The Women’s Division board voted to become structurally separate from the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM) while remaining “missionally connected” in staff configuration and by its board of directors at their meeting, April 7-11, in Stamford, Connecticut. The GBGM also approved the proposal at their meeting April 11-13.

Based on recommendations from the board’s policy committee, there was strong support of the proposal to be structurally separate and missionally related to GBGM. These recommendations came out of the previous fall 2010 meeting request to prepare two plans for consideration at the spring 2011 meeting, one outlining structural connection to GBGM and another outlining structural separation.

The plan will bring changes to how Women’s Division relates to GBGM. Both are based in New York City. Women’s Division deputy general secretary Harriett Olsen said the plan would “intentionally release seats at the GBGM Board of Directors in order to make it possible for GBGM to add additional representation from Central Conferences. Women’s Division would not be represented on GBGM’s Program Cabinet on a regular basis, but is recommending that the women’s chief officer be represented at the General Secretaries’ Table.”

In a statement by General Secretary of GBGM Thomas Kemper: “There is a long history of work between Global Ministries and Women’s Division.” He affirmed that United Methodist Women plays “a major role in mission education within the church and keeps the United Methodist connection alert to the needs of justice and equality in both church and society. These contributions will continue in our shared mission in the world.” He said he is “confident that this new relationship would strengthen the mission of our global Church. United Methodist Women have always been a vital part of the mission connection.”

The board voted to adopt the name “United Methodist Women, Inc.,” dropping the name, “Women’s Division.” United Methodist Women is already incorporated as a not-for-profit organization. It would not be a board or a commission in the disciplinary sense, but an agency of The United Methodist Church. The plan calls for a more streamlined officer structure at all levels, including a more relaxed structure with fewer elected officers. The board approved amending organizational documents to refer to the local organization of United Methodist Women instead of the “unit.”

Because some of United Methodist Women’s structures are described in the Book of Discipline, some legislation will have to be brought forward to General Conference for a vote in 2012, and will not be implemented officially until January 2013. However, United Methodist Women will prepare for implementation following General Conference.

Women’s Division directors are convinced that this new relationship with GBGM and implementing organizational changes will define better the nature of the organization.

This plan “will strengthen United Methodist Women’s identification with our work in the world and will enhance our strong witness in the church and the world,” said Olson. “We need to continue to find clearer ways to show and tell what we are accomplishing as an organization. The members deserve to know that they make a difference.”

This story was submitted by Carolyn Maxey, communication coordinator, United Methodist Women of Indiana.

“The members deserve to know that they make a difference.”

Harriett Olsen