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2017 Women in United Methodist History Research Grant Recipients Announced

The Women in United Methodist History Research Grant, administered by the General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) provides seed money (travel, secretarial services, etc.) for research projects relating specifically to the history of women in The United Methodist Church (UMC) or its antecedents. Selection is made by a committee consisting of three persons who are historians of women in United Methodism. The newly announced 2017 recipients are Dr. Josephine Whitely-Fields for her proposed research on Black clergywomen in the North Central Jurisdiction of the UMC and Dr. Ken Tyrell for his proposal for Trinity UM Church’s “Women in the Windows” project in Muskogee, Oklahoma.

“The GCAH award will aid in documenting the spiritual formation stories of Black clergywomen whose voices are seldom heard, but who have significantly contributed to the ministry of the UMC. These stories will contribute to the written legacy of Black clergywomen,” said Whitely-Fields. “Some of these women are trailblazers and pioneers in local churches, cross-racial appointments, conference staffs, district superintendents, general boards, and as seminary personnel. Women and men can benefit from these journeys as they consider entering or continuing as clergy in the UMC. These stories can also be used to facilitate better relations in our denomination as we strive to dismantle racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and other “isms” that divide us as the body of Christ. Moreover, the findings of the research can be used a teaching tool in spiritual formation, by our boards and agencies, seminaries, other institutions of higher learning, and in spiritual formation academies. Meanwhile, the autobiographies and biographies will be beneficial for any reader who enjoys interesting stories.”

Whitely-Fields is a retired ordained elder in the United Methodist Church. She retired after 40 years of ministry from the Western PA Annual Conference, moved to Toledo, Ohio, and now serves as part of the volunteer staff at Braden UMC. She previously served on the conference staff of the Western Pennsylvania Annual Conference as a church consultant, and as the director of missions and outreach.  She also served as associate dean of doctoral studies, and as an adjunct professor at United Theological Seminary.

The “Women in the Windows” proposal from Tyrell sought to preserve fourteen stained-glass windows constructed between 1911 and 1912 at Trinity UMC. In his letter of recommendation, Regent professor at Oklahoma State University James L. Huton wrote, “…the scenes have important relevance to the historical period in which they were made—the end of Populism, the middle of Progressivism, and the period of early statehood of Oklahoma. In those times, Oklahoma was a leader in the progressive movement, its state constitution causing Theodore Roosevelt to declare it to be the most radical in the nation. These windows have a connection with those times and the desire of American progressives to attend to the social ills of the nation. Thus the scenes demonstrate, for the time period, a connection between political policy and religious duties—and as well the role of women in these decisions and activities.”

“As the keepers of the Church’s ethos and DNA, GCAH seeks to bring voice and gravitas to groups that have been marginalized throughout church history,” said Fred Day, General Secretary for GCAH. “This grant helps to bring voice to those that have been buried in the past so that we may hear them, see them, and gain a better comprehension. Only by understanding the past can we help envision the future for the UMC.”

For more information on the Women in Methodist History Research Grant and how to apply, visit http://gcah.org/research/women-in-united-methodist-history-research-grant.