By Carl Stagner
Nazarenes, Free Methodists, Wesleyans, The Salvation Army, Brethren in Christ, Evangelical Friends, and the Church of God. What do they all have in common? Besides roots in the Wesleyan-Holiness tradition, Jesus is certainly the subject of their respective ministries. But unique to these groups is a commitment to the support of women in ministry. While each group may often have trouble rallying their congregations around women in ministry, they draw from a heritage of dynamic women clergy. In mid-April, women in ministry will gather together for a unique time of worship, preaching, and networking. Also marking the occasion will be a leadership change that brings this group back to its Church of God roots.
The Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy find their roots in the Church of God. Susie Stanley, noted for her role as historical theologian in the Church of God, helped get the organization off the ground. Reaching their hands in fellowship to every blood-washed one, the organization welcomed women clergy outside of the Church of God movement. After Susie’s retirement, the leadership of the association began to rotate between faith groups. The rotation has come full circle. “For the next two years, the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy has come home,” MaryAnn Hawkins explains. MaryAnn Hawkins, who serves as associate dean of Anderson University School of Theology, will become the next president of the association in April.
All women in ministry are encouraged to attend “Linked Together,” this year’s conference of the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy (April 16–19 in Charlotte, North Carolina). Sure, there are a lot of Christian conferences you could attend this year, but none like this. “The Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy conference is the only conference of its kind—with a focus specifically on women clergy,” MaryAnn explains. “It’s not a conference about how to do women’s ministry, but a conference designed for women who are called to ministry: commissioned, licensed, and ordained women clergy. The plenary sessions are all women preachers and worship leaders, the conference and breakout sessions are all led by women clergy, and they address issues particular to women clergy.”
Though MaryAnn recognizes the monumental task of assuming leadership of the association, she knows its importance. “Sometimes, as a woman in ministry, you may be the only female at a minister’s meeting, or the only woman in ministry in a congregation,” MaryAnn explains. “You may be a woman in ministry—with the divine call, the gift to preach, and even a master of divinity—but without a position in a church. You may have had years of trying, candidating, and you may even have been told that you cannot be a pastor because you are a woman. Where do you turn for understanding and encouragement? You turn to the Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy conference. There you will be surrounded by your sisters who are also called to ministry. There can be found a unity of praise and commitment to the One who has called. There is no objection to tears, and the Balm of Gilead is in abundant supply.”
To register, and to learn more about Linked Together (April 16–19 in Charlotte, North Carolina), visit www.wesleyanholinesswomenclergy.org/linked-together. To learn more about the Church of God, visit www.JesusIsTheSubject.org.