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The First Woman to Receive Full Clergy Rights and Conference Membership in the Methodist Church – 1956

 In 1956 the General Conference granted full clergy rights to women by voting that they could be admitted into full ministerial membership in Methodist Annual Conferences.  On May 18, within a month of this action, Ms. Maud K. Jensen, a missionary to Korea, became the first woman to be admitted into full conference membership in the Central Pennsylvania Conference. She was admitted on trial, in absentia, as she was in Korea at the time.  She spent forty years in Korea as a full-time and retired missionary.

 A native of New Cumberland, Pennsylvania, Jensen was drawn to missionary work while a student at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.   After graduating in 1926, she was sent to Korea by the Methodist Episcopal Church.   She had met her future husband, A. Kristian Jensen, when they were both missionary candidates, and they married in 1928.  By 1946 Jensen earned a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the seminary at Drew University.  Her education at Drew continued in her later life when she completed a Ph.D. at the age of seventy-four.  Drew also conferred upon Jensen an honorary doctorate and an outstanding alumni award.

 During the Korean War, her husband Reverend A. Kristian Jensen, was a prisoner of the Communists from 1950-1953. The couple resumed service in Korea in September, 1954, and Mrs. Jensen taught at the Methodist Theological Seminary. Jensen was honored twice by the Korean government for her contribution to social welfare work in that country.

Upon finding herself the first full-fledged female minister in The Methodist Church, Mrs. Jensen cabled:

    “I am deeply grateful for the privilege, but the honor was completely unexpected and due entirely to the early meeting of my Annual Conference. I feel that Georgia Harkness and other active women ministers deserve first recognition after their long struggle and able contributions to the church. I am praying for wisdom and spiritual development.”