Marilyn Reid, Jen Stuart, and Lyda Nisbet perform a skit highlighting women heroines in the Hebrew Scriptures.

Who knew?! Impressions by a first-timer at Mission u

Photos by Joan Hackett

A young person performs a liturgical dance expressing The Creation Story.

“Who knew that one of the most progressive branches of Christianity was a women’s organization in The Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church?” So I said to my wife after our first day at Mission u.

I’ve only been a member of the UMC for a couple of years now. So far, it’s continued to be some of the best experiences I’ve had with church in my whole life. I grew up in the church, in Charismatic, Non Denominational, and Mennonite Churches. I did go to Chrysalis as a youth, and really enjoyed it, but I spent very little time among mainline churches until I moved to Washington; I began going to Moses Lake UMC just two years ago.


I had been studying feminism and felt it was right for me as a man to practice submission by submitting to a female head pastor. I am very glad we chose it – we love it there, and love Pastor Jo Ann Schaadt.

My wife was quickly drawn into United Methodist Women. She’s found some good friends and good times there. She got to go to Mission u last year and came home with glowing reports. Much of the liberal progressive theology I had been leaning into was being spoken by the leaders at this UMW event. They were talking about social justice in a way I had not heard growing up, in a positive way, and not a negative way. She told me I’d love speakers like the Rev. Keith Hackett, who she’s sure I’ll be like one day.

Participants at Mission u offer a prayer outside of the campus of Central Washington University (Ellensburg, Wash.).
Participants at Mission u offer a prayer outside of the campus of Central Washington University (Ellensburg, Wash.).

Between walking around the beautiful campus of Central Washington University, to the nice city of Ellensburg, to the classes, plenaries, and discussion groups themselves, it has truly been an enriching and enjoyable time.

Pastor Jen Stuart co-leads "The Bible and Human Sexuality: Claiming God’s Good Gift" along with the Rev. Keith Hackett (not pictured).
Pastor Jen Stuart co-leads “The Bible and Human Sexuality:
Claiming God’s Good Gift” along with the Rev. Keith Hackett (not pictured).

I tend to be a guy with a lot of questions…and when those questions don’t have answers, I’m okay with that. By learning under Keith Hackett, Jen Stuart, Alethea McGavran and Pat Watkins and by worshiping with a large group of mostly women, I’ve been given many moments of clarity on some questions that have long plagued me.

I also appreciate the affirming atmosphere when it comes to human sexuality. With friends all over the spectrum, and with the larger UM atmosphere in contention, it has been refreshing to be a part of something, specifically to be in groups that speak openly and affirmingly of LGBTQIA persons, and of human sexuality in general. I’m sure there’s no other church event out there where someone can bring up sex in such a positive and affirming way. I also was very impressed with the vulnerability and wisdom from so many women around me and from the speakers as we talked about sexual abuse and ethics, and of moving forward into a better way of thinking about sexuality in the Church. Ethics of respect, consent, and validation of sex and our bodies as a God-given gift become the new language we use. We stand with each other in solidarity, support and advocacy against sexual abuse in all ways, whether done inside or outside the walls of the church, outside or inside the confines of marriage.

The Rev. Pat Watkins leads "Climate Justice: Call to Hope and Action" at Mission u. Watkins is a global missionary guiding "God’s Renewed Creation" related to the Council of Bishops.
The Rev. Pat Watkins leads “Climate Justice: Call to Hope and Action” at Mission u. Watkins is a global missionary guiding
“God’s Renewed Creation” related to the Council of Bishops.

My climate justice classes with Pat Watkins have also been eye-opening. Before I came here this weekend I only rarely thought about my carbon footprint. I knew climate change was a big thing, but I think there wasn’t as much urgency in my own life about it. But talking of not only the environmental impacts, but the theological implications of being stewards of the Earth — called by God to be gardeners and farmers has truly changed my view on how important this is. I’m starting to ask more serious questions about what I can do.

I’ve met some great people, and learned a lot. But growing up and going to missions events where it was all about evangelism, quick and easy ways to get in, lead people to Christ, and get out, Mission u has truly been a refreshingly different take on what missions means.

How can the church speak more positively and wholly to human sexuality in issues of patriarchal abuse, biblical interpretation and LGBTQIA rights? How can the church be at the forefront of healing and justice in climate change? These are questions this event has given me a few answers, but also more and better questions than what I came in with, and I’m thankful for that.

If you’re interested in justice for the world, and funny informative speakers who challenge your world-view as well as just having a more whole understanding of self and others, I can’t recommend Mission u more. Hope to see you next year, or hear about you attending your own conference’s Mission u.

Learn more about PNW’s United Methodist women at

For more on United Methodist mission, visit


  1. Justin:

    It was a pleasure to read about your positive experience at Mission U. I have been one of the few men to attend Mission U in recent years. Sorry to miss it this year, but I was observing history being made at the Western Jurisdictional Conference. Can’t be in two places at once. And you are blessed to have Pastor Jo Ann as your pastor. I hope we can meet next year at Mission U. It is a great Continuing Education experience for pastors. I wish more were motivated to take advantage of the opportunity.

    Another great experience for retired persons is Lazy Daze at Lazy F in September. Spread the word to your active retirees.

    Retired Pastor John Shaffer

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