Thursday, March 13, 2008

Where Are the Methodist Women?

Anyone Googling "Methodist Women" may come up on this page and have me hanged for posting such a heretical and inflammatory blog title. Please, give me a few paragraphs before you call my district superintendent.

There are a lot of successful bible study series these days, but the most successful ones have been authored and led by women. Consider the following:
  • Beth Moore. Very articulate. Petite. Engaging speaker. Master's degree in biblical exegesis. Promotes biblical literacy, and, in her words, "Doesn't do the Southern Baptist political scene." She has authored and led numerous bible studies, and often holds simulcast teaching venues throughout the year. Very well known throughout the denominations.
  • Liz Curtis Higgs. Grew up Moravian in a rural area. Down-to-earth. Not petite. College party girl and radio personality turned Christian writer/teacher. Best known for her book, Bad Girls of the Bible. Excellent speaker and eloquent writer.
  • Elizabeth George. Former schoolteacher, bible study teacher, and curriculum developer. Non-denominational. Best known for A Woman After God's Own Heart and A Woman's High Calling.
  • Kay Arthur. She and her husband began as missionaries, went on to co-found Precept Ministries. Her "Precepts for Life" radio and television program reaches nearly 100 million people. Big proponent of inductive biblical study. Has been criticized by fellow evangelicals for her speaking engagements in United Methodist Churches.

  • Ann Graham Lotz. Daughter of the Rev. Billy Graham. Very sought-after speaker, well known for her revival series, "Just Give Me Jesus." Has weathered the criticism of being a female who teaches women AND men. Got in the middle of controversy in 2001 when SBC President James Merritt was asked on "60 Minutes" if Lotz could preach from the pulpit of the church he was serving on a Sunday morning, Merritt said, "I would personally not have her." He went on to say that where the household and pulpit were concerned, men are to lead. However, I think Anne is listening to God rather than the Rev. Merritt.

I personally have little problems with any of these folks. I've been to a Beth Moore study, and they are not "Baptist-y" - it's mainly just basic biblical knowledge. In fact, I know the church I serve has used the above resources for several studies.

Now a few years ago, I would have said, "Absolutely not. That stuff's not Methodist, Lifeway sells it, and we're not Baptists." But I soon realized the void wasn't being filled, that we were coasting way too long on DISCIPLE Bible Study, and then someone I know flat-out asked me: "Where are Methodist women leading and writing bible studies? Why do the Baptist have all the great women's bible studies?"

Well... where are the Methodist female evangelists today, in the tradition of Anna Howard Shaw, Belle Harris Bennett, Georgia Harkness, and Sarah Crosby? I have no problem with the United Methodist Women/Women's Division doing a study on Israel/Palestine peace relations. But if we are a denomination that is losing membership and increasingly biblically illiterate, should we not be in mission with our own in teaching basic biblical principles that would (incidentally) guide us in matters like Israel and Palestine?

I'd say we better give thanks for Beth Moore, Liz Curtis Higgs, etc., for filling a void that we Methodists obviously haven't. I can take care of the minor doctrinal issues that might arise once in a while. The trade-off for basic biblical grounding is well worth it.

Belle Harris Bennett, a laywoman from the old Methodist Episcopal Church, South, lead Bible studies and raised money for the Church, preached against racial prejudice, and aided in the training of missionaries. She died in 1922. T.M. Eugene wrote this about her:
Bennett's ministry tended to the Reign of God on earth in very practical ways. After learning of a woman whose attendance at school was endangered because she was pregnant, Bennett immediately wrote the institution's president suggesting that the school start a child care program. She well embodied a sentence from a letter she wrote in 1918: "It takes a heart life - a lived experience - to interpret the Word of God." - from For All the Saints: A Calendar of Commemorations for United Methodists, p. 154

"It takes a heart life - a lived experience - to interpret the Word of God." Now that's Methodist - I don't care who you are!

Don't let the Baptists have all the fun.



Stephen Taylor said...

Great post! I'll be emailing this one to some friends. Thanks.

Scott said...

Another question, when listening to contemporary Christian music, "Where are the Methodist song writers? Where are the Methodist bands?"

Beth Quick said...

Actually, the UMW sponsors School of Christian Missions every year, with a geographical study, an issues study, and a bible study every year, open to men, women, young people - this is actually a really good although relatively unknown program. I've led worship at it myself a few times and attended when I was in high school. The resources are usually available right in cokesbury.

Sky McCracken said...

"although relatively unknown..." I guess that would be my frustration, Beth. And why doesn't Cokesbury market the heck out of it - not to make money, but because it proclaims the Gospel?

Dale Tedder said...

Insightful post. I think you're right on the money. I think we (UMs) often put the cart before the horse. Thanks.

James Gibson said...

Joyce Payne ( is a Methodist evangelist from South Georgia. She once led a revival at a Methodist church and was so well received that she was invited back three years later -- by the Baptist church!

Anonymous said...

TO: Rev. Mr. McCracken
FROM: Lois M. Dauway, Associate to the Deputy General Secretary
Women’s Division/United Methodist Women

I read your blog with interest and thought that I would answer your question -- Where are Methodist Women?.
I hope that you are familiar with Schools of Christian Mission which are held each summer. Each year as part of the School, United Methodists engage in Spiritual Growth Studies which we publish. United Methodist Women are, of course, participate in large numbers.
I have provided a list of study themes since 1972 and through 2013. Each topic has a book and a study guide used in Schools of Mission and in locaI congregations around the country. Over 25,000 persons participate annually.
I hope that this information is of value to you. We are strongly committed to providing spiritual growth resources through the Schools of Mission. In addition, you will find a wide variety of titles through the Reading Program. You can find more information by linking to our webpages


1972-1973: Doorway to a New Age: A Study of Paul's Letter to the Romans
1973-1974: The Healing Fountain: Writings Selected from Contemporary Christians
1974-1975: Rather Die Than Live - Jonah
1975-1976: Decision for Destiny (The Prophets)
1976-1977: Disciples of the Way: Mark on Discipleship
1977-1978: The Ongoing Journey: Women in the Bible
1978-1979: Vision at Patmos (Revelation)
1979-1980: The Parables of Jesus: Glimpses of the New Age
1980-1981: Live the Questions Now (The Interior Life)
1981-1982: Singing the Lord's Song (Isaiah 40-55)
1982-1983: Outside the Gate (Hebrews)
1983-1984: The Great Physician: The Healing Stories in Luke & their Meaning for
1984-1985: Imitators of God (Ephesians)
1985-1986: Daniel, A Tract for Troubled Times
1986-1987: Hallelujah Anyhow! Suffering and the Christian Community of Faith
1987-1988: Acts for Our Time
1988-1989: Women in Alien Lands (Ruth and Esther)
1989-1990: Sing, Shout and Clap for Joy (The Psalms in Worship)
1990-1991: Galatians
1991-1992: Gospel of John
1992-1993: Amos
1993-1994: Gospel of Matthew
1994-1995: Families: Drawing the Circle Wide
1995-1996: Ecclesiastes: The Meaning of Your Life
1996-1997: John Welsey: Holiness of Heart and Life
1997-1998: Joshua and the Land
1998-1999: The Bible (Part I) Origins and Formation
1999-2000: The Bible (Part II) Interpretation and Authority
2000-2001: Paul's Letter to the Corinthians
2001-2002: Jesus and Courageous Women
2002-2003: James: "A Mandate to Serve"
2003-2004: Exodus: The Journey to Freedom
2004-2005: Concerning Prayer
2005-2006: Children of the Bible
2006-2007: Shalom, Salaam, Peace
2007-2008: Music and Mission
2008-2009: I Believe in Jesus
2009-2010: Food and Faith
2010-2011: For the Love of God: John's Letters
2011-2012: Coming Out on the Side of Grace: Reconciliation
2012-2013: Living Sacramentally and Walking Justly

Anonymous said...

I attended this school of mission at Lambuth and while I found it to be interesting I did not see encounter anyone there who has developed a national recognition outside of the UMW. And certainly, while the UMW has done some impressive work, it still has not produced anything or anyone like Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, the Women of Faith movement and so forth. It is not an attack on the school of mission but your argument is indicative of how little vision we have of truly reaching out and sharing the Gospel with the world around us. No wonder our membership is declining.

Sky McCracken said...

Well... I guess if you want readership on one's blog to go up significantly, put the words "Methodist" and "Women" in the same sentence.

I guess my point is that the UMC hasn't had any female leadership emerge with the prominence of Beth Moore, Ann Graham Lotz, or someone of similar stature.

I wish we would.

Mar Vista Mustang said...

UMW's Israel/Palestine mission study can hardly be thought of as intending to pave the way to "peace relations." The guide for the mission study is simply horrible in the way it depicts Israelis/Jews. It will take years, possibly, for the UMC to restore the damage it's caused with its mission study.