From the Worldwide Faith News archives

RENEW wants 'reform' for Women's Division

From NewsDesk <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Mon, 10 Dec 2001 14:08:35 -0600

Dec. 10, 2001   News media contact: Linda Bloom7(212) 870-38037New York

By United Methodist News Service

A group of evangelical United Methodist women is calling for a "process of
reform" for the Women's Division of the churchwide Board of Global
Ministries, after the unit's directors passed a resolution in October
against the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan.

The call by the 5,000-member RENEW Network (a Resourcing, Enabling Network
for Evangelical Women) was backed by the executive committee of Good News,
an unofficial evangelical caucus within the denomination, at its Nov. 1-2
meeting. The Rev. James Heidinger, Good News president, said that while the
mission work by local units of United Methodist Women (UMW) was appreciated
by most pastors, concern continues over the "radical feminist, pro-abortion,
virulently anti-American, anti-evangelical, pro-homosexual attitude
exhibited by the Women's Division and its leadership in New York." 

As reported by United Methodist News Service on Oct. 23 (UMNS story #487),
directors of the Women's Division, the UMW's administrative body, voted to
urge President Bush to use diplomatic means, rather than the bombing of
Afghanistan, to bring to justice those responsible for the Sept. 11
terrorist attacks.

"The terrorist attacks on the United States on Sept. 11 have deeply affected
us as individuals, as a nation and as a people of faith," the resolution
said. "Our prayers and concern go out to the families of many faiths and
many countries affected by the tragedy.

"As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to choose life over death
(Deut. 30:19). We are also called to love our enemies and those who
persecute us (Matt. 5:44). As United Methodist Women, we are challenged to
commit ourselves through prayer, study and action to continue the search for
peace with justice."

The directors encouraged UMW members to reach out to those of other faiths,
become educated on the beliefs of Islam, work to prevent racial profiling
and acts of harassment or violence directed at Muslims, Arabs and others,
and urge President Bush to press for peace in the Middle East. 

In their Dec. 6 news release, RENEW and Good News expressed dismay over that
resolution on terrorist attacks, along with the Women's Division's concerns
over the Anti-Terrorism Act then being considered in Congress. Those
concerns, which have been raised by various civil liberties groups, include
the targeting of immigrants, the expanded use of wiretaps and a broader
authority to obtain and use search warrants. RENEW also cited as "appalling"
what it considered to be anti-American statements or comments made during
the division's October meeting.

Faye Short, RENEW's president, mailed a letter about the group's concerns to
each division director in November, along with a survey asking them to
indicate whether or not they, as individuals, endorsed the division

Besides items relating to Afghanistan and patriotism, RENEW objected to the
division granting continued official status to a UMW district unit in the
California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference that has named itself the
"Sophia Circle" and to inviting the Rev. Barbara Lundblad, a Lutheran and
professor of preaching at Union Theological Seminary in New York, to speak
at the Women's Assembly next April.

The objections to both Lundblad and the Sophia Circle's name date back to a
controversial 1993 ecumenical meeting called the Re-imagining Conference and
its 1998 follow-up meeting. Conservative renewal groups from several
mainline denominations, including Good News, formally denounced the
conference for "idolatrous worship, false teaching and syncretism."
Particularly at issue were prayers offered to Sophia (Wisdom) and other
feminine images of deity. 

In a written response to Short's letter, Joyce Sohl, chief executive of the
Women's Division, noted that the resolution on terrorist attacks "is in
line" with several churchwide statements found in the 2000 United Methodist
Book of Resolutions. The church's Social Principles, she pointed out, also
state: "We believe war is incompatible with the teaching and example of
Christ. We therefore reject war as a usual instrument of national foreign
policy and insist that the first moral duty of all nations is to resolve by
peaceful means every dispute that arises between or among them."

Sohl also disputed charges of anti-Americanism and said that prayers for
troops, victims, families, governments and leaders were offered at various
points during the meeting.

Regarding the Sophia Circle, she said that UMW units are allowed to choose
their own names and the variety of program materials that they use. "The
Women's Division was asked by RENEW to declare them not a unit of the
organization," she added. "The division refused to do this and simply said
they were a part of the organization."

Sohl defended the choice of Lundblad, who spoke at the Re-imagining
conferences, as a Bible study leader at the upcoming Women's Assembly and
noted that she has been one of the Lutheran preachers on the "Protestant
Hour" radio program since 1983.

In their press release, Good News and RENEW said they are taking just the
initial steps "in what will be a protracted campaign for renewal and reform
within the Women's Division." The call for accountability is necessary, the
two organizations say, because of the division's insensitivity "toward
conservative theological beliefs and lack of respect for the diversity of
social and political positions" among women in the church.

Sohl said the division is accountable to official bodies of the church,
including General Conference, the denomination's top legislative body, in
numerous ways.

"The issue is that RENEW would like all funding and program to be in line
with their theology and world view," she said. 

Members of the Good News executive committee are: the Rev. Philip Granger,
Muncie, Ind. (chairman); the Rev. Thomas A. Lambrecht, Greenville, Wis.; the
Rev. Chet Harris, Canton, Ohio; Nancy Smith, Cincinnati; the Rev. William
Hughes, Lexington, Ky.; the Rev. Norman Coleman, Athens, Ohio; the Rev.
David L. Flagel, Ionia, Mich.; the Rev. William Hines, Upper Sandusky, Ohio;
Carolyn Elias, Hot Springs, Ark.; and the Rev. Gregory Stover, Cincinnati. 

# # #

United Methodist News Service
Photos and stories also available at:

Browse month . . . Browse month (sort by Source) . . . Advanced Search & Browse . . . WFN Home