COSROW and UMW are uniquely connected

October 29, 2013

by Faye Christensen

Catalyst. Advocate. Monitor. Thirty-plus years ago, I was asked to start the first Committee on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW) in a local church in the Minnesota Conference—Fridley UMC. How exciting it was! Fridley UMC COSROW became involved in such things as:

  • Encouraging the signing of petitions for the Equal Rights Amendment (catalyst function)
  • Helping relocate a woman and her five children from a women’s shelter into a home, while collecting furniture and befriending her. The local church COSROW paid for her glasses to be fixed so she didn’t have to see the world through shattered lenses, which were a constant reminder of her batterer (advocate function)
  • Raising awareness about inclusive language (monitor function). We did this by handing the pastor a pink slip after worship services in which he used exclusive language. A white congratulatory note was given him for using inclusive language throughout the service.

When asked to co-chair COSROW for the Minnesota Conference in the early 1980s and then again in the 1990s, I jumped at the opportunity. Even though I had a full-time job and was working on a master’s degree, COSROW fueled my passion. I relished the opportunity to grow and develop both as a feminist and as a United Methodist, all while deepening my faith.

Many years later and just a few days after I retired, I received a call to take a district office for the United Methodist Women. The UMW?! I explained that I had not been active in the UMW for decades. I was told, “That's why we’re asking you. We need fresh ideas!” SOLD! After all, these are my sisters in faith! I became a district officer (education and interpretation and social action coordinator) and then president of the North Star District UMW of the Minnesota Conference.

When my four-year tenure as district president ended, I was asked to be the COSROW representative to the Minnesota Conference UMW. How perfect was that?! It combining these two UMC organizations that I had grown to love!

Here is what I have learned while having my feet planted for many years in both UMW and COSROW:

  • Heritage: We have the same mother! The UMW is the older sister of COSROW, having been born about 150 years ago. The Women’s Division gave birth to COSROW about 41 years ago. Researching the UMW’s past is fascinating! Bold, gutsy, forward-thinking women formed the first Methodist mission groups while their nay-saying husbands, brothers, and fathers tried to keep them quiet. No chance! Some of their early mission schools and hospitals are still providing health, wellness, and education to the world’s poorest of the poor. The early Methodist women wrote their own “HER” story, and it is alive and well today. Meanwhile, COSROW was formed four decades ago by bold, gutsy, forward-thinking women who saw that women’s voices were not being heard and women were not in decision-making positions within the UMC. There were very few clergywomen, even though they were given the right to be ordained more than 15 years earlier. No women were district superintendents and no women were bishops. COSROW was born to address these and many other issues affecting women. They had work to do!
  • Purposes: UMW is focused on missions and social justice for women, children, and youth; COSROW is focused on monitoring, being a catalyst for, and advocating for social justice for women and minorities.
  • Social Action Concerns for both UMW and COSROW: Human trafficking, poverty, immigration, domestic violence, and many other issues affecting women, children, youth, and minorities.
  • Funding Sources: UMW raises, budgets, and allocates its own money; COSROW receives annual budgets through the General Conference and annual conferences.
  • Mandates: Both UMW & COSROW are mandated by the Book of Discipline.

Even though UMW and COSROW have distinct roles and purposes, they link together in very significant ways. I have found that there are amazing, courageous, gutsy, concerned women throughout both organizations. Both UMC organizations are focused on giving voice to women and helping to make their lives better. Both are committed to enriching, renewing, and growing their Christian faith. They are sister organizations and sisters in faith, supporting each other’s work and applauding each other’s accomplishments. 

Faye Christensen attends Northern Light parish churches (Cromwell, Fleming, Hill City, and McGregor), where her husband, Russell Christensen, is pastor. In addition to having served COSROW and UMW in a number of different capacities, both groups endorsed her as a candidate for north central jurisdiction lay delegate for the 2016 General Conference. She was a lay servant and speaker for 15 years.

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