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by Faye Short, President, RENEW Network

Under the auspices of the RENEW Network, the women’s program arm of the Good News organization, five church renewal organizations networked together to bring their witness to the UMW Assembly held in Orlando, Florida May 14-17.

United Methodist organizations comprising the RENEW team included, The Mission Society for United Methodists, Lifewatch, and Transforming Congregations. The Ecumenical Coalition on Women and Society, a project of The Institute on Religion and Democracy was also a part of this effort.

RENEW was present to participate in the Assembly, and to give their perspective on abortion, homosexuality, radical feminism and church renewal. These issues were addressed through daily handouts, and further expounded on by individual presenters in the RENEW hospitality suite on Friday and Saturday afternoons.

Several United Methodist churches in the greater Orlando area provided food for the RENEW team and for the hospitality suite. Local volunteers from several denominations and organizations assisted in the distribution of literature and the presentation of the hospitality suite programs. Three such groups were: Elutheros Ministries (a ministry to homosexuals), True Majority (a pro-life ministry), and Liberty Counsel (a religious freedom defense organization).

In evaluating the overall message of the UMW Assembly, Faye Short, president of RENEW says, “We were right on target with our early assessment of the Assembly theme, Proclaim the Vision. While an effort at mainstreaming the Assembly vision through traditional songs, scripture and some litanies was attempted, it was apparent that a new paradigm for an old social construct was actually being proposed.

“The projected vision was one of a utopian society free from all social, economic and political injustices, swept in by the untiring efforts of humankind. The vision left no room for facing the true condition of humankind--brought about by individual sin--nor of the ultimate answer for all social and spiritual ills--the transforming power of Jesus Christ.”

There was an effort on the part of the Women’s Division to silence the voice of evangelical women at the UMW Assembly. A notice was given to security guards to watch particularly for the distribution of RENEW materials on convention center property. On Saturday evening a disclaimer was placed on the convention screens, “Materials being circulated outside the convention center do not represent United Methodist Women and are not a part of the organization.”

“United Methodist Women of evangelical persuasion should be disappointed to hear such a message,” says Ms. Short, “and all women at the Assembly should be insulted by the implications of it.”

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