SEGUIN/GUADALUPE COUNTY UNIT “SPREADS THE LOVE!”

CWU’s Seguin/Guadalupe County Unit had an impressive response to the national “Spread the Love” project. A/C Gayle Stroh and unit president Glenda Shafer delved into the project with much fervor resulting in  receiving over 800 school items for two elementary schools in Marion ISD and one in Seguin ISD. Utilizing resources provided by KALMOT and the Texas Church Women United Newsletter, contacts were made with the two school districts, local media, and individual churches. Lists of what was needed was made available to CWU members and the race was on. The response was incredible for our small group. The back of Stroh’s vehicle was packed on delivery day! Donations were made on the appointed Valentine’s Day at Marion ISD with Stroh and Shafer making the presentations to Superintendent Kelly Lindholm.

In Seguin at noon, Stroh and Shafer made the second presentation to Patlan Elementary. Since this presentation was made to a specific school, the principal, teachers and a group of kids joined in the festivity. Knowing that Patlan was named for a local Seguinte, Shafer arranged for his 98 year old widow and his daughter who still reside in the city to be present. Their presence was a special treat for all!

Compliments on the project have been heartwarming:  “great project”, “neat idea”, “so glad ya’ll did this”, “kudos to CWU” to name a few. The look on the recipients’ faces certainly personified CWU spreading the love. The staff and most certainly the students were genuinely delighted for the Unit’s donation of the much needed supplies.

Welcoming Women

Across our nation and the world, conversations regarding women are often degrading, demoralizing, and fraught with attack. Everything from women’s health to women in the workplace seems to be causes for debate instead of rights and issues of equality. In recent political conversation, women are not always shown welcome, especially if they are women of color, women of different faiths, or women with disabilities.

As Church Women United, we believe in promoting women of all ages, races, classes, ethnicities, sexual orientations, faiths, and abilities. When it comes to our fellow women, we are inspired by the examples of Ruth and Naomi:

But Ruth said,
“Do not press me to leave you
or to turn back from following you!
Where you go, I will go;
where you lodge, I will lodge;
your people shall be my people,
and your God my God.
17 Where you die, I will die—
there will I be buried.
May the Lord do thus and so to me,
and more as well,
if even death parts me from you!”
– Ruth 1:16-17

By our very nature, Church Women United has long been advocates for women. We are naturally an organization that advocates for women in numerous ways. Still, the ways we have been present to the unfolding history of important moments for women should be noted as some of the most audacious and welcoming gestures our movement has committed.

One of the first actions Church Women Untied voted on, was to give it’s endorsement for Susan B. Anthony to enter the hall of fame in 1945.

In 1972, Church Women United passed by unanimous vote a Statement on Equal Rights:

It was voted to receive and approve the following statement and urge action in every state inasmuch as the amendment will require the affirmative vote of 34 states:

We, 150 church women participating in a National Citizen Action Workshop, urge our elected representatives at every level actively to support and vote for Equal Rights Amendment as passed by the House of Representatives on October 21, 1971. 

The myriad of state laws which discriminate against women, complemented by the consistent failure of the courts to interpret the Constitution as guaranteeing equal rights to women, makes passage and ratification of this amendment imperative. While individual court cases might lead to eradication of discriminatory laws, the time and monetary expenditure required make such piecemeal action unacceptable. 

Such a process also is unacceptable in that it permits the legislatures to pass new discriminatory laws in the future.

We emphasize that our support is for the Equal Rights Amendment in the form passed by the House of Representatives which states:

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State on account of sex.”

Any changes in this wording which allow exceptions to complete equality, particularly those proposed regarding military service or “functional or physiological differences,” should be resisted as reversing the intent and legal effect of the amendment. 

If final Senate vote is on such a “weakened amendment,” we urge Senators to vote “No”. 

As women of 37 state and the District of Columbia, we pledge ourselves to support the efforts of our Representatives to obtain passage of the Equal Rights Amendment and to work actively as church women for ratification by our respective states. 

May we continue on this incredible legacy of demanding rights for all women, and all genders, regardless of sex, and regardless of “functional or physiological differences”. May we be radically welcoming, and showcase the beloved kingdom of heaven where all God’s children of every shape, size, and gender are welcomed.

Advocating Public Education

Across our nation and the world, conversations debating the quality and kind of education we will see in our country emerge. Charter vs. public education, voucher program vs. public school advocacy, and religious vs. non-religious education are the various debates about the kinds of education our country serves. There are also debates about whether access to college, and the type of curriculum offered at school. The span of conversation is wide, and the effects of policies around education are large.

As Church Women United, we believe in promoting public education for all students of all ages, regardless of religion, race, politic, ethnicities, or any other difference. When it comes to advocating for education, we are deeply inspired by the teachings of our Teacher, Jesus Christ, who taught people regardless of gender, religion, ethnicity, wealth, or position. Who taught and embraced the Jew and the Gentile, the tax collector and the pauper.

We are also inspired by the open words of Proverbs.

1 The proverbs of Solomon son of David, king of Israel:

2 For learning about wisdom and instruction,
    for understanding words of insight,
3 for gaining instruction in wise dealing,
    righteousness, justice, and equity;
4 to teach shrewdness to the simple,
    knowledge and prudence to the young—
5 let the wise also hear and gain in learning,
    and the discerning acquire skill,
6 to understand a proverb and a figure,
    the words of the wise and their riddles.

7 The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge;
    fools despise wisdom and instruction.

For decades, Church Women United have made historic stances on public education, being the advocate for integration and the separation of church and state long before the laws were ever in place. Church Women United has many social policies dedicated to upholding access to free public education.  Some key phrases from our past resolutions include, “[we] call upon church women to work for legislation which will provide aid to public schools in such a way that there will be no federal control of faculty and curriculum.” and “[we urge] church women to strengthen and support a free and open public school system”.

The following are some examples of our social policies, that advocated for justice in education long before many others.

In 1948, long before any laws regarding integration would come to fruition, Church Women United made a social policy regarding federal aid to public education:

(Action of the Assembly, 1948)

“The United Council of Church Women recognizes that education is one of the prime essentials of a working democracy; we also recognize that at the present time, in many sections of the country, teacher’s salaries and school facilities are far below the minimum needed for a sound education.

After careful study, we favor the principle of federal aid to education as a requisite for overcoming these inequalities. We therefore call upon church women to work for legislation which will provide aid to public schools in such a way that there will be no federal control of faculty and curriculum, no violation of the First Amendment which provides for the separation of church and state, and providing only that such aid shall be given and administered without discrimination by reason of race.

The UCCW has consistently stood for the elimination of the pattern of segregation in our schools as in every other areas of society. We again urge church women to work toward this end.”

Again in 1970, Church Women advocated for integration when they thought the Federal Government was not supporting it.

“In light of our commitment as Christian women to the oneness of the human family; and

In light of our earlier resolution declaring our determination to speak out whenever we think the rights of any citizens are denied or endangered; and

In view of our deep concern because of the current retreat on civil rights and the abdication of leadership on the part of the Federal Government in enforcing the Supreme Court decision on school integration; and

In view of the current threat to the public school system;

Therefore the Board of Managers of CWU reminds church women in every community to be vigilant in monitoring education opportunities to see that all persons of whatever race or ethnic or economic background have opportunity to grow in relation to one another to prepare them to be responsible planetary citizens; and

Urges church women to speak out and act promptly whenever they see these values in jeopardy in relation to an individual or group; and

Urges church women to strengthen and support a free and open public school system.”

Other important resolutions Church Women United made about education, was the importance of sex education in public school and as provided by religious institutions.  In 1967, CWU made a statement saying any sexual education should 1) emphasize the worth of the each person 2) recognize sexuality is a part of every stage and everyone’s life,  3) help women understand their own sexuality as well as youth’s dilemmas, 4) develop local competence, and 5) make it possible for women to have access to experts in the field.  Resolutions like this one continued to be made through the late sixties and early seventies, including statement that urged for comprehensive sex educations at schools and supplemented by churches or other institutions, that helped people accept sexuality as a “gift of God to be accepted with thanksgiving” at a time when “our society is confronted with so many negative and distorted images of sex”.

Our history of progressive stances in regards to advocating for public education have been vital to the work and progress of our nation. May we church women, continue to live into the social policies of our past and be encourage to advocate for comprehensive and inclusive public education for people of all ages, races, and means. We have our work cut out for us, but as our past shows us, nothing is too soon or too impossible to stop women driven by faith to seek and advocate for justice.

Advocating for LGBT Persons

As many of you might have heard, recently President Trump has repealed Obama’s federal non-discrimination act which protected transgender and gender non-conforming students in schools across the country from bullying and other practices.  Schools across the nation are now relying on their states for non-discrimination policies. Much of the government discussion over the discrimination policies of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender or gender non-conforming persons stems from what several senators claim are religious perspectives.

Christian denominations might not all agree on the extent of inclusion of transgender persons, or of lesbian, gay, and bisexual persons. However, when looking at the scripture the commandment Jesus gives seems loud and clear: love above all else.

As is stated in Matthew:  36 “Teacher, which commandment in the law is the greatest?” 37 He said to him, “‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ 38 This is the greatest and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”

The New Testament continues to expound on the two greatest commandments of love over and over again:

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law — Romans 13:8-10

Here there is no Gentile or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free, but Christ is all, and is in all. Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you — Colossians 3:11-13

Church Women United have followed these commandments of love in our past social policies and actions. In a statement of inclusion, Church Women United has made the case of following the missions of God’s love above all else.

In 1989, Church Women United made a statement “Against Discrimination toward Lesbian and Gay Persons”. It reads:

“We are now faced with another area of concern to which we need to apply CWU’s commitment against all forms of discrimination – the discrimination suffered by lesbians and gay persons in church and society at large based on fear, misconceptions, and the biblical interpretation of some religious groups.

As Christian women we believe that lesbian and gay people share with us the worth that comes from being unique human beings. Lesbian and gay persons are members of our churches: we, therefore, believe that through baptism they are, indeed, our sisters and brothers in Christ. Furthermore, we understand that as Christians we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves without exception (Matt. 22:37-39).

Therefore, CWU calls upon its constituents

  • To recognize that in order to overcome fear, misconceptions, and prejudice against lesbian and gay persons in church and society we need to be committed to not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation;

  • To denounce prejudice and violence against lesbian and gays persons;

  • To address needs and advocate concerns of lesbian and gay persons;

  • To welcome lesbian and gay persons in the same spirit as we accept and welcome all persons;

  • To actively promote awareness, education, and dialogue on the issue of discrimination against lesbian and gay persons.

Furthermore, CWU affirm its policy of non-discrimination in the case of lesbian and gay people and calls for the application of such a policy not only in employment practices but also in regards to the participation and service of volunteers in Church Women United.”

This policy is quite a radical one for 1989. Yet it is important to note that since 1989, CWU has not made any other social policies on LGBT inclusion. In the past 27 years, CWU has remained silent on LGBT issues, including any regard to transgender or gender non-conforming discrimination, rates of LGBTQ suicide, marriage equality, or LGBTQ housing discrimination.We would encourage future discussion of CWU members to consider expanding or extending future social policies to include transgender persons and other LGBT issues. These issues are a part of our current lives, and they effect church women within and outside of our CWU communities, who are Christian and serving in the love of God.

Jesus made it pretty clear: Every child of God deserves the same kind of Christian welcome. May we see a future, where whatever gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, or other quality a person may be, they are seen as a child of God and another neighbor we should love as we love ourselves.

Feeding the Hungry

Lately nationwide, a conversation has ensued about the value of food supplemental services, such as Meals on Wheels, after school programs, and other need based food services. The most recently proposed federal budget has cut all funding to these programs, saying that they are not providing proof that these programs are effective. Cut funding will hurt several Americans who will be left without the resources needed to get through the day, especially school age children and older adults. Church Women United has a Quadrennial Priority for 2016-2020 of ending and advocating for Childhood Hunger. We stand by this priority, not only because of the needs of children across our world, but because of our Christian faith.

We turn to Matthew 25:34 – 40:

Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’

From the words of Jesus to his followers “for just as you did it to one of the least of these, you did it to me.” The commandment to feed the hungry in the words and deeds of Jesus is clear.

Just as clearly as Jesus fed the hungry and served the poor, so has Church Women United throughout the years.

In fact it was helping with food that was one of the earliest social policies that Church Women United, or at that time United Church Women, passed. In 1943, in the throes of World War II, church women made this statement about food programs for child refugees of the war:

“Food Program for Europe: Voted that the Executive Committee go on record as favoring the program of child feeding for Europe and authorize the president [Welcher] to write expressing this opinion to the President and other officials.”

It wouldn’t be two years later, after the war, that church women were at it again, committing themselves to reduce waste in their own food and to promote the rationing and price control of food so that those in hunger at the end of the war would be able to be sent food and rations. Called the “Food and Price Control” social policy, women voted as follows:

“We, the Christian homemakers of America, pledge to avoid waste in food in our daily lives and to sacrifice gladly a part of our share of scarce foods so that the health and even lives of millions abroad may be saved.

We urge our government to fulfill promptly its obligations under the UN relief and Rehabilitation Administration. We also pledge more generous support for the church agencies and reconstruction”.

To draw specific focus on some of the federal agencies currently being considered for drastic cuts in funding, I turn to the advocacy that Church Women United has given the School Lunch Program. Church Women United, along with The National Council of Catholic Women, the National Council of Jewish Women, The National Council of Negro Women, and the National Board of the YWCA were all sponsors and groups cooperating in a study to determine the effectiveness and need for a national nutrition program. They all studied and worked for the National School Lunch Program (NSLP) in 1966. They would continue to host studies and support the laws of the School Lunch Program, in 1968 and 1971. Supporting the school lunches and ending childhood hunger seems to have been a priority of Church Women United long before this year.

Church Women United is dedicated to living into our faith and providing food for the hungry, healing the sick, and serving the poor. May we all be recommitted to our CWU priority of ending Childhood Hunger, and working for a nation that feeds all the children of God.  As our communities continue to reckon with how much we spend on food programs and other need based supplemental agencies, there is one important question to consider: “What Would Jesus Do?”

Ain't Gonna Study War No More

War continues to destroy so many innocent lives across the country. The civil war on Syria continues to wreak havoc on the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilian men, women, and children.  With the rise of the rhetoric around the war of terrorism in light of recent events, I find it important to impart wisdom from the Bible in these troubling times.  War has never been the solution illustrated in the scriptures.

Especially if we look at the text from Isaiah 2:4:

4 He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more.

Church Women United has long stood against the echoes of war, even in our own founding. As our founding history, we gathered in December of 1941, in the middle of World War II. Our first actions was to circulate a petition signed by 84,000 church women “urging the United States at the signing of the United Nations Charter, to join and take its full responsibility in a world organization.”

In 1944, we established our own Statement on the Principles of Peace, that would direct our anti-war and prayerful peaceful actions from then on.

VOTED TO ADOPT THE FOLLOWING STATEMENT:

  1. We recognize the “Six Pillars of Peace” as formulated by the Commission on a Just and Durable Peace of the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in American and “The Pattern for Peace” issued by Protestant, Catholic, and Jewish leaders, as furnishing the cornerstones upon which world order must be built if peace is to be just and durable.

  2. We approve the resolution through which the Congress of the U.S. is on record as favoring the participation by the U.S. in the establishment of an international organization with authority to prevent aggression and open to all peace-loving nations.

  3. We favor the setting up at the earliest possible moment a United Nations Council to begin to plan for the general international organization.

  4. We believe that the United Nations must bring relief and rehabilitation to the peoples in war-torn lands until they are able to help themselves, and that the U.S. should accept its full share in this work both financially and through active service. We believe that the American people should willingly any sacrifice of food and money needed for this work.

  5. We favor international agreements by which all nations, large or small, may have access on equal terms to the trade and raw materials of the world, and we approve the Reciprocal Trade Agreements as steps toward the end.

  6. We favor the promotion through international organization of cooperation among the nations to improve labor standards, economic advancement, social security, and essential human rights.

  7. We believe that all peoples should have the opportunity to develop political freedom and that it is the duty of the stronger nations and of the international organization to hasten this development so that at the earliest possible moment this end may be obtained by all subjects peoples.

  8. We favor the reduction and control of armaments through international agreement.

  9. We believe that the church has a special responsibility to minister to war-torn lands through church agencies, and we favor, therefore, support of those agencies which have been set up to rebuild churches and religious institutions which have been ravaged by war.

  10. We believe in the ecumenical movement as the only truly world society at the present time, and we believe that the missionary program of the churches must be strengthened both at home and abroad, and that the promotion of this program should form a part of the task of the Committee on International Justice and Goodwill.

From there, we went on to make statements on military spending, create peace studies, have commissions to congress, and made several peace advisory groups and peace keeping and peacemaking statements. We wrote letters to Japanese Church Women who experienced Hydrogen Bomb testing in 1954, and we have spoken out about nuclear weapons from 1963.

We continue to be called to speak of peace, and to be a prayerful people just as Jesus taught us.  May we continue to spread a message of peace, as we pray for all of those around the world who continued to be affected by terrorism, military force, and war.

Let There Be Peace on Earth

In honor and memory of Earth Day, Church Women United reflects on what is means to be a Good Samaritan to our earth. Across our country and world people continue to question whether climate change is real, while governments set policies and standards for our economy and living that wreak havoc on our environment. The people of Flint Michigan continues to have undrinkable water contaminated with lead from a decaying pipe system, which has not been addressed for over a year. The importance of our environment and our earth’s future is definitely something discussed in our culture and politics.

Caring for our earth and our earth’s importance is mentioned as well in our scriptures. As a fellow Church Woman pointed out in our 1989 “Policy Statement on Safeguarding the Health of the Earth and the integrity of Creation”,  she says:

“The Scriptures portray the relationships between God and creation as covenant and inclusive: God, humans, and earth. “This is a sign of the covenant which I make between me and you, and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it will be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth” (Gen. 9:12-13). The earth was included in the covenant!”

In is in the vision of the covenant faith, that Church Women United has long made social policies and stances that call for environmental justice and protections and care of the earth.

To witness the longevity of our commitment to caring for nature, we can go back to a social policy made in 1945 against the creation and distribution of atomic bombs. When I first looked at this policies, I wondered how they would be considered environmental policies. But as I continued to research our past, it seems that more than 10 policies were made in the span of a decade trying to respond to the harmful effects of atomic bombs and nuclear energy, both in the use of war and in the damages to the environment. Our history shows church women calling out to the US government and UN to stop the creation of bombs, stop nuclear testing, and rightful awareness of the destruction of atomic energy.

Church Women did not stop there. They continued making social policies to protect the environment. Their work culminated in a four-page, beautifully written document of our 1989 “Policy Statement on Safeguarding the Health of the Earth and the Integrity of Creation”.

Today we are being called to choose life anew by “coming home” to who we really are. It is necessary to “come home” theologically and geographically — to become participating members of the life community of the earth where we live. The rationale for dealing with our ecological cries in the way this policy statement attempts to do is the firm conviction that we are all in some way polluters, subduers and dominators, not because we are evil, but because we are in need of deeper understandings of our connections to the Source and web of life. We members of Church Women United are being called upon to recommit ourselves to the covenant relationship with Yahweh, sisters and brothers, and creation. In covenanting, we accept responsibility for each other, the earth, and the whole creation. We covenant to respect and love differences, uniqueness, and the community. Therefore, Church Women United calls its members:

  1. To be inclusive of creation, incorporating the earth’s wisdom and ways into our everyday lives and activities.

  2. To view ourselves as participating members of the community of life, not as its dominators.

  3. To accept healing, inspiration, and support from the earth.

  4. To use, whenever possible, only those products that the earth can recycle naturally.

  5. To plant gardens if only in flower pots and share the experience with our families and others.

  6. To work legislatively for stronger laws to protect the water, air and soil systems that the earth may be restored.

  7. To encourage and model conversation and responsible use of energy in all areas of life.

  8. To learn more about the laws of differentiation, interiority and communion that guide the earth’s unfolding of life and integrate these principles into our work for justice and peace.

  9. To work to protect all people, in particular the poor and those receiving the greatest impacts from the pollution and poisoning of the earth.

  10. To spread the intent of this policy statement and to write even better for our own particular church and constituencies.

Heal the Sick

The Health care conversation has been a tried and true fabric in our American society for the last two decades. Just this past week the conversation took a large turn, when the U.S. House of Representatives passed the American Health Care Act that introduces drastic cuts to Medicaid and effects hundreds with pre-existing conditions.  While the bill ensures that every one of every pre-existing condition is able to be covered, under a new amendment insurance plans can be sold to those with pre-existing conditions for a much higher cost (USA Today).  Some of those pre-existing conditions that may find much higher costs in health care are specifically experienced by women, such as heart disease, breast or ovarian cancer, c-sections, or pregnancy (Bustle) (New York Times).

As Church Women United, we advocate for the full health of women across our nation, and the ability for every family to be cared for. For our inspiration, we turn to Jesus’ own lived example  as found in Matthew 9:35:

Then Jesus went about all the cities and villages, teaching in their synagogues, and proclaiming the good news of the kingdom, and curing every disease and every sickness.

Or Matthew 11: 28-29
Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Church Women United has since its long inception lived into the spirit of Christ’s lived example, advocating for the health and healing of families across the United States. We have made several public social policies advocating for the health and wellness of our nation’s citizen, especially those already sick, disabled, or poor.

Take a look at one of our first resolutions as an organization, which sounds eerily as if it could be said today as it was in 1946.

Better Health Care for All:

Better health care for all Americans is a social goal to which church women will respond warmly. In spire of the magnificent achievements of medical science, large sections of our population still cannot secure adequate medical care, either because of poor facilities or because of the inability to meets the costs. Sickness and accidents are a major cause of family insecurity. The burden of poor health falls heavily on the lower income and minority groups and on mothers and little children.

We, therefore, recommend that a major area of study and Christian social action for church women during the coming year be the problem of securing better health care for all citizens.

Specifically we propose:

1. Extensive study and round table discussion by church women of current legislative proposals on health now before Congress. Chief of these is the National health Bill (S.1606) which outlines a comprehensive health program based on a system of public health insurance. This measure contains the major provisions of the Maternal and Child Health Bill (S.1318) which has already been endorsed by the National Board of the UCCW.

2. Preparation of a carefully planned statement of health to be presented for adoption at the Biennial Assembly of the UCCW.

To give you an example even more relevant to the debates today, we can go back to a social policy voted on by Church Women in 1991, about Universal Access to Health Care. During this time, we have records of our organization working closely with other interfaith organizations and with then first lady Hillary Clinton in promoting the healthcare laws that would insure all children across our country, that has been kept in place since the mid nineties.  Below is our social policy on Universal Access to Health Care.

Embracing Our Differences

Many various denominations across the country are asking similar questions over the last few weeks: How do we become more inclusive. Almost every major denomination has had ministries or organizations and missions over the last several years specifically around trying to become more multicultural and becoming more inclusive. As we at Church Women United continue to ask ourselves how we might better transform ourselves, we turn to one of our Quadrennial priorities: Diversity and Inclusiveness, focused on racial equality, ethnic equality and cultural Inclusion.

As ecumenical Christian women we turn to the Bible as our source of inspiration.
Galatians 3:28:

“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.”

And 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
“For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in the one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.”

The Corinthians and Galatians text reminds us of both our universal embrace and love within the body of Christ. The Corinthians text, also reminds us, that while we are all one as humanity in Christ, it is our differences that make the body of Christ work. It is from this understanding, both of our universal embraces as family in God, and of the value of our differences to the work of God’s vision, that calls our organization to be what it is. As Church Women United, we embrace each other as sibling in spirit, across our denomination, racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds. And it is because of these differences that we believe we can make a lasting impact for women everywhere and towards the vision of the beloved community.

Looking historically through our social policies, we can see the solid foundation of inclusive action and our fight against discrimination of all kinds. Starting in 1943, CWU stood against all forms of hotel segregation and discrimination. A policy against segregation was made in 1946, urging groups to fight against segregation everywhere they saw it, even to “break the pattern of segregation in the nation’s capital”. You can see a new policy every year in regards to advocating for racial justice, from the reallocation of Japanese-Americans after World War II (1945) to stances against the discriminatory treatment of Jews in the Soviet Union (1971).

In 1952, United Church Women wrote a statement on the next steps in Race Relations, that I believe stands out as true today as it did then:

“Because of the current emphasis on human rights both in the Church and in the world community, we reaffirm the historic stand of United Church Women on the inclusiveness of our Christian fellowship across denominational and racial lines, and we determine to take next steps toward fulfillment of our Christian purpose. This constitutes a joint responsibility one the part of all racial groups. We recognize that “next steps” will not be identical for every council or person; we begin where we are and go forward from there.

As local and state councils of church women we will reexamine the interracial practices of our organization and our program. We will appraise all meeting sponsored by United Church Women, local, state, and national, in regard to representative attendance, program participation, planning, choice of speakers, and rotation of churches. We will examine personnel of boards and committees, choice of officers, delegations to conferences and choice of community projects.

As individual members of councils we pledge ourselves prayerfully to undertakes the following disciplines:
I will be guided in my everyday attitudes and actions by my belief that all persons are children of God.
I will work against all forms of discrimination.
I will act when another’s rights are threatened.
I will endeavor to interpret to my own church the implications of human rights, especially as they apply to the inclusion of all Christians in its life and program.
I will strive for the integration of all Christian women, irrespective of race, in all phases of the work of my local council.”

(Adopted by the Executive Committee of the Department of United Church Women of the National Council of Churches of Christ, Omaha 1952).

Our National office is committed to carrying the legacy of radical inclusion given to us by our founders. As we continue to imagine our own transformation towards a more inclusive future, we will continue to examine ourselves to see what the best practices are for inclusive and promoting racial justice. We invite you on this journey, as members of the body of Christ, to examine how we all might better honor each other’s differences and become for inclusive. May we all commit to ways of examining how we might be more welcoming, so that everyone can “drink of one Spirit.”