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We Are the Voices that Speak

United Women in Faith Board of Directors meet Oct. 13-14.

by Audrey Stanton-Smith

United Women in Faith Board of Directors were reminded that they serve a God of abundance, even in the midst of economic challenges.

At its Oct. 13-14, 2023, board meeting, held via Zoom, directors heard reports, approved budgets, worshipped, and focused on hope despite a decrease in overall giving and a need to take cost-saving measures.

“What is your ‘do it’ moment?” President ‘Ainise ‘Isama’u asked the board after reminding members about the organization’s legacy of determination, compassion, and the pursuit of justice. “What are you willing to do to turn the ship around and steer it toward brighter shores? Dream it. Believe it. Do it. These are not just words; they are the pillars of our renewed faith and determination.

“The dreams we carry within us are the sparks that ignite change, and they are the visions of a better world for women, children, and youth,” she continued. “We must believe in the power of our collective action.”

‘Isama’u called on the board to “lead with transparency and humility.”

“We are in a place of urgency, and this urgency should not be a cause for despair, but a reason to rise to the occasion,” ‘Isama’u said. “It is in times of urgencies that leaders are tested.”

‘Isama’u and General Secretary and CEO Sally Vonner emphasized the importance of each member of United Women in Faith in bringing about the change the world still needs.

“Each of us is an essential thread in the fabric of our organization,” ‘Isama’u said. “We are not just leaders, we are advocates of change, and we are the voices that speak.”

Her words of encouragement preceded board action that included eliminating five staff positions and relocating United Women in Faith headquarters to the Church Center for the United Nations (CCUN), which is owned by United Women in Faith. These changes will go into effect by the end of 2023. Two additional staff positions will be eliminated in 2024.

The action is an effort to align United Women in Faith mission with revenue.

“I continue to be hopeful for our future, as are the members I encountered on recent visits,” Vonner said. “… I am asking members to step up, to keep believing that love in action can change the world and to dig deeper in their faith, their hope, their prayers, and — yes — their pocketbooks for the bright future that God has in store for United Women in Faith.”

Vonner noted the 154-year history of United Women in Faith, which has included church turmoil, pandemics, and organizational shifts. “I believe our foremother’s faith and realization that women, children, and youth needed them, helped them through whatever presented,” she said.

“The same God that got them through is the same God that will see us through, because women, children, and youth still need us,” Vonner said.

Opening worship speaker Teresa Faust, senior manager of Research and Metrics at United Methodist Communications, spoke about the importance of data and praised United Women in Faith for paying close attention and adjusting as needed.

“Data informs our action,” Faust said, citing the importance of statistics and measuring throughout the Old Testament. “How do you know that you’re changing the world if you don’t pause and check?”

In action, the board approved continuing the two social action priorities for the 2025-2028 quadrennium: climate justice and ending mass incarceration and criminalization of communities of color.

Board members also approved Call to Prayer and Self-Denial themes for 2025 and 2026 and Mission u themes for 2027 and 2028.

The board approved a total budget of $21,854,970 for 2024. This includes $7,272,699 for programs rendered by the national office such as Mission u, international missions, and mission education resources.

They also voted to increase the retired deaconess/missionary pension past service rate by 2 percent, effective Jan. 1, 2024.

Additionally, the board approved revised Program Advisory Group Operating Principles recommended by the Planning and Assessment Committee and approved directors for the Scarritt Bennett Center Board of Directors recommended by the Governance Committee.

Directors heard reports from Crosslin PCCL auditors and Wespath, including investment updates and how shareholder advocacy is helping the economy move toward sustainability with a goal of net-zero emissions before 2050.

The board meeting also included a land acknowledgement, a strategic plan update, reports from the Legacy Steering Committee, Giving Team, and other committees, and a monitoring assessment that shared how well the virtual meeting met United Women in Faith’s goals for sustainable gatherings.

Audrey Stanton-Smith is editor of response.

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