Hope Born Out of History: Our Struggles

Diversity is one of the distinguishing features of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. Geographic, ethnic, cultural, theological, and economic diversity shape its identity in countless ways. United Methodists are “all-in” when it comes to matters of their faith, but they are also known as a people of the big tent, inviting differences of opinion while being united in Christ. Using the example of the role of women in the church, explore the distance between who we say we are and how we behave.

Some of the groups that later became part of The United Methodist Church started ordaining women in the late 19th century, but the largest group, the Methodist Church, did not grant women full clergy rights until 1956. Yet even today, some churches don’t want a female pastor or don’t treat women clergy with the same respect or rights as their male counterparts. How do we stay connected and how do we work in shared mission when we hold conflicting views on important issues? How do we both name the work to be done while championing justice and taking responsibility for the work of forgiveness and reconciliation?

Pre-Session Assignments

  • Article: Women in Ministry, an eye-opening video in which male pastors read real comments made to female pastors in the North Carolina Annual Conference.

  • Scripture: Galatians 3:23-29

Small Group Session Agenda

Opening Prayer

Gracious and Merciful God who moves among us: Thank You for the gift of Your presence.
Thank You for allowing Your Spirit to rest in, speak through, and transform human vessels.
Thank You for the gifts of Baptism in Christ and for reminding us that there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus. Nothing we can do can preclude the work of Your Spirit. Thank You. Lead us in this time of holy conferencing and allow us to wholly experience the fullness of Your liberating love.
In the Name of Jesus, we ask it all. Amen

Who Are We Affirmation 

In the gift of this moment, we affirm that we are divinely loved and lovable.
We are the children of God
Together, we will learn from the actions and words of one another. 
Christ’s lessons on love are centered in how we treat others and in how we treat ourselves. 
We will exercise courage in this study as we share stories of struggle and strength
We will stay at the table and receive those stories with grace.
We will not be afraid to launch into the deep.
We will commit to the vulnerability necessary to allow God to break us open.
We will set and respect boundaries and honor confidentiality together. 
When uncertainty arises, we will remember the Spirit of “peace that passes our own understanding” and can intercede for us. 
We will remember that even when we don’t feel “United,”
The uniting love of Christ can reveal a pathway to greater 
wisdom and mutual respect.
No matter what, there is a place for each one of us in this study together.  
Let us hold each other up in prayer, hold each other accountable in love, and 
trust that our God is making all things new.
Thank you for the gift of being present to one another in this holy time.


Video Content

Video with Revs. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli and Ianther Mills
The Rev. Ginger Gaines-Cirelli is senior pastor of Foundry UMC in Washington, D.C., and the Rev. Ianther Mills is senior pastor of Asbury UMC, also in Washington.



Head & Heart Discussion
  1. What word or concept emerged for you as we read Galatians 3:23-29? How is the Spirit nudging you to better live into this?
  2. How do we stay connected and work in shared mission when we hold conflicting views on who can hold the power in leadership?
  3. If you are really honest with yourself, who would you not accept as a pastor or other leader? Are these people present in your context?
Closing Prayer



Prayer and Pathway to Journaling

Often, when we become reflexively resistant to what we’ve experienced through study, it is pointing towards an area worthy of more reflection and prayer. In this part of study, we invite you to examine your areas of resistance or struggle. Allow God to reveal how transformation can occur in those areas.
Use these open-ended questions to facilitate your introspection:

  • What surprised you or caught your attention? 
  • How does the discussion we had apply to your life, your church, our denomination? 
  • Where is the Spirit revealing to you areas for growth and transformation? 
  • How does what we talked about transform your relationship with God and others?
  • Write a prayer to ask for God’s support and enlightenment, which applies what you learned, and then go forth and live it.
Additional Resources 

Our Struggles family album