WASHINGTON Women ministers are recognized in most U.S. churches today, with some female leaders receiving the highest honors as bishops and presidents of mainline denominations. However, it wasnt until fifty years ago this year that women were ordained in some of todays most progressive church bodies.
United Methodists, whose denomination ordained its first female clergy in 1956, are commemorating this landmark day by dedicating an online website to Maud Keister Jensen a longtime missionary to Korea and the first woman to receive full clergy rights.
The website, www.gcah.org/jensen.htm, is part of a larger denomination-wide celebration commemorating the General Conference vote of May 4, 1956. Other celebrations include special services and musical numbers at each regional United Methodist gathering this year.
According to L. Dale Patterson, archivist and records administrator for the churchs Archives and History, the resources on the website provides a good way to personalize the 50th anniversary because it gives a channel for users to connect interactively. Visitors can see pictures, read stories and hear Jensens voice through an audio file. As Patterson said, We wanted to get her words out there to people.
Audio clips include segments from an in-depth interview with Jensen about her life, from her childhood to her 40 years of missionary service in Korea, according to the United Methodist News Service.
Jensen was ordained in 1952 by the local church, but it wasnt until four years later that the ordination was recognized by the nationwide denomination. At the time her ordination was fully recognized, Jensen and her husband were in Korea.
"I learned of my acceptance through an article in the military paper, Stars and Stripes, before hearing through church channels," Jensen recalled. "I had to be grateful for the personal honor, and it seemed only right that at long last the equality of men and women in the ministry should be recognized in this way."
The United Methodist Church has mandated 2006 as a yearlong celebration of the contributions, struggles, gifts and graces of women clergy, according to the UMNS. A variety of activities are planned for the 63 annual (regional) conference sessions in the United States this spring and summer, preceding national celebrations at the Aug. 13-17 United Methodist Clergywomen's Consultation in Chicago.
This week, the Baltimore-Washington Conference will recognize the 50-year anniversary with memorial services and celebrations, as it hosts its 222nd annual meeting from May 25-27.