Friday, June 09, 2006

Annual Conference Reflections: Bishop Judy Craig

I'm still recovery from Annual Conference last weekend, but I do have more I want to write about. I must say, even though Josh Tinley has pointed out that 50 years of clergy rights for women in the UMC is a somewhat muddled way of looking at our history, being a woman getting ordained when you are celebrating 50 years is nonetheless an ideal and fun time to be ordained. To celebrate, all clergy women elders were asked to turn in some biographical info, which was then turned into "clergy women trading cards." We each got a pack of 50 cards with our own info to trade with our clergy women friends. I haven't managed to get all 49 of the others yet, but I got a good start, and did make sure to get Bishop Fisher's, and Bishop Judy Craig's who was our guest preacher.

Bishop Judith Craig is a retired bishop. When I went to Ohio Wesleyan (which, intriguingly, has part of campus in the East Ohio AC, and part in the West Ohio AC), she was the bishop in West Ohio. I got to hear her speak at a United Methodist Student Movement event. I've since had the opportunity to hear her preach in other settings, and wow - she is a preacher. She's excellent, funny, smart, and inspiring. I particularly like her sermon last weekend on the Exodus 16:9-21 passage, where the Israelites complain, so God sends manna to them. She said, "God who led them also fed them," but that being fed by God is something we need daily, not something that "keeps", not something that you can put into canning jars and just store up for later. She argued that for them, and for people today, a food crisis can cause a faith crisis, because if you can't see God in the ordinary - if there is a denial of faith in the ordinary, how can one have faith in the extraordinary? So, God cheerfully is presence in the daily-ness of life. "What we need today is not for tomorrow," she said.

Another sermon was on Isaiah 43, where she spoke of God's justice coming in "due time." Also excellent - wish I'd taken more notes. Her third sermon was on the gospel story of the women bent over - and Bishop Craig concluded, "there's a little temple ruler in everyone of us," not always ready for God to break in on what we've got planned.

I also had the privilege of being part of a panel-discussion workshop with Bishop Fisher, Bishop Craig, and Rev. Betsye Mowry. Betsye, appointed to the other UMC in the town where I serve, Oneida, is the oldest female elder in our conference with the most years of service. (She's been a pastor since before I was born!) I am the youngest female elder in the conference, the youngest elder of any kind! The four of us answered questions from the audience about our experiences as women in ministry. It was awesome to be among such company. Betsye - some of the stories she shared of her early days in ministry were so painful, so heart-breaking. I can't believe the courage and strength she must have had to continue on, so sure of her call, so unwilling to be turned away. Anyway, I have more to say about the suggestions made in particular by Bishop Craig, but I'll save that for another post!
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