From March 10-12 in Grapevine, Texas, Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy hosted [Her] Story, an online and in-person gathering for women in ministry. The organization described the event as “a conference for women exploring and living out their call to ministry and the ministry leaders who support them. E2022: [Her] Story is a unique opportunity to connect with like-minded women clergy spanning many denominations.”
Over 600 women clergy participated over livestream and in person, representing denominations like the Free Methodist Church, the Church of God (Anderson IN), The Wesleyan Church, the Church of the Nazarene, and others. Speakers included Rev. Dr. Carron Odokara, Rev. Jo Saxton, Rev. Dr. Carolyn Moore, Rev. Dr. Colleen Derr, Rev. Dr. Dee Stokes, Rev. Christine Youn Hung, and many more. Ms. Almarie Rodriguez was the conference Spanish translator.
Wesleyan Accent Managing Editor Elizabeth Glass Turner spoke with contributor and WHWC board member Rev. Dr. Priscilla Hammond about Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy and the array of resources it provides.
Plenary sessions and select workshop sessions are available to watch free of charge on YouTube; visit the [Her] Story conference playlist here.
Wesleyan Accent: When was Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy established?
Dr. Priscilla Hammond: The first conference was held in 1994, but Dr. Susie Stanley had been coordinating resources through denominations beginning in 1989. WHWC was first incorporated as a 501c3 in 1997.
WA: What are the main activities and goals of Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy?
PH: We envision God’s Kingdom reality where the biblical foundations of gender equality are fully lived out across the Church as women and men lead together, following their holy calling. We produce a biennial conference for women clergy, ministerial students, and Wesleyan holiness women serving as chaplains or ministers in the marketplace, and we provide resources and encouragement to those women year-round.
WA: What denominations are represented in Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy?
PH: There are four sponsoring denominations: Church of the Nazarene, Church of God (Anderson, IN), the Free Methodist Church, and The Wesleyan Church. These denominations contribute annually to the operation of the organization and each appoints a representative to the WHWC Board for a four-year term.
Women from other egalitarian denominations or who are not affiliated with a denomination are welcome at our events and invited to explore our resources. We want to equip all called women for ministry!
WA: Has Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy morphed or focused direction over the years?
PH: The vision has not changed significantly in the eighteen years since the first conference. We endeavor to engage, empower, and equip women to lead in the Church. We do that through annual conferences, and have done it through newsletters, booklets, blogs, a book (Faith and Gender Equity: Lesson Plans Across the College Curriculum, 2007), a devotional book, and social media.
However, we are energized in these days to connect women even more, across more denominations and platforms. We don’t want to just host a “reunion” every two years. We are always seeking ways to promote better pathways for the development and advocacy of women clergy.
WA: Over the years has awareness grown of some of the rich historical heritage of women in ministry in these denominations?
PH: Reviewing our archived articles, we have found many articles written about women in ministry in the past and have posted some of them at this link. We publish a blog that digs into history as well.
We want the Church, women and men, to be aware of the ongoing presence of women in ministry throughout the history of the Church (not just in our own denominations). At our [Her] Story conference, we shared four monologues that highlighted the history of women in ministry (Laura Smith Haviland, Rachel Bradley, Rosa Lee, and our WHWC founder, Susie Stanley).
We created an interactive timeline with these four women on it and asked the ladies at the conference to post themselves on the timeline. At conferences and through resources, we emphasize that we are part of a long line of leaders. It is wonderful to see college students contemplating their place on the timeline.
WA: Are there resources WHWC produces or shares?
PH: In 2021, the Wesleyan Publishing House asked if we could develop a devotional book. Each WHWC denominational representative nominated a list of potential authors. I contacted them and cast the vision for the project. In the end, 25 weeks of devotional entries were created and contributed, and This Holy Calling was the result. The final page of This Holy Calling is entitled “Your Called Voice” to let readers know they have something to add to this ongoing story of women in ministry leadership. (We invite women clergy who would like to submit proposed contributions to future volumes to contact phammond (at) swu (dot) edu.)
WHWC also hosts a blog and shares content through our Facebook and Instagram pages and shares videos from our conferences on YouTube. We encourage researchers who are writing on women in ministry to let us know so we can build a list of current, available titles.
We are a board of volunteers who make up our conference planning committee and communications team, so we depend on our sponsoring denominations and people who believe in our work to contribute to our work. This includes the contribution of intellectual resources. We are committed to providing the full story of women in ministry and can do that when others contribute and share resources with us.