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Male Advocacy for Women in Leadership

By Jeff Finley

January 25, 2024

Advocates for Women in Leadership (AWL) recently invited four male Free Methodist elders to share their perspectives during an online discussion. New Beginnings Community Church Senior Pastor Jeffery Harrold, Free Methodist Church in Southern California Superintendent Jon Sato, New Hope Free Methodist Church Lead Pastor Scott Sittig, and retired Southern California Superintendent and Pastor Denny Wayman shared about their journey to becoming advocates and answered questions from AWL members.

“We’re so glad to hear from these men who are serious about being advocates for women and leadership in the Free Methodist Church,” Community of the Savior Associate Pastor Katie Sawade Hall said.

Harrold shared that he has “seen the talents of women marginalized basically because men just didn’t want to make a way for them or thought they were lesser than,” and he resigned from an alliance that refused to admit women. He grew up in another Methodist denomination whose bishop prevented his mother from leading in some ministries. Meanwhile during secular work experience, “my supervisors have been amazing women that have shown me strength and leadership.”

Sato said being Free Methodist requires “that any superintendent must work towards being an advocate, knowing our context, knowing our history, knowing what we believe, and knowing our current results.” He grew up with parents in Free Methodist ministry, but educational experiences included interacting with people whose theology differs. He said his “journey to advocacy is still in process” and described himself as “a broken leader who is trying to learn and figure out life, my biases, and the things that I carry with me as a person.”

Sittig said he grew up with teachers and Bible quiz coaches who “all were strong women who led well and taught me the Bible, and organized and administrated, and it was obvious to me early on that women could and should lead with the gifts that they were given. But even as a teenager and a young adult, I didn’t really know how much I was already shaped by patriarchy as well.” His awareness increased through a seminary course, and as he worked for Pastor (and future Bishop) Linda Adams, “I continued to hear the subtle and not-so-subtle things that challenged my perceptions.”

Wayman explained that in his Free Methodist family, “my father was a pastor. My mom worked side by side. It never even really occurred to me [as a child] that women were not treated equally.” He cited women in ministry who influenced him and noted his current pastor is Free Methodist Church of Santa Barbara Lead Pastor Colleen Hurley-Bates. He said, “What has been the great joy of my life is being able to recognize the strength, gifting, unique perspective, and enrichment that women leaders have brought to the ministries that I have been a part of.”