MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (UMNS) - A commitment to justice for all and continued efforts to exorcise sexism and racism are needed if The United Methodist Church is to meet new mission goals.

That is the opinion of the 45-member United Methodist Commission on the Status and Role of Women.

During its Feb. 22-24 meeting in Myrtle Beach, the commission affirmed "in spirit" a proposed four-pronged mission emphasis by which the United Methodist Council of Bishops and worldwide Connectional Table would set the future course of the denomination's work and life.

However, the church's women's justice organization reminded denominational leaders that "making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world" - what the church understands as its "primary task" - must include working to end worldwide racism and sexism, beginning in the hearts of each church member and in the "bones" of each congregation.

The bishops, the executives of church-wide agencies and the Connectional Table have proposed that all levels of the denomination work together to transform the church and the world by promoting leadership development, starting new congregations, addressing global heath concerns and tackling root causes of poverty.

Members of the women's commission said those strategies should include:

  • Offering ministries with the poor that address systemic political and social concerns and recognize that most of the world's poor are women and children;

  • Making deliberate efforts to include women's expertise, styles and perspectives in developing effective leadership as laity and clergy;
    " Recognizing young women, women of color and poor women as gifted and essential to the growth and effectiveness of the church's life and work;

  • Countering sexism and sexual misconduct in the church through dialogue and training about power dynamics and the rights and responsibilities of leaders;

  • Respecting cultural contexts of communities and churches, along with committing to cross-racial and interracial evangelistic and discipleship opportunities;

  • Allocating financial and other resources to empower ministries in rural and urban poor communities, as well as middle- and upper-income suburban areas;

  • Including women and people of color at all levels of planning, ministry and leadership development; and

  • Insuring that Christian education stresses the sacred worth and gifts of all people.

"A congregation that doesn't invite and welcome people from other races can't transform the world," said M. Garlinda Burton, COSROW's top executive. "A disciple who rejects a pastor just because she's a woman is not following Christ.

"United Methodist Christians have nothing transforming to offer the world if we continue to cling to sexism and racism," Burton added.

The Rev. Rosetta Ross, a United Methodist clergywoman and professor at Spelman College in Atlanta, echoed those sentiments. "Getting people to come to church is one thing. But the church must also foster compassionate justice in disciples and ask what it means to be responsive and responsible Christians."

Information for this story was provided by the Commission on the Status and Role of Women.