Written by Barb Powell
By an overwhelming majority, delegates to General Synod 2013 approved the amended resolution, “Resisting Actions Seeking to Undermine the Status of Women in Society.” Responding to a wide range of legislative initiatives threatening women’s free access to health care, equal pay, and reproductive choice, the measure calls upon the bodies of the United Church of Christ to “publicly address and challenge policies, ideologies, and theologies that promote the inferiority and subjugation of women.”
During the debate, UCC Executive Council member Doyle Lockenbaugh asked delegates to quickly contact their state and federal legislators. “As I speak, across the country numerous state legislatures including my own state of Ohio are introducing and passing some of the most draconian, repressive, restrictive and discriminative legislation regarding women’s reproductive freedom.”
Rebecca Kesting of the Wisconsin Conference testified to the stress of young women in a state that has recently experienced several discouraging political events, including the repeal of its Equal Pay Enforcement Act. “I urge you to support this resolution,” she said, “to let women out there know there are sisters and brothers, people of all genders, of faith who support them.”
The committee’s major addition was language that the Rev. Mary Nelson Abbott, pastor of the Malletts Bay (Vt.) Congregational Church UCC, had described as “confessional.” It asks the settings of the UCC to “recognize and address gender inequality and discrimination where they exist within the Church itself.”
On that issue, Martha Jacobs of the New York Conference reminded the assembly that no women had been added to the Collegium of Officers at General Synod 28. “I would encourage both the new Board and the senior leadership,” she said, “to look at why women did not apply for the jobs of the executives of this denomination.” After the vote had been taken, General Minister and President the Rev. Geoffrey A. Black assured delegates that the question was being taken seriously by the leadership of the Church.
The resolution arose from the leadership of Connecticut Women of the UCC, many of whom had been deeply involved in the struggle to secure access to health care, equal opportunity in the workplace, and control over reproductive questions. Dismayed at a growing number of attempts to roll these back, they determined to raise their voices. Delegates to General Synod clearly shared their dismay and concern, and voted 96 percent in favor.