporting misogyny within Christianity.

6:21        How does women’s clergy leadership make a difference, especially when we are becoming, more and more, a worldwide church? There will be no simple answers to these questions. However, I believe that the time is ripe for United Methodist clergywomen to explore responses to these questions. The Global UM Clergywomen Gathering in 2016 was the perfect opportunity to do so.

6:47        We raised scholarships for those who receive minimum salaries and serve in Central Conferences since we wanted as many as UM clergywomen and seminarians as possible to be a part of this historic gathering in 2016.  As a result, we were able to host 450 United Methodist clergywomen from 27 countries around the world speaking six different languages. 

7:15        Let us pray for one another across the globe so that United Methodist clergywomen not only imagine strong and prophetic leadership for the future but also take actions to implement those dreams for younger generations of women!

7:33     Thank you for listening to the WellSprings Journal podcast. Be sure to visit to find more resources for the journey.