A Pastoral Letter and Expression of Deep Appreciation to the North Alabama Conference Clergywomen


Photo: Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett and her husband Lee gather with several participants of the Clergywomen Retreat at Sumatanga in 2015. 

Dear Sister Clergywomen,

I write today to share with you my disappointment at the news released Monday of the failure of Constitutional Amendments 1 and 2 to receive the 2/3 aggregate vote necessary in Annual Conferences across the United Methodist Church to become a part of our Constitution. This outcome has caused significant pain across the United Methodist Church for many, including lay and clergy women.

Passage of Amendment #1 would have added language that both men and women are made in the image of God and that we as a church seek to eliminate any discrimination against women and girls. This amendment received an aggregate vote across all the annual conferences in our global church of 66.5%, failing to pass the required 2/3 vote by .2 %.

Amendment #2 would have expanded language to a paragraph in the United Methodist Church Constitution that provides protection for race, color, national origin, status and economic condition. If passed, it would have added “gender, ability, age, and marital status” to the paragraph. This amendment received an aggregate vote of 61.3%, failing to pass the required 2/3 vote by 5.4%.

This report was received last week with sadness by the Council of Bishops. Click here for the women bishops’ response, which was affirmed by the full Council of Bishops. Also see the Council of Bishops response here.

I find one sentence in the women bishops’ response especially helpful in naming the reality of our current situation. “We have a long way to go to fully live into our deep commitment to the equality of women in our many countries and in the life of The United Methodist Church.”

During my time of service on the Commission on the Status and Role of Women at both the General Church and Annual Conference levels, I have noticed that after a disappointment such as this, the prayers and efforts for women equality double. Thanks to God's faithfulness and to the continuing efforts of so many, I have hope.

Also, I am pleased that a large majority of North Alabama Annual Conference members voted yes on the amendments. (See results of Annual Conference votes here.) I attribute much of the “yes” vote in North Alabama to the effective service and witness of you, our North Alabama Conference clergywomen.

I remind all of us that our Social Principles affirm “women and men to be equal in every aspect of their common life.” (¶ 161 F). It is also proclaimed in Scripture, “there is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.” (Galatians 3:28).

Thank you, North Alabama clergywomen, for who you are and the difference you are making in the life of our Annual Conference. You are gifted, strong spiritual leaders who touch countless lives with your teaching, preaching, service and leadership. It is truly a privilege to serve as your bishop.

Debra Wallace-Padgett
Resident Bishop
North Alabama Conference

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