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A message on women's equality in the church - by Bishop Alsted

By: Christian Alsted

09.05.2018 01:41
Category: General

Dear members of the church in the Nordic and Baltic area

I am sorry about the Nordic and Baltic votes in the recent vote on constitutional amendments. I foolishly thought, we were at a better place.

I thought we shared the understanding that women and men are equal as members, leaders and clergy across the Nordic and Baltic countries.


I foolishly believed, it was our shared value to give all people access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church and not exclude anyone because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition.

Over the past 2 years annual conferences across the world has voted on five constitutional amendments, two of them did not receive sufficient votes.

Amendment one, which added language that both men and women are made in the image of God and that we will confront and seek to eliminate discrimination against women and girls, received an aggregate vote of 66.5%, falling short of the necessary 2/3 majority by .2 % (less than 100 votes).

Amendment two, which added this language, “… nor shall any member be denied access to an equal place in the life, worship, and governance of the Church because of race, color, gender, national origin, ability, age, marital status, or economic condition,” received an aggregate vote of 61.3%, again falling short of a 2/3 vote.

These are the votes of the Nordic and Baltic episcopal area:

Amendment       I:             Yes       No    Amendment II:        Yes        No

Denmark                           19%       81%                     100%     0%

Estonia                44%       56%                     15%       85%

Finland Swedish 100%     0%                       100%     0%

Finland Finnish   96%       4%                       87%       13%

Norway                             70%       30%                     88%       12%

 There may be a number of reasons why delegates to annual conferences vote as they do, and I honor and respect that. However having looked carefully at the votes in the Nordic and Baltic area, I am sad and embarrassed by the number of No’s in the Denmark, Estonia and Norway conferences. We carry our part of the responsibility of why these amendments did not pass.

I echo the dismay expressed by the Council of Bishops at the recent meeting saying: “While we are not completely clear concerning the motivation that caused them to miss the two-thirds required majority by slim margins, we want to be clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church,” said the Council statement. (You will find the full statement below)

I apologize particularly to the girls and women in our churches, who serve as members, leaders, lay preachers, pastors, deacons and district superintendents – you are an invaluable part of the church, you deserve to be treated with the utmost respect and appreciation. Together men and women, we serve in societies and in a world where prejudice, discrimination and abuse against girls and women is usual – how can we even begin to address these injustices if our own house is not in order.
The vote the church has taken on these constitutional amendments is hurtful. We are called to be better than this. We have to do better than this. I am committed for us to do better than this.

Christian Alsted

bishop

After my statement regarding the vote on constitutional amendments was published, an error was discovered in the material that was sent to the annual conferences last year. One sentence that general conference deleted from the proposal with an overwhelming majority was by mistake included in the material. This may have affected the vote.

The first proposal for a constitutional amendment has now been sent to all annual conferences to be voted  on at this years conferences.

 

I ask you you to ignore my previous statement, as I don't wish to influence the democratic process.

 

 

Christian Alsted
bishop

 

Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church

Statement in Support of Women’s Equality and Full Inclusion

May 7, 2018

 

The Council of Bishops notes with dismay that two amendments to the Constitution of The United Methodist Church regarding gender equality did not pass. While we are not completely clear concerning the motivation that caused them to miss the two-thirds required majority by slim margins, we want to be clear that we are unequivocal in our commitment to the equality of women and their full inclusion in our Church. Our Social Principles are clear: “We affirm with Scripture the common humanity of male and female, both having equal worth in the eyes of God. We reject the erroneous notion that one gender is superior to another, that one gender must strive against another, and that members of one gender may receive love, power, and esteem only at the expense of another.” (161(F)) We also state, “We affirm women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life.” (162(F)). With regard to clergy, our principle has been clear for more than 60 years: “Both men and women are included in all provisions of the Discipline that refer to the ordained ministry. “((369.2). Throughout our Book of Discipline, the General Conference has enacted provisions to protect women’s role and to enhance their full participation in the life of the church. This includes the establishment of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women and their related structures in annual conferences.

We confess we have a long way to go to fully live into our deep commitment to the equality of women in our many countries and in the life of The United Methodist Church. Sexism still exists at all levels of our church, and we confess our sinful actions and structures. We acknowledge that we have not yet reached 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).

We recommit ourselves as individual bishops, and the Council of Bishops, to leading the church toward the goal which Christ has given us to fully include both men and women in the life and ministry of Christ’s church.