Rediscovering the European Bible Women



From the General Commission on Archives and History

The General Commission on Archives and History (GCAH) of The United Methodist Church sponsored a Historical Conference in cooperation with The World Methodist Historical Society and European Methodist Council in Ruse, Bulgaria. The conference examined the pioneering role of European women in the establishment of Methodism on the continent. Dr. Ulrike Schuler (Reutlingen University, Germany) and Dr. Paul Chilcote (Ashland Theological Seminary, Ashland, Ohio, USA) presented groundbreaking research about the "Bible Women" of Italy and Bulgaria, a forgotten first-wave of the denomination's entry into the Balkans and Eastern Europe.

Held in Ruse, Bulgaria 50 participants from Italy, Germany, Switzerland, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Russia, Czech Republic, Norway, Denmark, Slovakia gathered with the Bishops Patrick Streiff (Switzerland), Eduard Khegay (Russia), Rosemarie Wenner (Germany) and Walter Klaiber  (Germany, retired).

"This conference was another opportunity for our Commission to do what we do across the UMC worldwide: to remember and offer resources about how the seeds of the past yield the harvest of the future,” said Fred Day, General Secretary of GCAH. "So often GCAH's work is understood as passive administration. But we're more than that. We are promoters as much as we are preservers. We are keepers and interpreters of the stories and experiences that shape the UMC's ethos and DNA. Insights from the challenging frontiers where these European and later American women broke new ground have much to teach us for ministry and mission now and into the future."

“This Historical Conference was great chance to get inspired by the lives of Methodist people from our past and how their lives and experiences shape our Church's identity today,” said Bishop Khegay. “I pray that we serve as bravely and sacrificially as these sisters in 19th and 20th century Europe.”

"More than 50 people left Bulgaria with transformational stories, marvelous sermon and study group illustrations about the Spirit moving God's people called Methodist forward. This remains one of the four focus areas of the church today,” said Day. “These women traversed insurmountable geographical and cultural obstacles. They were leaders with little more than an abiding passion for sharing God's love with people hungry for hope. They crossed borders and boundaries that turned others away."

Papers from the conference will be published in the Spring 2016 edition of Methodist History—a publication of GCAH. The current issue of the publication can be found here: