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May/June response: Responsively Yours

God Was, God Is, and God Will Be

by Sally Vonner

Our predecessor organizations had faith. They answered when God called during times of similar challenges that we face today: church turmoil, pandemics, wars, inequities, discrimination, and racial and environmental injustices. When I think of the generations that came before us, the song that comes to my heart is “We’ve Come This Far by Faith,” truly leaning on the Lord.

Sally Vonner
General Secretary and CEO
United Women in Faith

The 1st generation, from 1869 to 1909, birthed powerful ministries. They laid our foundation as women organizing for mission with focus on women, children, and youth by fundraising and birthing outreach nationally and globally. They started schools for women and freed slaves. They sent laywomen into ministry and fueled the suffrage movement. 

The 2nd generation, from 1909 to 1949, continued building by mobilizing women to lead, particularly as laywomen in the church and society, much through the work of deaconesses. They began programs to grow spiritually, develop as leaders, be educated in mission, expand their worldview, and act for justice. 

The 3rd generation, from 1949 to 1989, continued building on the foundation by mobilizing and claiming a greater presence in the UMC, ecumenism, racial justice, and peace and justice work. They built the Church Center for the United Nations, now our national headquarters, and purchased Scarritt-Bennett Center.

We, the present and 4th generation, are the ones they labored for. And they did it with fewer communication resources. They are cheering us on, to step out of the boat in faith, be dreamers, believers, and doers, to ensure generations to come have a foundation to build upon.

There is more good news: God is present in our here and now. We are part of the 4th generation, 1989-2029. Let’s celebrate the bold steps we have taken: 

We became a general agency of the UMC in 2012.

We adapted our structure to a 25-member governing board of directors and created the program advisory group.

We initiated a $60 million Legacy Endowment Fund.

We excelled in the digital age, adapting to virtual platforms, social media, and more. 

We refreshed our organizational brand with a new name, new website, and new pathways to membership and giving.

We equipped and mobilized thousands for action and impact through our campaigns.

We gave to Girls Embracing Mothers and the Seventh Generation for capacity building.

This is all good, but God is calling us to do more for such a time as this. May our hopes and dreams be that by 2028, the vision for growth in membership and giving through our strategic plan becomes reality. When we welcome the 5th generation in 2029, we can celebrate that: 

Additionally we increased our membership greater than 500,000 (no matter what our numbers may be after disaffiliations).

Additionally we reached and/or exceeded our $60 million Legacy Endowment Fund and made a plan for continued funding. 

Additionally we increased our pledges, mission giving, and overall revenue to $10+ million.

Additionally, like our foremothers, we understood that impact and growth in mission demands sacrifice, so we were bold in inviting new women to join and trying new fundraising strategies. Most importantly, we boldly adapted and changed to answer God’s call to inspire, influence, and impact local and global communities without hesitation. 

God has been our anchor for 155 years and will be with us in the future. 

This column has been adapted from Vonner’s speech to the program advisory group at its March 2024 meeting.

General Secretary and CEO
United Women in Faith

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