July 12, 2016
This year is the 60th anniversary of the full ordination rights for women in the United Methodist Church. There were many women on June 4 seated in the plenary with red shirts, most of those shirts featuring a picture of a female circuit rider. They represent the sisterhood of women clergy in this conference celebrating this important anniversary. Ordination of women in Missouri actually began long ago, in the Methodist Protestant Church, nearly 100 years before the UMC would come together.
Rev. Maggie Ritchie Elliott was probably the first woman in Missouri to be ordained elder and accepted into full membership by an annual conference in the Wesleyan way. On October 19, 1877, during the eleventh session of the Missouri District of the Methodist Protestant Church, she was ordained elder.
For more recent United Methodist roots, Rev. Marie Hyatt (ordained 1971, now deceased) and Rev. Mary Ellen Meyer (ordained 1976, and attending Annual Conference this year), represent the first women ordained elders in the Missouri West and East conferences respectively. These two women, along with Rev. Brenda West, would go on to break other barriers including serving as District Superintendents in predecessor conferences.
Ozarks District Superintendent Lynn Dyke took a moment of personal privilege to express appreciation to Bishop Robert Schnase for fairness in appointments. “Bishop, on behalf of the women on the Cabinet, and clergy women of this conference, we thank you for your pursuit of equality for gifted leaders regardless of gender – and for the ways you have furthered the role of women in this conference,” she said.
The Missouri Conference now has four women senior pastors serving in our top 5 percent of churches (those worshipping over 400 in Sunday worship).
When you step back and begin to look at the number of women pastors in key associate roles in the largest churches, there is a pool of 17 women, including two Deacons, preaching to more than 400 worshippers every week – including some preaching to more than 1,000 people every Sunday.
There are more women church planters in this conference than anywhere else in the jurisdiction.
Bishop Schnase appointed more women to the Cabinet than any of his predecessors. The new Cabinet will be 50 percent women, and five of the nine District Superintendents are women.