This post is by Jennifer Ferariza-Meneses, Executive Secretary, Board of Women's Work, Philippines Central Conference. It is written in response to the recently announced non-ratification of two amendments to the United Methodist Church's constitution regarding gender justice.
As the world celebrates Mother’s Day today (even earlier this week), a big portion of my being a woman, a mother, a lay member of the United Methodist Church in the Philippines, is lamenting over the recent news about the failure (by required 2/3 votes) of my Church to affirm gender justice, women’s equality and all persons' full inclusion in the total life of The United Methodist Church. It is distressful to see the results of votes casted upon by several annual conferences, particularly in the Philippines Central Conference where I belong, of which women’s leadership, women's active participation and women's full engagement in almost all aspects and levels of our mission and ministries, are distinctly visible, but fail to be deliberately and justly recognized by the whole Church. The struggle is real, absolutely frustrating, but with the challenging words from our United Methodist women bishops' pastoral letter,
“We weep for the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual harm that is inflicted upon women and girls because of this action. We weep for those who are denied the ability to use their gifts to make a difference in the world. We also weep for those who are not protected from exclusion in the church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition. We see you. We weep with you. We seek your healing. We work for the healing of our church. We strive for a church and world that honors every person as a beloved child of God, made in the image of our Creator.”
Women know and feel… from the core of their heart, mind, soul… that we never lose hope and we dare to fight.
I can say that working and journeying with our women over a decade through the organizations of UMWSCS, deaconesses, clergywomen, clergy female spouses, youth and young adult fellowships in the Philippines Central Conference ensure a possibility, though it seems like impossible in some occasions, that we can create a world of harmony, unity and equality. Our commitment and ministries for women’s empowerment go with our advocacy work for gender partnership – women and men working together and promotion of equal spaces and opportunities for both women and men. Our women have been learning the value and importance of collective action and shared leadership and service. They have been unlearning hierarchical and bureaucratic approaches, behaviors and styles and seeking ways of being inclusive, compassionate, welcoming and nurturing community of God’s people.
While we are forever grateful to our women (and some men) who made a significant impact with all their personal and institutional efforts in the past to advance women’s equality and gender justice within our Church, our present realities send us a clear message - that we must carry on, that we continue to struggle, to resist and that we cannot rest until we “reach a place where we fully embody the gospel promise that, ‘There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus’-Galatians 3:28” (From the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church Statement in Support of Women’s Equality and Full Inclusion, May 7, 2018).
As the world celebrates Mother’s Day today, I pause for a moment with my Mother God… to pray… and sing...
“Our souls magnify the Lord,
And our spirits rejoice in God our Savior,
For God has looked on the humble state of God’s servant.
For behold, from now on all generations will call us blessed.”
(Paraphrase from The Magnificat, Luke 1:46-48)
“Our hearts exult in the Lord;
Our strength is exalted in our God.
Our mouth derides our enemies,
Because we rejoice in our victory”
(Paraphrase from Song of Hannah, 1 Samuel 2:1)
We celebrate our being women, created in the image and likeness of God, who are bound to protect and care for the sanctity of life;
Like Mary and Hannah, we speak words of denunciation to powers that be creating unjust systems and oppressive structures that destroy life and human dignity;
Like Mary and Hannah, we desire to take an active part in liberating our people from all forms of violence, injustices, discrimination and oppression;
Like Mary and Hannah, we pray for lasting peace, justice and equality to triumph and flourish;
Like Mary and Hannah, we sing songs of hope, freedom and liberation for our people, for our Church, for our land.
And our prayers and singing will never end… until fullness of life as God has promised, is fulfilled and shared with all.