By Jessica Brodie
In an effort to reflect the true nature of their group, United Methodist Women has rebranded, changing their name to United Women in Faith.
The change, which took effect March 3, was a surprise for most of the group’s half-million members, with the exception of a handful of people including their Program Advisory Group, bishops and conference presidents.
A new logo, new programs and new website are among the changes, announced en masse via email and a Facebook event where leaders celebrated the change and their ongoing cultivation of diversity.
Sue Owens, South Carolina United Methodist and president of the Southeastern Jurisdiction United Women in Faith, as well as a member of the organization’s Program Advisory Group, was among the few who knew in advance about the change.
Owens called it a healthy shift, noting all women of faith were welcome to be part of the group, but the name felt exclusionary toward women of Baptist, Presbyterian, Church of Christ and other denominations who are very much a part of the group along with United Methodists.
“As long as United Methodist Women had ‘United Methodist,’ it excluded those ladies,” Owens said.
Owens noted the group has changed its name more than 25 times throughout its 153-year history. It started as the Methodist Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society in 1869 and also included the Woman’s Missionary Association and the Woman’s Home Missionary Societies. In 1972, United Methodist Women first became the women’s mission organization as part of The United Methodist Church’s Board of Global Ministries, and in 2012, the UMC’s General Conference voted to make United Methodist Women autonomous.
But since then, its interfaith work has soared, and the new name not only reflects the existing change within the group, but also allows for those women’s circles that are part of churches leaving the UMC to continue under the same umbrella.
“It’s an opportunity for those women whose churches have pulled out to stay active in our organization,” Owens said.
Cathy Ford, president of the South Carolina Conference United Women in Faith, noted the mission of the group is to connect and nurture women through Christian spiritual formation, leadership development, creative fellowship and education so they can inspire, influence and impact local and global communities.
She expressed praise for the new organizational website, at uwfaith.org, which she called “informative, engaging, inspiring and very bold and colorful.”
In a press release issued by United Women in Faith, the group said they are launching an array of new and improved programs to nurture current members and welcome new women to join to put their love in action on behalf of women, children and youth.
The new programs are fruits of research conducted the past five years with more than 24,000 United Methodists and women of other Christian traditions participating in the surveys, focus groups and interviews. The input also informed the prayerful discernment of staff and elected leaders.
Not only do the changes address the different needs and life stages of current members and new women and expand options for membership and engagement, the release shared, “The new name also aims to welcome current members whose local churches may choose to disaffiliate from The United Methodist Church as well as women of other faith traditions who want to join.”
Other changes include the following:
Harriett Jane Olson, CEO of United Women in Faith, called the change an “exciting time” for the organization.
“Looking back, we see the through lines for our organization—faith in God, love for each other and commitment to putting our faith into action supporting women, children and youth,” Olson said. “These commitments have been expressed in different ways at different times using different names, always calling women to world changing action. This combination of a new look, more accessible resources for members and new ways to participate positions us for impact in our own journeys and in how we engage the world that God so loves.”
‘Ainise ‘Isama’u, United Women in Faith board president, said she believes their members will be excited about the changes.
“Things change. People change. But God remains, and that continues to be the purpose behind everything that we do in this organization.”