2014 marks the 40th anniversary of the ordination of women into the Methodist ministry. So it is perhaps appropriate that we should begin our series on Women in Methodism by profiling the current President of the Methodist Conference, Rev'd. Ruth Gee.
In 1974 Ruth visited the Taizé community in France with a group of friends. One day she had been praying in a local Roman Catholic church when she felt very strongly that God was calling her to the ordained ministry, although she had no idea whether that was possible for a woman in the Methodist Church. What a coincidence that she should feel that call in the very year that it did indeed become possible!
59-year-old Ruth was born in Dorset and brought up in Wiltshire in a Methodist family (her father was a local preacher). She trained as a teacher of RE and English, and gained a degree in theology at Hull University. While there she met her future husband, Robert, at the University Methodist Society (Meth Soc - many Methodists will testify to what a good place Meth Socs were for finding future partners!). Robert is also a Methodist minister and they have two grown-up children, Andrew and Rachel.
After some years in Circuit ministry, mostly in northern England, Ruth became Chair of the Darlington district in 2008. Her election as President makes her only the fourth woman to have held this position. The Conference is the governing body of Methodism in Britain, and meets annually in July. The President (always a presbyteral minister) and Vice-President (a lay person or a deacon) are elected to serve for one year only. During that year the President acts as the Church’s representative in the world - for instance this year Ruth attended the Remembrance ceremony at the Cenotaph in Whitehall. And, as John Wesley did, they travel the length and breadth of Britain, and overseas, preaching and visiting Methodist projects, and always encouraging and inspiring the Church in its mission.
It is usual for the President and Vice-President to choose a particular theme for their year. A woman of deep spirituality, Ruth wants the Church to become an ‘expectant people’, expecting to see glimpses of the glory of God everywhere around us. God is in everything, even the most mundane. But this is not just a ‘religious feeling’ - her belief that we can recognise the presence of God everywhere leads her to a passionate sense of anger about inequality and injustice.
In her Christmas message to the Church, Ruth quoted the first chapter of John’s gospel, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us; and we beheld his glory", and called on us all to be generous with our time and our love in response.
If you want to know more about what Ruth is doing in her Presidential year, you can follow her blog.
Written by the Minister & Members