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GCAH Distributes $17,000 in Grants, Awards, and Scholarships

Featured GCAH Distributes $17,000 in Grants, Awards, and Scholarships

The General Commission on Archive and History (GCAH) of The United Methodist Church (UMC) has announced the 2017 recipients of five awards, grants, and scholarships: The John Harrison Ness Memorial award, the Josephine Forman scholarship, the Women in United Methodist History Writing award, the Women in United Methodist History Research grant, the World is My Parish Research grant, and the United Methodist Racial/Ethnic History Research grant.

“At GCAH, we believe and experience every day the power of history not merely as remembrance but as an active engagement, the past pointing to purpose, the DNA that makes us who we are, forming how we live-into the future,” said Rev. Fred Day, general secretary. “By pulling the stories of difference-makers in our tradition off the shelves and presenting them to the church, we inspire the church to challenge and pioneer new mission opportunities. These awards help ensure that this vital ministry of the church is continued by the next generation.”

The John Harrison Ness Memorial Award was presented to Deborah Creagh, for her entry “Dr. Clara Swain: First Medical Missionary of the Woman’s Foreign Missionary Society." The award, given annually in memory of John Harrison Ness (1891-1980), pastor, conference superintendent, and denominational executive in the Evangelical United Brethren Church, honors students enrolled in M. Div. programs in United Methodist or other seminaries accredited by the Association of Theological Schools who submit the best papers on one aspect of United Methodist History.

“I am thrilled to have received the Ness Memorial Award,” said Creagh. “It encourages me to continue my interests in research and writing, and in exploring the history of women serving The United Methodist Church, both at home and abroad.”


The Josephine Forman Scholarship was presented to Jeannie Chen, a 2018 Master's Candidate in the Library and Information Studies Program at the University of California, Los Angeles. The scholarship, administered by GCAH in partnership with the Society of American Archivists (SAA), provides financial support to minority students pursuing graduate education in archival science, encourages students to pursue a career as an archivist, and promotes diversity within the American archives profession. The scholarship is given to applicants who demonstrate excellent potential for scholastic and personal achievement and who manifest a commitment both to the archives profession and to advancing diversity concerns within it.

“The Josephine Forman Scholarship award will be an extremely vital support towards the successful completion of my MLIS Program at UCLA,” said Chen. “I would like to thank the Society of American Archivists and GCAH for this opportunity to develop my knowledge and skills in the archival studies field.”


The Women in United Methodist History Writing Award was presented to Dr. Rachel Cope for her paper “Dwarfism and the Evangelical: Mary Garrettson’s Call for the Reform in Mabel and Her Sunlit Home and Little Mabel’s Friends.” The award is given to encourage and reward excellence in research and writing in the history of women in The United Methodist Church or its antecedents. Selection is made by a committee consisting of three persons who are historians of women in United Methodism.

“As a historian, I love discovering the forgotten,” said Cope. “I see this award as a credit to Mary Rutherford Garrettson’s remarkable life; it was an honor to write about her.”


The Women in United Methodist History Research Grant provides seed money for research projects relating specifically to the history of women in the 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, a retired ordained elder in the UMC. “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.”

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 of the project, 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.”


The World is My Parish Research Grant was distributed to Dr. Elezar S. Fernandez, President/Academic Dean of Union Theological Seminary in Cavite, Philippines, and Dr. Elaine Robinson, Professor of Methodist Studies at the St. Paul School of Theology/Oklahoma City University. The grant is given to enable the collection of written and oral history and encourage research regarding the development of the UMC and its antecedents in any of the conferences not in the United States.

Fernandez’s project entitled “A Century and A Decade: The History of Union Theological Seminary describes how the seminary “is intrinsically intertwined with the history of the nation and the history of Christianity in the Philippines,” according to Fernandez. “This book will serve not only as a memento but will also be a significant resource book on the history of Christianity and theological education in the Philippines and Asia.”

Robinson’s project entitled “A Historical Perspective on Global Methodism: Central Conference Origins” is an attempt “to fill a gap in the education of our clergy and local pastors in the U.S.,” she said. “It will help us all to think more deeply about what it means to be a global church, by understanding the origins and development of United Methodism in the central conferences. If it can help us all to develop greater global sensibilities, the connectional system will inevitably be strengthened.”


The United Methodist Racial/Ethnic History Research Grant was distributed to Dr. Karl Hele, Associate Professor of the First Peoples Studies Program at Concordia University in Montreal, for his project entitled “Methodist Missions at the Sault: An Investigation into their Relationships with the Anishinaabeg as well as Canadian and American States in the Borderlands;” and Dr. Kale Yu, for his study of Asian immigrant churches and communities in the greater New York region, specifically Korean churches in the United Methodist Church, in the history of American Christianity.

“I am very excited to receive this research grant,” said Hele.  “It will allow me to pursue a week-long examination of key records concerning Indian Affairs in Sault Ste. Marie, Canada.  This award and the associated research will also form the basis for a larger application to the Social Science and Humanities Research Council in Canada to study the international border at the Sault. Additionally, I am hopeful that this study and the larger grant application will place belief and religion at the forefront of cultural negotiation in nineteenth-century Sault Ste. Marie.  Moreover, it is wonderful to see that support still exists for studies of religious interactions and how Christianity played a multifaceted role in Settler-Indigenous actions at all levels.”

For more information on grants, awards and scholarships offered by GCAH, please visit: