Clergywomen organize for sexual ethics, fair treatment

Clergywomen organize for sexual ethics, fair treatment


ALCOA, Tenn. (Nov. 20, 2018) -- A small group of clergywomen want Holston Conference’s total 256 clergywomen to be treated fairly in matters of sexual ethics, inclusiveness, education and leadership.

On Nov. 14, five pastors met in the Alcoa Conference Center to revive Holston’s Commission on the Status and Role of Women (COSROW).

The United Methodist Book of Discipline requires all annual conferences to have and fund a COSROW group. The new chairperson says Holston’s COSROW has not been active for a few years.

“We need to get moving on looking at the status and role of women in the Holston Conference, especially while we have a female bishop,” said the Rev. Sharon Bowers, appointed COSROW chair a year ago. “We have 256 women who need a collective voice.”

Holston Conference has a total of about 630 active clergy. Holston’s resident bishop is Bishop Dindy Taylor, assigned to Holston Conference in 2012. Her current assignment expires in 2020.

Since 1972, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women has been charged with monitoring, research, education and advocacy to eradicate sexism in The United Methodist Church, according to the COSROW website.

Holston’s COSROW group is working on a strategic plan that will be active and continue to work throughout leadership changes and other transitions, Bowers said. “Our hope is that what we build will last.”

A task force including Bowers is also planning sexual-ethics training for all Holston clergy next spring, required before the next appointments are fixed in June 2019.

In October 2018, four Holston clergy attended the denomination’s sexual-ethics summit in San Antonio, Texas: “Do No Harm.” Participating Holston clergy included Bowers, the Rev. Caleb Pitkin, the Rev. Leah Burns, and the Rev. Kathy Heustess.

In 2015, Bishop Taylor was a speaker and design-team member for the Do No Harm conference in Chicago.

The five clergywomen who met in the Alcoa Conference Center on Nov. 14 said they talked about their own experiences in Holston Conference, which motivated them to put in practices to stop gender and ethnic discrimination.

“Some of the things that have been said to us as Holston Conference clergywomen have been spine-splitting,” Bowers said.

Holston’s COSROW group currently includes Bowers, the Rev. Leah Burns, the Rev. Carole Martin, the Rev. Heidi Parunak, and the Rev. Martha Scott. The next meeting is scheduled for Jan. 22.

“We’re working hard to get more people to join us,” said Burns. Contact Bowers at



See also:

General Commission on the Status and Role of Women

What to do if you have a sexual ethics complaint

Timing right for sexual ethics summit (UMNS, 10.16.18)