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GCAH Distributes $12,000+ in Grants, Awards, and Scholarships

Featured GCAH Distributes $12,000+ in Grants, Awards, and Scholarships

The General Commission on Archive and History (GCAH) of The United Methodist Church (UMC) today announced the 2018 recipients of five awards, grants, and scholarships: The John Harrison Ness Memorial award, the Josephine Forman scholarship, the Women in United Methodist History 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 Benjamin Phelps, a final-year student at Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, for his entry “Confessional Lutheran Reaction to Methodism in America: The Case of Friedrich Wyneken." The award, given annuallyin 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. 

“The John Harrison Ness award is wonderful recognition for the work I have done researching the life and ministry of Friedrich Wyneken,” said Phelps. “Wyneken as a major figure in the American frontier church is a topic that has much-untapped potential.  Just as the shape and identity of the nation underwent dramatic development in the 19th century, so too did the religious convictions of immigrants and native-born Americans.  Wyneken created order and direction from the chaos, all while working entirely for missions so that Christ could be brought to those without a shepherd.  While Wyneken abhorred some Methodist practices and adapted others, the Methodist missionaries had the greatest impact on Wyneken's development in his early years.”

The Josephine Forman Scholarship was presented to Krystall Jimenez, a MLIS degree-seeker at UCLA. 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.

“I am so grateful for the Josephine Forman Scholarship,” said Jimenez. “Knowing that I can pay a large portion of my tuition rather than take on additional debt is a relief. I can breathe easier and focus on my studies, without stressing over finances.”

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 2018 recipients are The Rev. LaToya Juanita Shepherd, for her proposed research on the life and ministry of Deaconess Iris Bell Hightower, and Cynthia Stupnik for her proposal on the life and career of Mary MacNicholl, the first fully-ordained female Methodist minister in Minnesota. 

Rev. Shepherd, a full-time local pastor currently serving as an Associate at Heritage UMC in Van Buren, Arkansas, is currently pursuing a Master of Divinity degree at United Theological Seminary. She is also pursuing Elders Orders in the Arkansas Annual Conference. “This award is special because it will bring me one step closer in assisting Mrs. Iris Hightower in her endeavor to share her story. Mrs. Hightower is aging and being challenged with health concerns. Her story is inspiring to say the least.”

Cynthia Stupnik stated, “I am grateful for the Women in United Methodist History Research Grant that will help me bring to fruition my research and writing project on Reverend Mary MacNicholl. The first woman to receive full-clergy rights in the Minnesota Methodist Conference in 1958, MacNicholl’s vision of becoming a Methodist minister came to her when she was in kindergarten.  Throughout her life, she followed a narrow path to reach that goal. Mary MacNicholl’s spiritual journey took bends and turns.  She faced daunting challenges, especially when she had to defend herself from male bias. By understanding how she forged a path for mothers to follow, one can truly understand God’s place for women in His church. Mary MacNicholl died in 1979 from a rare form of blood disease.  If she were alive today, she would be proud of the many women who have fought the good fight not to be identified as a ‘woman minister’ but simply to be identified as a minister, a reverend, or a pastor.”

The United Methodist Racial/Ethnic History Research Grant was awarded to Dr. Ben Hartley, Associate Professor of Christian Mission, College of Christian Studies, George Fox University in Newberg, OR, for his project entitled “Re-Assessing Methodist—Native American Encounters in the Oregon Territory, 1834-1844.”

“It is with heartfelt gratitude that I receive this Racial/Ethnic History Grant from the General Commission on Archives and History,” said Hartley. “In recent years the UMC has had a number of services of worship at Annual Conference and General Conference gatherings to express corporate repentance and a desire for reconciliation between The United Methodist Church and Native Americans in North America.  These need to be followed up with many other efforts if the work of reconciliation is to continue.  I am absolutely convinced that to grow in one's respect for Native American peoples one must grow in love for their history and the history that is shared among United Methodists and native peoples.  I receive this research grant as a loving encouragement from United Methodist people to do so in my still-new home in the Oregon-Idaho Annual Conference.  I pray that my research will inspire others to learn the stories of Native American peoples wherever they may live.  Thank you!” 

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