Who thought of it?
Please be assured that many long hours were spent discussing what name would be most appropriate to represent where we are at this time by the former Women’s Network Connexional Committee along with the WFMUCW British Unit officers*
In the end Methodist Women in Britain was chosen because it is clear (many people around the country felt “Women’s Network” didn’t say enough) and short (unlike the “British Unit of the World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women”).
The proposed new ways of working were brought to the attention of every district (a process of consultation which took place for well over a year in which we listened to and thought deeply about every suggestion which was made – as indeed we still do to all comments).
*including over the time of debate and discussion Ann Baarda, Jill Baker, Norma Boocock, Jenny Cant, Trevor Durston, Ling Henry, Julie Hulme, Alison Judd, Liz Marriott, Anne Martin, Kathleen Pearson, Gillian Pengelly, Jean Ryall, Judith Simms, Kathleen Skinner, Pam Stone, Pam Turner, Helen Weighell, Margaret Williams
Why change at all?
The primary reason for making any changes at all is things could not stay as they were!
The Connexional Team of the Methodist Church in Britain has undergone huge changes, and no provision is now made within the team for any Connexional budget for a women’s movement, nor for any paid staff.
In February 2008 a small working group* was set up by the Methodist Council to look at possible ways forward. The most obvious route was for Women’s Network to join with the British Unit of WFMUCW and be run, as that had always been run, as a self-governing, self-financing movement within the wider auspices both of the British Methodist church and of the worldwide movement which is WFMUCW. Hence, there was a significant change in the make-up of the movement which in turn required a change of overall name.
* Chaired by Rev. Dr. Liz Smith and comprising Rev. David Leese, Mrs. Ruth Pickles, Mrs. Pam Turner, Mr. John Nutt and Mrs. Jill Baker.
Do we have to use the new name?
Methodist Women in Britain is now the name
- of the central, Connexional organisation
- for the executive committee and Forum and for the officers,
- recognised by the Methodist Conference as the women’s movement within the Methodist Church in Britain.
However, it has always been said that, locally, groups must use whatever name suits them best.
I don’t understand how the Connexional organisation and local groups can use different names; is there another example of this having happened before?
Yes, think about MAYC (the Methodist Association of Youth Clubs) which functioned well for many years. The national organisation was known as MAYC, but local groups went under all sorts of names (“Project 78”, “Inters Club”, “Junior Club”, “Youth Fellowship” etc. etc.)
So, it is hoped that MWiB will really become the umbrella movement that Network dreamed of being, and as such it already has all sorts of groups meeting in various places which use their own names, “Working Worshipping Women”, “Body and Soul”, “Friendship group” etc. etc. but all these groups are affiliated to MWiB in that they receive our mailings and use our website and hopefully (from time to time) send a donation.
It is not necessary for the name MWiB to be used in any place where it is not helpful.
Isn’t it rather exclusive to include “Methodist” in the name? What about ecumenical churches?
We consulted informally with ecumenical groups and friends about the new name and they were generally very happy with it, as it shows clearly where we are grounded.
We have said all along that all women who share our aims are welcome to all the activities and resources prepared by MWiB
However, there is no getting away from the fact that the movement is run by Methodist women and comes out of the specific values and emphases of the Methodist Church. If we were to start a movement called “Christian women in Britain” as has been suggested, we would have to start with a planning group which included women from all the Christian denominations in Britain, so that all could have their say and make their particular points. Maybe that will happen in time, but we are not there yet.
In some places men attend meetings – why have the word “Women” in the title?
If, in a specific local situation, groups are opened up to men to attend, that is fine. However, what we are talking about here is not a new Wesley Guild, which can easily be revived anywhere it would be useful, but a women’s movement in the Methodist Church.
We do believe that there is a particular value in women meeting together to offer each other sisterly solidarity, in offering “women-only” space in a society in which many women have been scarred and damaged by their dealings with men, and to stand together with women around the world.
Therefore, where men are invited/welcome (as indeed they are to our roadshow events) it should be to hear things from a woman’s perspective; so our spirituality, our social concerns and our ways of working reflect feminine views. I know there are men who are happy to engage in this way – for most of church history it has been the other way round!
Perhaps it would be good if men could organise a similar “Methodist Men in Britain” movement, as I do believe men need “men-only” space too, and the interface between the two could be dynamic! In some places this does happen, but not connexionally at present.
Why have the name “Britain” in the title when the Methodist Church in Britain includes two overseas circuits (Malta and Gibraltar) and many of the other islands (e.g. Jersey) are proud of their island status?
MWiB is the women’s movement of the British Methodist church, just as each of our districts, whether islands or separate nations, are districts of the British Methodist Church, so it seems entirely appropriate to include Britain in our title.
It is a way of showing where we are based, but also of emphasising that we are just one part of a global movement.
- However, as I have said before, the name does not need to be used where it is not helpful.
- In Scotland they are keeping the name Network, at least for the time being, as they feel that is well known and well-liked and that they are absolutely free to do.
- In Birmingham, I understand, Methodist Women in Birmingham is taking off!
Perhaps what is most important is that, whatever we feel about the name itself, we get on with the job of
- Knowing Christ and making him known and
- Encouraging, enabling and equipping women here in Britain and around the worl