The Wesleyan Holiness Women Clergy ( WHWC) organization held a “think-tank” Congress on February 23-24, 2017, in Atlanta, Georgia. Forty representatives from five member denominations came together to discuss the state and mission of the 25-year-old organization. Those denominations included Brethren in Christ, Church of God (Anderson), Free Methodist Church, The Church of the Nazarene, and The Wesleyan Church.
Among the representatives were key denominational leaders who added to the conversation regarding the organization’s history and needs for the future. Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita of The Wesleyan Church, served the Congress as Speaker of the House.
Breakout sessions met in four different focus groups during the two days together. The focus groups discussed: Challenges and Opportunities for Women in Ministry, How We Teach about Gender in the Church, Diversity and Women in Ministry, and The Mission and Vision of WHWC . Dr. Cheryl Sanders (Church of God) gave an inspirational challenge to the Congress on the Justice of God and our role in the story.
With input from each focus group, WHWC President Dr. Mari Gonlag (The Wesleyan Church) and Dr. Lyon summarized the Congress’ reflections from the previous days. Rev. Linda Adams (Free Methodist) and Bishop Perry Engle (Brethren in Christ) also gave summary comments. The Congress gave resounding support for the continuation of the organization—affirming the importance of WHWC as a prophetic voice to impact God’s kingdom through networking/mentoring, advocacy work for women clergy, and broadening funding streams.
“We came to the Congress with questions, ideas, and hopes. But our end result was dependent upon the Holy Spirit’s leading,” said Dr. Lyon. “Well, the results surpassed our imagination. Now, we take courage to walk into all God has in mind!”
The WHWC Board and Planning Committee met for additional days to continue planning for the next WHWC Conference. The 2018 WHWC Conferenceis scheduled for April 12-15, 2018, at the YMCA of the Rockies in Estes Park, Colorado.
Wesleyans in attendance at the WHWC Congress included:
Rev. Gina Colburn, lead pastor, Trinity Wesleyan Church, Allentown, Penn.
Rev. Anita Eastlack, executive director of Church Multiplication and Discipleship
Rev. Russ Gunsalus, executive director of Education and Clergy Development
Dr. Jo Anne Lyon, General Superintendent Emerita, The Wesleyan Church
Dr. Joanne Solis-Walker, assistant dean of global theological education, Wesley Seminary at Indiana Wesleyan University
Dr. Mari Gonlag, WHWC President
Julia Joyce, assistant to the WHWC President, student at Southern Wesleyan University
Rev. Carey Richards, conference director
Dr. Priscilla Hammond, assistant to the conference director
Rev. Holland Prior, Wesleyan member of the planning committee
Pictured, left to right: Dr. Deidra Johnson, Church of God (Anderson) and Dr. Priscilla Hammond, The Wesleyan Church.