As the official women’s organization of the United Methodist Church convenes this weekend in Columbus, Ohio for its quadrennial gathering, the list of speakers should raise eyebrows. United Methodist Women (UMW) will feature keynote addresses from two co-chairs of the Women’s March on Washington: Linda Sarsour and Tamika D. Mallory.
The United Methodist Women Assembly has long been known as a hotbed of hard-left political activism, and the May 18-20 gathering will be no exception. According to UMW, approximately 8,000 women are expected to participate. An invitation to Sarsour and Mallory to address the gathering is a step further than the organization has gone in recent memory.
The UMW cites Mallory as “a champion of the new civil rights movement”, but the activist drew criticism from Jewish and Israeli media when she pledged her support for Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan who has a long history of anti-Semitic statements.
Sarsour is promoted as “an award winning racial justice and civil rights activist, community organizer, and mother of three”. An American Muslim of Palestinian descent, Sarsour has been criticized for a string of social media messages praising the Muslim Brotherhood, attacking U.S. military recruiters, police, and declaring “Nothing is creepier than Zionism”.
At the last UMW Assembly held in 2014, former U.S. Secretary of State and Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton was invited to keynote, prompting the IRD to issue a press release calling on Clinton to distance herself from the more troubling aspects of the UMW’s Assembly, including an anti-Israel workshop entitled “Why Justice in Palestine Is a Racial Justice Imperative” led by an anti-Israel activist.
“UMW’s anti-Israel stance doesn’t represent the views and policies of Hillary Clinton in her public life,” said IRD President Mark Tooley. “It would be so helpful if she urged UMW’s officials in a new, more helpful direction of democracy, security, liberty and especially religious freedom for all.”
In 2016, Clinton, just before a vote of the United Methodist General Conference on church divestment from companies doing business with Israel, reasserted that the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement was counterproductive to peace. Later the conference voted to encourage church boards and agencies to end their affiliation with an organization that promotes boycotts, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
Anti-Israel activism isn’t the only area where the UMW has diverged from the United Methodist General Conference. The Women’s March featured abortion provider Planned Parenthood as one of its two premier sponsors of its 2017 rally, and organizers’ decided to remove a pro-life woman’s group from partnership status.
Just two years ago UMW was reined in by the United Methodist General Conference, which instructed the agency to disassociate from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC), of which it was at the time a coalition member. The organization, formerly known as the Religious Coalition for Abortion Rights, exists to provide a veneer of religious support for unrestricted abortion-on-demand.
United Methodist Women claims to be the largest faith-based women’s organization in the world, but it has also experienced significant decline in recent years. At its height in 1974, the UMW reported 1.36 million members. Statistics made available by the United Methodist General Council on Finance and Administration (GFCA) show that UMW dropped to 438,543 members in 2016, the most recent reporting year, a 68 percent decline in one generation. The 5.37 percent rate of decline in 2016 (-24,871 from the previous year) exceeds that of the denomination’s overall U.S. membership, which dropped only 1.62 percent in the same time period.
Themed “The Power of Bold” the 2018 Assembly centers around four Social Justice priorities: Maternal & Child Health, Climate Justice, Mass Incarceration and Economic Inequality. The UMW Assembly program states that throughout Assembly 2018, participants will explore the biblical story of Mary, mother of Jesus.
“Mary is a religious, social, civic and even cultural icon whose story is deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of people around the world,” the program reads.Google+