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Q&A: Commission on the Status & Role of Women


Note: This interview was part of a 2012 series conducted by United Methodist News Service offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church.

What is your agency’s primary mission? How do you accomplish this in the most effective manner?

Garlinda Burton

We exist to uphold the call of Galatians 3:28 that all are one, all are equal and all are part of God’s plan through Christ Jesus. Specifically, we challenge the church to overcome the sin of sexism, sexual exploitation, gender discrimination and idolatry as expressed in patriarchy. Either we are all equally beloved, called, sent and anointed as children of God or we fall short of the gospel mandates we proclaim.

Name at least one exciting thing in which your agency has been involved during the current quadrennium. How does it relate to the Four Areas of Focus?

We have provided support for central conference women’s self-determination by supporting the African clergywomen’s consultation and a survey of, by and for lay and clergywomen in the Philippines on the critical issues they face. We also pulled together the largest-ever consultation on misconduct intervention and prevention to help church leaders confront the issues of clergy/leader sexual abuse. If we want The United Methodist Church to be a credible witness to the gospel, we have to deal with hard issues that threaten to blunt that witness.

How does the average United Methodist pastor or member benefit from your agency’s work? Social advocacy? Curriculum? Scholarships? Please give a concrete example, ideally quoting a testimonial from someone outside of your agency.

If you have an effective woman bishop, superintendent or pastor, it is because Status and Role of Women advocated and challenged the church to open those doors. Our agency took the lead and invited us to explore the role of language and its impact on our worship, devotional life and biblical understanding. We were the agency that called General Conference to mandate policies and practices to address sexual harassment and misconduct for every annual conference. We have launched key church leaders into their roles. Many of the women — and men — bishops serving now have been members of the commission at the congregational, conference and churchwide level. We believe what they learned about justice-making, inviting all voices to a common table and engaging women and men in a more loving and egalitarian way have served the church — and our Christ — well.

Learn more: Website of General Commission on the Status & Role of Women.