Gathered for a regular meeting of the Board of the Connecticut Women of the United Church of Christ, the members took a break from the regular business of organizing retreats, planning service projects, and raising mission dollars, but it wasn’t a gentle break. For months, even years, they had become aware of a rising tide of legislative actions at state and federal levels that seemed aimed at the rights of women, rights hard-won by vigorous activism in the 1960s and 70s. Suddenly, what had seemed settled was imperiled.
Many of the women remembered and had participated in those efforts of the 70s. They determined to resist the efforts to roll back what they had accomplished, and to renew the voice of the United Church of Christ. The Connecticut Conference had last voted a resolution in support of women’s rights in 1971 (General Synod last affirmed full rights for women in 1995). It was time to take a stand once again.
The resolution from the Connecticut Conference calls upon General Synod 2013 to "reaffirm the belief that societal distinctions which create an inferior-superior relationship between genders is contrary to the will of God; to bear witness to that belief by standing vigilant with and actively supporting women; to resist the reemerging cultural forces working to subjugate women."
"We did not hear the voice of our Church raised in challenge or objection," said Gloria Bent, Vice President of Connecticut Women of the UCC. "The predominant faith voices, it seemed to us, were — and still are — the Catholic Conference of Bishops and theologically conservative groups like the Family Research Council."
In presenting the resolution to the Connecticut Conference’s Annual Meeting on October 20, Bent urged that delegates affirm, "There is more than one Christian voice that speaks on women’s rights and reproductive rights in particular."
The resolution authors have been particularly concerned by efforts to limit or eliminate access to family planning and health services in state houses around the country as well as in Washington, D.C. The U.S. House of Representatives voted June 18 to ban all abortions after twenty weeks (the bill is given little chance of passage in the Senate). A federal mandate that contraception services be covered by health insurance plans sparked weeks of debate in 2012, and at least five states have reduced or eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood, which had been providing health services to poor women on behalf of those states. Extension of the federal Violence Against Women Act was delayed by nearly a year.
"We hope [General Synod delegates] will see the prophetic value in reaffirming the UCC’s stance on gender equality at this time of attack on rights the young women among us have come to take as givens," said Bent. "Additionally we hope they will consider this resolution with a sense of awareness that work for justice and equality is never really done. Like Habakkuk, we stand on the watchtower holding up the tablet on which the vision is written."