Antoinette Brown nominations open, award returns to General Synod
Recognizing that the needs of women in ministry are both the same and different as they were a generation ago, the United Church of Christ plans to formally launch a support group named after the first female to be ordained in the United States. This June, during General Synod 2015 in Cleveland, the UCC will establish the Antoinette Brown Society, a group dedicated to the advancement of women’s innovative leadership in church and society, and committed to creating sacred spaces for women to creatively engage with one another and support and empower women’s ministries.
General Synod will also mark the return of the Antoinette Brown Awards, which were celebrated at every Synod from 1975 to 2011. There were no awards in 2013 during a period of transition, but the Rev. Elizabeth Dilley, UCC minister for ministers in local churches, says the time has come to “re-vision it as an award for the whole church to give to those advancing the path for women in ministry.”
“In the past, the award was given at an optional dining event, but to bring a sense of pride to the wider church, and greater visibility to women in ministry, the award will be presented during a plenary session,” Dilley said.
The award continues to celebrate the life and ministry of Brown—who was ordained by the Congregational Church in 1853—and all women in ordained ministry who exemplify Brown’s spirit of trailblazing leadership in church and society. The church is accepting nominations for this year’s awards through April 15.
“We ask the wider church for its prayerful nominations of ‘trailblazers’—those ordained clergywomen in the UCC who honor Antoinette Brown’s vision of women in leadership in church and society—as well as ‘catalysts’—which is any sort of collective, project, congregation or organization that serves as a provocative space that advances women in ministry,” Dilley said.
In 2015, the pathways for women in ministry are considerably wider in the UCC than they were before, Dilley said, but women who lead in extraordinary ways and who make possible other women’s ministries are still necessary in the church.
Awards will likely be given to two individual “trailblazers” and one “catalyst.” The honorees will be celebrated at General Synod 2015, and will also be invited to share their gifts and wisdom at the first biennial Antoinette Brown Society Gathering, to be held in the summer of 2016. The gathering will take place every two years, during non-Synod years, and previous Antoinette Brown Award winners will be invited to give the keynote address the following year.
The society will launch on June 29 at the conclusion of the afternoon plenary. Dilley said there are plans to invite former Antoinette Brown Award winners to the launch.
Though there are more details to come within the next two months, the Antoinette Brown Society will support female clergy in the denomination to cultivate the next generation of powerful, innovative women clergy “cut from the same cloth as the Rev. Antoinette Brown,” Dilley said. “This society hopes to be part of an integrated strategy to lift up the pastoral leadership of women in the church.”
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