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Women’s History Month / International Women’s Day

womenshistory2014_notxt
I want to thank Rev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, Rev. Elder Freda Smith and Rev. Delores Berry for sharing their journey as we lift MCC’s History through the eyes of our first women.

RevWilsonRev. Elder Dr. Nancy Wilson, Moderator

As the first woman in MCC to serve as Moderator

 

When and how did you find MCC? 

I was in my first month of seminary, in Boston, in 1972, and had been out as a lesbian for 4 months!  I was 22 years old, and living with my first partner and a gay male friend. There was a radio show, the first in the country, hosted by Elaine Noble, a lesbian activist, the first LGBT person elected to a public office in Massachusettes. She had a show, “Gay Way,” through Emerson College – she was a professor there. She had Rev. Larry Bernier on her show, the man who founded MCC Boston. He said, “If there is a woman out there, preferably one in seminary, who would like to help me start this church, please call me.” So I called, met Larry the next day, and went to my first MCC service that Sunday in October 1972, where he introduced me as the co-pastor. . . “

What is it like being the first woman in MCC to serve as Moderator? 

I was part of a generation in MCC of firsts . . . I was among the first group of MCC women ordained, one of the first women District Coordinators and the third woman elected an Elder; I was the second woman to be Vice Moderator of MCC – and MCC was constantly full of “firsts. . . “ I was the first MCCer to lead a delegation of Religious LGBT leaders to the White House in 1979. I was the first to represent MCC at National Council of Churches of Christ in the US, and at the World Council of Churches. As the first woman Moderator, only the second Moderator in our history, I was honored to be the first LBGT religious leader to participate in the Inaugural Prayer service of a President of the US.

In what ways have MCC been formative in advancing Women’s issues globally? 

MCC very early on, with not a little struggle, modeled strong, fearless women in public leadership of our denomination and local churches. MCC modeled struggling with inclusive language for faith, for God and the church. . .MCC women leaders were unapologetic feminists, and participated in the struggle for women’s rights wherever we were.

Also, as a college student, religion major, before abortion was legal in the US, I worked with the Clergyman’s (yes, that was the name), Consultation on Abortion, and counseled women who were pregnant, and participated in transporting women across state lines illegally (from PA to NY) for safe abortion.

How have you woven the feminine divine into your ministry? Into MCC’s global ministry?

MCC profoundly impacted my view of God, my understanding of metaphor, and the inclusive nature of the Divine, and of myself and the Body of Christ.

I want to lift up the work I did, with a wonderful team of women in Los Angeles, in ministering to women in jail and prison, especially at the California Institute for Women, where, for at least a decade or more, we had a church within the walls of that institution. 

Is there a piece of poetry, prose, pictures, music that you would like to share with MCC that worship communities may incorporate into the life of their worship in March and beyond?  

I would like to share  “Our God is Like An Eagle?” an early MCC hymn, that Rev. Larry Bernier wrote for me.

Our God Is Like an Eagle

Laurence G. BERNIER, 1974

Source : LBR

When Israel camped in Sinai, then Moses heard from God:
“This message tell my people, and give them this, my word:
From Egypt I was with you, and carried on my wing,
The whole of your great nation from slavery I did bring.

Just like a mother eagle, who helps her young to fly,
I am a mother to you, your needs will I supply;
And you are as my children, the ones who hear my voice,
I am a mother to you, the people of my choice.”

If God is like an eagle who helps her young to fly,
And God is also Father, what then of you and I?
We have no fear of labels, we have no fear of roles–
If God’s own being blends them, we seek the selfsame goals.

Our God is not a woman, our God is not a man;
Our God is both and neither, our God is I Who Am.
From all the roles that bind us our God has set us free.
What freedom does God give us? The freedom just to be.

Tune : WEBB

Download midi file here

 

I did write something on women’s moral agency for the University of Bucharest, in 2012, I can share with you. . . I will attach it separately . . . (Awaiting this piece)

Another resource is  Rev. Lucia Chappelle’s DeColores hymnal – amazing feminist hymns

Are there any resources you recommend that MCCs consider using in order to broaden our cultural understanding of women and the feminine divine?

I love Virginia Mollenkott’s work, The Divine Feminine: The Biblical Imagery of God as Female, Crossroad Publishing Co., 1984

What advice do you offer to young women entering MCC today? 

Be bold, be yourself, do not accept limits that anyone else puts on you. Honor women in your work and life, and “See God in yourself and love her fiercely. . . .”



Rev. Elder Darlene Garner

Director, Office of Emerging Ministries

Rev. Elder Darlene Garner, First African American woman to serve as Elder….

When and how did you find MCC?

I found out about MCC in the early 1970s by watching an interview of Rev. Troy Perry on The Michael Douglas Show (air date July 9, 1973). At the time, I was in an opposite-sex marriage and caring for my three young children. After coming out in 1973 and moving to Washington, DC (USA), I eventually found my way to MCC DC in 1976.

What was it like being the first African-American woman in MCC to be elected to the Board of Elders?

When I was elected in 1993, I was definitely both honored and humbled to have been selected as a spiritual leader for MCC. It could be said that my election as the first African-American Elder was a historical moment for our movement.  It was particularly significant and a sign of hope for people who saw themselves as having been categorically excluded from MCC leadership due to their minority status (especially but not only due to their race). It also had meaning for those who were fully committed to diversity at every level of MCC and saw my election as a symbol of MCC’s commitment to inclusion. At the same time, my election touched on a place of fear in those who were not willing to accept spiritual leadership from a person of African descent. For all of these reasons, I was aware that many people were watching me. This caused me to pay close attention to how I carried myself as I fulfilled the responsibilities of the role because I knew that I would be under a level of scrutiny that might be beyond that under which other Elders might function.

In what ways has MCC been formative in advancing Women’s issues globally?

MCC’s pioneering work on the reconciliation of sexuality and spirituality and our theology on the sacredness of the human body are reflected throughout all of our justice efforts and serve to advance women’s issues globally. Whether the issue is women in leadership; a woman’s right to choose whether to give birth, retain custody, or adopt a child; a woman’s right to access to education, water, or health care; a woman’s right to choose whether, when, and who to marry; or a woman’s need for a safe place to be herself, MCC has taken a stand and the people of MCC around the world have been and continue to be actively involved.

How have you woven the feminine divine into your ministry? Into MCC’s global ministry?

MCC introduced me to inclusive language, opening my eyes to see the Divine in myself as a woman and to see woman in the Divine. This is now the lens through which I see the world and an assumption that underlies my approach to ministry.  

 

What advice do you offer to young women entering MCC today?

Be true to you and be open to hearing the truth about you! Do not be afraid to bring all of who you are to the table of MCC or to embrace the wonderful transformation in your life that can happen to you by being part of MCC. 

Rev. Elder Freda SmithRev. Freda Smith

As the first woman in MCC to be ordained, pastor a church and serve as an Elder:

When and how did you find MCC?

At approximately  7:am.  February 8, 1971.   In a photographic darkroom.  Staring at the radio.  An announcement had stunned me–unlocked a pushed down, crushed into silence, part of me.   One that I had buried when I left the Salvation Army where I was training for ministry.

I had heard: “Tomorrow we have a special guest.  One who insists one can be both homosexual and Christian.” 

Impossible. 

Unthinkable.  I could not believe those two words could come out of the same mouth at the same time. 

I was probably the only “out” lesbian in Sacramento, California. I had come out in response to Bobby Kennedy’s assassination.  Worked in his campaign for president.  Believed in him. Believed he was tough enough to change things.

Then he was dead.  Gone.  I  stopped believing in heroes who could change things. I started to believe there had to be so many of us that a bullet could not stop the change.  So I came out.

Why was I in a Darkroom?

I wanted to go back to school to confront the system.  Working nights was the only way I could afford to do that.  I belonged to a woman’s caucus at CSUS working on Title 9.  We were feminists. I came out to my sisters in the caucus.  They handled it.  Lot of women–like Betty Friedan–didn’t.  She used the term “The Lavender Menace.” 

How do I know the date so precisely?  Because on the next day–as I was at the radio trying to hear Joseph Gilbert say the unthinkable–the Sylmar earthquake hit Los Angeles.  Joseph had to compete with the ongoing news.  He was, however, able to say enough to start a firestorm of angry callers. “Your guest is an earthquake hitting Sacramento.”  “Sin.”  “Lawlessness.” “Sicko.”

The next Sunday I was meeting with Joseph as he called together the 13 members we had to be chartered by General Conference that fall.

 

What was it like being the first woman in MCC to ….?

…challenge the new Denomination  to be as radical in advocating for women’s rights in the world and in the church as in advocating for “homosexual” rights. 

Speaking_for_our_Lives_Freda_Smith_001_REFSSpeaking_for_Our_Lives_001_REFSI spoke to the 2nd General Conference (1971) and gathered  the few women in attendance to meet in a caucus.   Such actions were far from common at the time… “Women’s Lib” was a derisive term…  There was a lot of apprehension.

This was after meeting Troy at the California State Capital on June 25 of that year.  He was the “homosexual” speaker and I was the “feminist” speaker.  I have attached a copy of my speech from “Speaking for OUR Lives:”  

It had taken 70 years for the suffragettes to win the right to vote but in 1971, women were still “chattel” or property at law.  I emphasized that in my speech.

Me and women in the gay community were mostly isolated and distrustful of one another. 

The_Gay_Church_Cover_001Even by 1974, when “The Gay Church” was printed, there was a wide division between gay men and  lesbian women…and between the lesbian feminists and the church.   

Phyllis_Lyon_gay_girls_just_don't_like_gay_boys_001_REFSI have attached a quote [right] from Phyllis Lyon, co-founder of DOB–who states “gay girls just don’t like gay boys”–and my position stating that MCC is”the vanguard of the Christian feminist movement.”

 

In what ways have MCC been formative in advancing Women’s issues globally?

“Behavioral studies show that if 2% of a homogeneous group are strongly dedicated to a given cause, and that small minority can eventually move the whole. 

Association of Church Missions Commissions Newsletter, Autumn, 1989, p. 1.

I believe that MCC has illustrated this point.  When Troy was able to reach 2% of Advocate readers, MCC was unstoppable.

When 2% of the women of MCC were strongly determined to change the age-old role of women in the church, MCC was forever changed.

Like circuit rider ministries of early America, MCC churches exploded across the United States.  Rev.   Bob Wolfe left Sacramento for Toronto, Canada and won the 2%.  Joe McVey Abbot reached 2% in Britain.  MCC exploded–small but determined around the world.  Even popping up behind the Iron curtain.

The very peculiarity of the movement made it newsworthy. The media was wide-open.  MCC clergy representatives everywhere were able and willing to face rancor, hatred, and even violence to tell the world God loves the LGBTIQ community.  2% of the listeners became believers. Churches began to change.

When 2% of LGBTIQ activists outside of MCC saw the strength of MCC’s feminism they began to borrow the political tactics of the feminist movement.

How have you woven the feminine divine into your ministry? Into MCC’s global ministry?

My personal definition of feminism: “Feminism is not about changing the gender of who’s on top….its about getting rid of the gender hierarchical order entirely.” 

Larry Bernier capsulated it perfectly in the last verse of his song:

Our God is not a woman, our God is not a man;
Our God is both and neither, our God is I Who Am.
From all the roles that bind us our God has set us free.
What freedom does God give us? The freedom just to be.

In 1973, I wrote to Lesbian Tide–a magazine that first printed my poem:  “Dear Dora/Dangerous Derek Diesel Dyke”–“I will not be a token.  I will be a foot in the door–for other women to follow.”

From my action in the 1973 to change the language and theology of the by-laws to include women in every area of the church, to the establishment of National and International Women’s Commissions–I have encouraged women everywhere to claim their strength and ministry.  Rev. elder Arlene Ackerman came from the Sacramento church I pastored–as did Rev. Stedney Phillips and Rev. Terri Miller.  I traveled widely– as elder I visited nearly every one of our churches, in the U.S., Canada and Australia and Mexico. 

 

Is there a piece of poetry, prose, pictures, music that you would like to share with MCC that worship communities may incorporate into the life of their worship in March and beyond? (If so, please provide it for the resource by attaching it or sending a link to it or where I can obtain it.)

Laurence G. BERNIER, 1974

Music: Webb, George J. Webb, 1830 (MI­DIscore).

“Stand up Stand up for Jesus”

Larry Bernier was the founding pastor of Boston’s Metropolitan Community Church
First sung at MCC services held at Old West Methodist Church, Boston

Source : LBR

  1. 1.     When Israel camped in Sinai, then Moses heard from God:
    “This message tell my people, and give them this, my word:
    From Egypt I was with you, and carried on my wing,
    The whole of your great nation from slavery I did bring.
  2. 2.     Just like a mother eagle, who helps her young to fly,
    I am a mother to you, your needs will I supply;
    And you are as my children, the ones who hear my voice,
    I am a mother to you, the people of my choice.”
  3. 3.     If God is like an eagle who helps her young to fly,
    And God is also Father, what then of you and I?
    We have no fear of labels, we have no fear of roles–
    If God’s own being blends them, we seek the selfsame goals.
  4. 4.     Our God is not a woman, our God is not a man;
    Our God is both and neither, our God is I Who Am.
    From all the roles that bind us our God has set us free.
    What freedom does God give us? The freedom just to be.

 

Are there any resources you recommend that MCCs consider using in order to broaden our cultural understanding of women and the feminine divine?

The Feminine Face of God: The Unfolding of the Sacred in Women, by Sherry Ruth Anderson and Patricia Hopkins (Random House/Bantam, 1991. Also, available as an e-book).

 

What advice do you offer to young women entering MCC today?

 “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana (in The Life of Reason, 1905)  

Crop_Freda_Teaching_Christian_Introduction_to_Women's_Studie_001I urge women everywhere to remember–always–the historic role of women in religion, business, education, and religion.  Look around and see women in other cultures and realize that ours is not so distant from theirs.   Work, pray, and believe to change life for them.  Become the 2% that changes the world.  And keeps it changed.

Just as women became complacent after winning the vote and began to forget the price the suffragettes had paid to give it to them–even now–so soon after the birth of MCC and the miraculous changes we’ve seen–complacency is setting in.  Even in our own churches  we hear women disparaging feminism. 

Celebrating Women of Character, Courage and CommitmentMarch 2014 Women’s History Month8th March International Women’s DayInternational Women’s Day, a global celebration of the economic, political and social achievements of women, took place for the first time on 8th March, 1911. Many countries around the world celebrate the holiday with demonstrations, educational initiatives and customs such as presenting women with gifts and flowers. The United Nations has sponsored International Women’s Day since 1975. When adopting its resolution on the observance of International Women’s Day, the United Nations General Assembly cited the following reasons: “To recognize the fact that securing peace and social progress and the full enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms require the active participation, equality and development of women; and to acknowledge the contribution of women to the strengthening of international peace and security.” The United Nations’ 2014 theme for International Women’s Day is: “Equality for women is progress for all”.Visit International Women’s Day 2014 A global hub for sharing International Women’s Day news, events and resources http://www.internationalwomensday.com/

ABOUT INTERNATIONAL WOMEN’S DAY (8th MARCH)

Watch video here

Annually on 8 March, thousands of events are held throughout the world to inspire women and celebrate achievements. A global web of rich and diverse local activity connects women from all around the world ranging from political rallies, business conferences, government activities and networking events through to local women’s craft markets, theatric performances, fashion parades and more.

Many global corporations have also started to more actively support IWD by running their own internal events and through supporting external ones. For example, on 8 March search engine and media giant Google some years even changes its logo on its global search pages. Year on year IWD is certainly increasing in status. The United States even designates the whole month of March as ‘Women’s History Month’.

So make a difference, think globally and act locally !! Make everyday International Women’s Day. Do your bit to ensure that the future for girls is bright, equal, safe and rewarding.

See events In Australia  Canada  India  Malaysia  St. Lucia  UAE  UK  US  Zambia

Resources

Below are examples of some great International Women’s Day resources to share:

– Celebrating Working Women (2011) International Women’s Day video
– Add your International Women’s Day twibbon

 

Videosclick here

 

US Resources

Each time a girl opens a book and reads a womanless history,
she learns she is worth less.

– Myra Pollack Sadker

 

In 1980, the National Women’s History Project (NWHP) was founded in Santa Rosa, California by Molly Murphy MacGregor, Mary Ruthsdotter, Maria Cuevas, Paula Hammett and Bette Morgan to broadcast women’s historical achievements.

The NWHP started by leading a coalition that successfully lobbied Congress to designate March as National Women’s History Month, now celebrated across the land.

Today, the NWHP is known nationally as the only clearinghouse providing information and training in multicultural women’s history for educators, community organizations, and parents-for anyone wanting to expand their understanding of women contributions to U. S. history.

http://www.nwhp.org/aboutnwhp/history.php

Growing out of a small-town school event in California, Women’s History Month is a celebration of women’s contributions to history, culture and society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987. The 2012 theme, “Women’s Education—Women’s Empowerment,” honors pioneering teachers and advocates who helped women and other groups gain access to advanced learning. http://www.history.com/topics/womens-history-month

The National Women’s History Museum educates, inspires, empowers, and shapes the future by integrating women’s distinctive history into the culture and history of the United States. http://www.nwhm.org/

American Jazz Museum

Women’s History Month is an annual declared month worldwide that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. It is celebrated during March in the United States, the United Kingdom, and Australia, corresponding with International Women’s Day on March 8, and during October in Canada, corresponding with the celebration of Persons Day on October 18. – click here 

Kidlit Celebrates Women’s History Month has been a success thanks to the many talented authors, illustrators and bloggers that have provided great posts for over 87,000 blog readers during Women’s History Month. Readers, commenters, and contributors worked together to create a dynamic resource of thoughtful and thought-provoking women’s history essays, commentaries, and book reviews.

As I was developing this resource, Spirit prompted me to reach out to MCC Women who were the first ____ within MCC. Unfortunately, we have lost some of our Womanist history to death, retirement or resignation/leaving the denomination. I ask that you offer a moment of silence for these first women of MCC.

 

The first woman to hold any ministerial position was Deacon Karen Gregg, who was later ordained.

The first woman licensed as clergy, Rev. Delores Jackson.

The first women to serve as Council of the Laity Chairs, Jean Gralley and Jackie Walker.

The first women District Coordinators, Rev. Elder Nancy Wilson and Beau McDaniels.

The first Latina ordained was Rev. Velma Torres.

The first woman ordained of Asian Pacific Island descent, Rev. Gloria Bugay.

The first woman ordained of Native American/First Nation descent, Rev. Elder Jeri Ann Harvey.

The first non- US woman to serve as clergy, Rev. Elder Jean White.

The first Canadian woman to be licensed and then ordained,  Rev. JoAnn Monti.

The first heterosexual woman to serve as clergy, Rev. June Norris.

The first woman of trans-experience, Rev. Elder Wilhelmina Hein.

The first woman to pastor a church, Rev. Lynn Hallett.

The first women to pastor a program size church, Rev. Elder Jeri Ann Harvey (Resurrection MCC, Houston, Texas USA) and Rev. Carol Cureton (MCC of Greater St. Louis).

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