LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. (June 9, 2019) -- Let us pause to give thanks for progress in the Holston Annual Conference, says the Rev. Sharon Bowers.
As two long-time clergy leaders prepare to retire, the Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) wants to acknowledge the highest percentage of female Appointment Cabinet members in Holston Conference history.
Five out of nine district superintendents are women, which happened under the leadership of Holston Conference’s first female bishop, Mary Virginia “Dindy” Taylor. With Bishop Taylor included, the Appointment Cabinet membership is now 60 percent female.
After 47 years of service, the Rev. Brenda Carroll, Tennessee Valley District superintendent, will retire effective July 1. After 23 years of service, the Rev. Sandra Johnson, Clinch Mountain District superintendent, will also retire this summer.
“We want to make sure Holston doesn’t forget these trailblazers,” says Bowers, chair of Holston’s COSROW.
The Holston Cabinet will continue to have a female majority after Annual Conference, since the Rev. Ann Robins has been appointed to follow Carroll. The Rev. Jane Taylor will follow Johnson.
“These are two strong leaders. Everywhere they’ve been, their churches have flourished,” Bishop Taylor said of Carroll and Johnson. “I’m thankful and grateful to God that I had the opportunity to work with them.”
Bishop Taylor served as president of the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women (GCSRW) from 2004 to 2012. GCSRW is one of 13 general agencies of The United Methodist Church, governed by a board representing annual conferences in the U.S. and in the Philippines, Norway, Liberia, and Mozambique.
Bishop Taylor has served as Holston’s resident bishop since 2012.
GCSRW’s purpose is “a continuing commitment to the full and equal responsibility and participation of women in the total life and mission of the Church, sharing fully in the power and in the policy-making at all levels of church life.”
Out of 1,087 total clergy in Holston, 272 or 25 percent are women, according to Sandra Seay, database administrator.
Holston’s numbers are similar to those for the U.S. part of the denomination, according to Pamela Pirtle, GCSRW director of leadership development and accountability.
“For the United States, women currently represent 25 percent of all clergy, ordained and provisional,” Pirtle said. “However, this number fluctuates a bit in some areas. For example, some jurisdictions were closer to 28-29 percent.”
A recent report, “State of Clergywomen in the U.S.,” showed that women comprise about 20.7 percent of clergy in the nation. In 2017, the combined average percentage of female pastors in the mainline churches stands at 27 percent, according to the report released by Eileen Campbell-Reed.
Women comprised at least half of Unitarian Universalist (57 percent) and United Church of Christ (50 percent) in 2017, the report showed.
On Tuesday, Holston Annual Conference members will be asked to affirm a resolution entitled, “Every Barrier Down: Toward Full Embrace of All Women in Church and Society,” printed on pages 147-151 of the “Book of Reports.”
The resolution was submitted by Bowers. General Conference adopted the resolution in 2016. Bowers said she hopes Holston Conference will “pick up the resolution and own it ... Let’s start to live into it.”
At registration tables, purple COSROW stickers will be available for members to attach to their nametags. COSROW hopes that others will join them in celebrating the achievements of women leaders in Holston Conference, Bowers said.
“Women can and have been, for centuries, leading with excellence,” Bowers said. “We have proof of that. The conference is vibrant. We are moving forward and doing innovative things.”
For more information on the work of COSROW, visit GCSRW.org.
U.S. sees dramatic growth in clergywomen over two decades (RNS, 10.9.18)
Annette Spence is editor of The Call, the Holston Conference newsletter.