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General Conference

The work continues

by Tara Barnes

By a vote of 422-248, United Women in Faith’s petition “Equitable voting rights for deaconesses and home missioners” missed the 2/3 majority threshold needed for adoption by a margin of just under 4 percent. The United Methodist Church missed an opportunity to support laity and the historic servant ministry order of deaconesses and home missioners.

Deaconesses and home missioners are theologically and vocationally trained lay ministers who commit their lives to The United Methodist Church. They are and vote as laity, as a representative of their order. They’re advocates, chaplains, teachers, social workers, writers, fire fighters, therapists, community outreach and nonprofit workers, organizers, activists, and more. They bring Christ to marginalized and overlooked communities. They take a vow to alleviate suffering, eradicate causes of injustice and all that robs life of dignity and worth, facilitate the development of full human potential, and share in building global community through the church universal.

And yesterday, the church told them to sit down.

The men standing up to speak to declare women’s and laypeople’s ministry and voice as lesser and unimportant was disappointing even if unsurprising. 

The order of deaconess and home missioner is one of the most inclusive and brave bodies in our church, representing the overwhelming majority of our church: laity. And as we said in our presentation to the General Conference, laywomen especially are the backbone of the church. 

In a space making amazing strides to remove barriers to inclusion, we still have work to do. Thank you to everyone who supported and support deaconesses and home missioners. I have a feeling you’ll be learning a lot more them before the next General Conference.

Tara Barnes is director of denominational relations for United Women in Faith and a deaconess applicant.

Photo by Mike DuBose for United Methodist News.

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