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New Scholarship Fund for Deacons Honors a Woman Who Dedicated Her Life to Church Service

January 9, 2018

The General Board of Higher Education and Ministry (GBHEM) is honored to announce the latest addition to its more than 70 scholarship funds. The Rubie Plant Butterworth Scholarship Fund will provide financial assistance to individuals attending one of the 13 United Methodist seminaries and pursuing ordination as a deacon. The creation of the scholarship fund was initiated by Jim Butterworth who was looking for a way to honor his mother for her 90th birthday and years of service in The United Methodist Church (UMC).  

“My mom dedicated her life and career to the Methodist Church,” Jim explained. “She really believes in higher education and the opportunities it’s given her. She has a very devout faith, so we all felt that supporting something around her faith would be a nice thing to do.”

Rubie entered Garrett Theological Seminary in 1948 to pursue a Master of Arts in Christian Education. She had a heart for service, teaching and mentoring and wanted to use her passion to impact the church. Rubie worked as the director of Christian Education within churches in Ohio, North Carolina, Georgia and Florida. She also served as dean of women at Brevard College, a part of the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. Within her career in the UMC, she has been a trainer, teacher, director, mentor and much more. 

“I wanted to work in Christian education and that’s what I did. I served as director of Christian Education and held different education and training positions within churches around Ohio and the southeast,” Rubie said. “Women were a valued part of the staff during this time but, early on, we were not able to be ordained. It was not fair, but I did not let it stop my service to the church.” 

Rubie’s scholarship fund is the second fund in honor of a woman who made invaluable contributions to the church despite being prohibited from ordination. A scholarship is also named in honor of Georgia Harkness (1891-1974) for her service as an outstanding teacher and theologian. Harkness served as Rubie’s and thousands of other students’ professor for one of the initial theology classes at Garrett. Rubie completed her degree classes at both Garret and Northwestern University through a partnership between the schools. 

“My mom is an amazing woman who was ahead of her time in many respects,” said Jim. “When she took off for school in the 40s, she was just a little southern girl that had never traveled outside of the Southeast and barely outside of Tallahassee. I know at one point she had hoped to become ordained, but that opportunity just wasn’t available to women then.”
“I am honored my son wanted to do this for me. I enjoyed my work in local churches and training was something I loved to do,” Rubie said. “I remember that Frank McKibben, a former professor, would tell us that our job as trainers was to be so good at our job that we worked ourselves out of a job. It’s something I kept with me throughout my career.” 

In addition to her service within local churches, Rubie was active with the National Association for Christian Education, at one point serving as the national secretary and treasurer for the organization. As she moved closer to retirement, Rubie led the older adult ministry at her current church, Trinity United Methodist in Tallahassee, Florida. 

Always dedicated to the church, Rubie’s greatest service, however, was to her family. She was married to the late Chuck Butterworth Jr. and is mother to two sons (Chuck III and Jim) and a daughter (Beth).
“The scholarship will help not only women but those seeking to serve as a deacon. It is rewarding to help the future leaders of the church in their journey,” said Rubie. 
“Our hope is to support people in their efforts … to serve at the local church level. This reflects my mom’s career and most of her service to the UMC,” Jim added. “My mom loves the church and the work it does and understands the need for good, committed people to be able to work in the church.”

The Rubie Plant Butterworth Scholarship will provide an initial endowment of $20,000 for United Methodist students on a deacon track. To learn more about this scholarship and others, visit  

For more information on how you can make an impact on students or honor a loved one with an endowment, please contact Bruce L. Blumer, United Methodist Development Center, at or 605-770-5156. 

About GBHEM: As the leadership development agency of The United Methodist Church, the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry’s mission is to build capacity for United Methodist lay and clergy leaders to discover, claim and flourish in Christ’s calling in their lives, by creating connections and providing resources to aid in recruitment, education, professional development and spiritual formation. Every elder, deacon and licensed local pastor benefits from our training and candidacy programs. Many young adults find help in clarifying their vocation and God’s call in their lives through our leadership and discernment programs. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook: @GBHEM.

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