More than 50 United Methodist clergywomen have resolved to support a qualified woman candidate for bishop in 1980, and at least one has agreed to allow her name to be forwarded for election.
This decision emerged from a fourday national Convocation of United Methodist Clergywomen, held last week on the campus of Southern Methodist University. It was called to help women sensitize the church to women clergy, not only in the pulpit, but also in traditional hierarchical structures.
In the final session, the convocation adopted strong resolutions on human sexuality and women in the ministry, which will be forwarded to the 1980 General Conference for consideration as revisions to the church's discipline (law).
This week, women in the church's West Michigan Annual Conference asked the Rev. Marjorie Matthews, for the past four years a district superintendent there, permission to support her as a candidate for bishop. She said yes.
Unlike the first consultation of Methodist clergywomen in 1975, which dealt mainly with advocacy, the focus of this meeting was a study in power. A handful of invited bishops -- al male -- sat and listened to women preaching from the pulpit of the Highland Park Church, the denomination's second largest.
The heart of the meeting was 52 workshops to develop strategies for dealing with practical concerns of United Methodism's 855 ordained women. But the resolutions adopted in the closing session promise to stir the most controversy.
The women resolved to press for deletion from the church's discipline of the condemnation of homosexuals "as incompatible with Christian teachings." They asked the church to "eliminate any barrier that denies human and civil rights to any person regardless of sexual preference."
A resolution on marriage asks that the church's discipline, which states sex between men and women is "only" affirmed in the marriage hond, be changed to read "best affirmed in the marriage bond."
Another resolution asks that the church not provide funds for clergy or laity to attend conferences in states that have not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment, and another calls for continuation of a rule that all the church's boards and agencies be made up of one-third laymen, a third women and a third clergy.