Archive for May, 2011

Detroit Annual Conference

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

Following the Detroit Annual Conference, which ran from May 19-22, Rev. Rich Peacock has submitted the following summary:  

Our MFSA mini-retreat and banquet were highlighted by information and inspiration from Rev. Steve Clunn, Coalition Coordinator. The Bishop Jesse and Annamary DeWitt Peace with Justice Awards went to Rev. Melanie Carey and Jeannette Bartz. Melanie is fluent in English and Spanish and has been a pioneer in ministry with immigrants including Justice for Our Neighbors and the creation of a new UMC film on a family from Guatemala. Jeannette has concentrated on labor rights and hospitality for people of all sexual orientations.

Almost all of the delegates to General Conference were supported by us. The conference endorsed a petition to General Conference to strike "the incompatible" sentence from paragraph 161.f and to add sentences recognizing that "the church is not of one mind about the practice of homosexuality" and affirming "the call to inclusiveness."

Finally, the conference also endorsed petitions to create a new resolution to expedite the end of the war in Afghanistan, to end funding of hate-based rhetoric in paragraphs 613 and 806.9, as well as to add a subsection upholding the rights of migrants to paragraph 162. Unfortunately, time constraints were dealt with by tabling a number of other petitions on inclusiveness.

Singing A Song for Eco Justice

Tuesday, May 24th, 2011

Going to the lake to enjoy the water, scenery, the cool air and beauty of God’s creation is a great reason to attend Sing A New Song.  On the shore of Lake Erie you can kayak, fish, take a cruise, or enjoy the marina and Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve.  Participants will be blessed with relaxation and the calming force of the nature.  Yet this resort’s pristine beauty might lead us to forget that there are those who do not have access to clean water, safe air to breathe, or parks to play in.

I am coming to Sing A New Song to talk about Environmental Racism, a reality in which communities of color, or communities of lower economic income, disproportionately experience the effect of environmental degradation and hazards.  My workshop will help people identify ways they can join campaigns or communities to end the disparity of environmental quality in our world.

One current campaign is to protect the Bristol Bay in Alaska.  Anglo American, one of the world’s largest mining corporations, has proposed the world’s largest open-pit gold and copper mine at the headwaters of Bristol Bay. Open-pit mining has had a devastating impact on the land and water that surround the mine, often becoming contaminated with discharge from the mine and rarely returned to their natural state. The majority of Alaskan Natives around the bay are opposed to the mine, and even though the CEO of Anglo American said the company would respect the wishes of the locals, the project continues to move forward. A majority of these people are indigenous persons whose families have been sustained for thousands of years with a wealth of salmon from the bay and place to call home on its shores.

The National Council of Churches and the Orthodox Church have decided to stand with Native Communities around the bay to challenge this open-pit mine so that the water may be protected from contamination and destruction. Bristol Bay is one example of the larger problem of the sin of pollution.  This is sin that we as a church can address.  (Click here to see NCC Eco Justice Program’s Bristol Bay campaign)

We read in John 3:16-17 that God so loved the world that God gave God’s only Son, in order that the world might be saved.  All the world, all the people, all of creation are to be saved and are loved by God.  It is this love that we will gather to sing about at Saw Mill Creek on the waters of Lake Erie. This love for all people and all of creation leads to us speak out against environmental racism and demand a clean, safe, healthy living environment for all.

Rachel Birkhahn-Rommelfanger is the NCC Eco-Justice Program seminary intern from Wesley Theological Seminary. In 2008 she received her B.A. in History and Sociology from American University in Washington, D.C, with a focus on stratification, white privilege, and racial justice. Between college and seminary Rachel worked at the D.C. Rape Crisis Center as the Community Educator for Children. She is also serves on both the General of Commission on Religion and Race and Reconciling Ministries Network Board of Directors.

A Question about United Methodist Polity that is Above My Pay Grade

Friday, May 13th, 2011

"Ecclesiastical polity is the operational and governance structure of a church or Christian denomination. It also denotes the ministerial structure of the church and the authority relationship between churches. Polity is closely related to Ecclesiology, the study of doctrine and theology related to church organization."

*Some may dismiss the above definition because it was taken from the internet.(smile). But, I believe there is some relevance for The United Methodist Church in this question:

"What is there about United Methodist polity that keeps us from allowing Annual Conferences to disagree with decisions made by General Conference? The action by the Pressbyterians to affirm the ordination of same gender loving clergy and the reminders that the Lutheran Church of America, the Episcopal Church and the United Church of Christ have "been there and done that", compels the asking; Why do we not allow the Annual Conference unit of the UMC, to dissent from denominational language and legislation on homosexuality?"

We had no problem in the past,allowing southern Conferences and local churches to practice racial segregation without the Judicial Council ruling that they were acting at variance with expressed Methodist commitment to racial equality.

In this month when we acknowledge John Wesley's "heart warming experience", are we bold and brave enough to allow the Spirit to guide us in a re-evaluation of our polity? A polity that silences the voices of dissent at the Annual Conference level, and makes us prisoners of every 4 year General Conference language and legislation that is discriminatory. We, as we were on race, are bringing up the rear of secular society as well as our sister denominations vis-a-vis, the equality of LGBTQ persons. What does it mean "to be in communion" with denominations that practice authentic openness, when we do not? But then what do I know? I am not an 800 pound gorilla, just an old, disabled, retired, African American, United Methodist preacher.

Rev. Gil Caldwell

It’s Time to Come out of the Wilderness!

Thursday, May 12th, 2011

Come On My Fellow United Methodists:

If the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, and the Presbyterian Church (USA) can do it

…It’s Time to Come out of the Wilderness!

Well it’s official: “After 33 years of debate, the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) has voted to change its constitution and allow openly gay people in same-sex relationships to be ordained as ministers, elders and deacons (Presbyterians Approve Ordination of Gay People by LAURIE GOODSTEIN, May 10, 2011, New York Times).” My heartfelt and sincerest thanks go out to the PC USA for coming to the realization that God’s love and call cannot and should not be limited by human prejudice and fears. Sadly, it will take us United Methodists a few years longer - seven to be exact; if we change our policies of condemnation and discrimination at our next General Conference in April, 2012. That’s right, 40 years of wandering in the wilderness of hypocrisy, hurtfulness, and lost gifts and graces.

Ever since the incompatibility language went in to the United Methodist Book of Discipline in 1972, we have been losing many gifted and talented clergy people from the UMC. Also, we have had to live with the growing irrelevance of a denomination that professes that “Human sexuality… is God’s good gift to all persons (Book of Discipline para. 161F, p. 103),” but then denies to some the call for “everyone to responsible stewardship of this sacred gift (Book of Discipline para. 161F, p. 103).” The hypocrisy has left us with nothing to offer our people in terms of what our responsible stewardship of the sacred gift of human sexuality might look like. Finally, our time in the wilderness has hardly been a time marked by the Wesleyan tradition of the first general rule: “do no harm.” There have been many harmful and shameful words and actions over the past 40 years! Treatment that we will one day be lamenting and praying for healing around, of this I am certain.

So here we are… Our retired Bishops are providing more leadership than our active ones. Our African American scholars and Clergy are reminding us all what it means to be “committed citizens to God’s beloved kingdom” and are calling us to do the right thing. Groups like Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the Methodist Federation for Social Action, Reconciling Ministries Network, Affirmation, Mosaic, OnFire, United Methodist of Color for a Fully Inclusive Church and others have and will continue to challenge us to love and accept others as God has shown us love and acceptance. We have so many who are trying to offer us vision and hope; and yet we are still wandering as we have, for almost 40 years, in this wilderness of disagreement and hurt.

How do we get out of this wilderness? Together and hand-in-hand! If you believe as I do that God is love; that we are called to love God with all we’ve got; and to love our neighbor as ourselves. If you believe that we are ALL called to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God through life. If you believe that Jesus was and is the incarnation of God’s love that is now supposed to be made manifest in and through the life and ministry of the Church. If you believe all of these things… then your heart is as mine. “Is your heart as true to mine as mine is to yours? … If it is, give me your hand (2 Kings 10:15).” And together, we will do wonderful things to God’s glory!

Together …we will build a church that encourages the gifts, graces and calling of ALL of God’s people. Together …we will have something relevant and God-affirming to say about human sexuality and our stewardship of this gift. Together …we will bring a new sense of purpose and hope to our denomination in spite of our current brokenness. Together …we will heal the wounds of these past 40 years, so that those who have been hurt and those who have done the hurting (on all sides) can walk hand-in-hand together as God intends. Together …we will challenge our leaders to lead and thank them when they do. Together …we will offer a social witness and scriptural holiness that is marked by unquestionable integrity, so that those beyond our walls might come to know us as good and trustworthy friends. But before we get there together, we have to come out of the wilderness. Take those thoughts with you to Annual Conference this year as you discern and discuss legislative issues and the election of delegates. My friends; my fellow United Methodists; 40 years in the wilderness is long enough for any of God’s people!

Rev. Steve Clunn
Coalition Coordinator, Affirmation, MFSA, RMN

Update: A Call To Action

Tuesday, May 10th, 2011

On April 19, 2011, this statement and petition was issued by African American Scholars and Clergy of The United Methodist Church. People of color were called upon to add their own signatures to this document, supporting the GLBT Community as a welcome and equal part of our church body.

The following email was sent by Rev. Gilbert H. Caldwell, one of the original 9 signatories of this document. MFSA invites you to take action, responding to this call which has now been issued, urging all to add our signatures to this document.

—-

Friends,

I just spoke to Pamela Lightsey, the spokesperson for our endorsement statement and she agrees that signatures from persons across the racial spectrum are appreciated and requested, now that we have amassed a significant number of signatures from black persons and other persons of color. We, at my last checking, have 155 signatures with the 155th being from my long-time friend and colleague, Rev. Dr. Gayraud Wilmore who has written a moving and powerful comment.

We still live in a time of racial and racist paradox. Some of my black colleagues have wondered why those who are active in the Gay Rights Movement have not identified with our continuing Black justice struggle as they have wanted us to join theirs. I, as one who "stands in the gap" would deeply appreciate it if my white colleagues and others would add their names to the statement.

Thanks!
 
Gil

You can read and sign this petition here: http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/pocforlgbtq/

Hope for Change

Monday, May 9th, 2011

by Esther Megill

I was a member of the former Evangelical United Brethren Church, so when we joined with the Methodist Church to become United Methodist, MFSA was new to me.  I than spent seven years in Ghana. When I returned to the United States in 1980 I worked in Mississippi, where there was no chapter.

However, in my many years in Africa (I was in Sierra Leone for twelve years before I went to Ghana, then Area Secretary for North and West Africa) I became very aware of how what happens in the United States influences countries around the world—particularly developing countries.  I resolved then to do all I could to help in any way possible to influence changes in our government.
 
During my time in Mississippi I was told by my youngest brother that he was gay, and that made me acutely aware of the injustice within our own church toward gays and lesbians.
 
It is through MFSA (and RMN) that I feel there is one way I can perhaps help to change my church and my country.  Because I see little opportunity for social action in the local church or to the Conference to which I presently belong, MFSA continues to be very important to me.
 
 
Dr. Esther Megill resides in Western North Carolina, where she has played an active role in the local MFSA chapter since its beginning. She currently serves as the chapter secretary.

Press Release: MFSA responds to Judicial Council Decision 1185

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

Background:  In a case presented first at the fall 2010 meeting of the United Methodist Judicial Council, the New York Annual Conference requested a declaratory decision regarding an annual conference policy that affirms that Article XXI of the Articles of Religion in ¶ 103 takes precedence over ¶ 2702 that prohibits same sex marriage for clergy.  During the 2010 Annual Conference session, the New York Annual Conference adopted a policy allowing its clergy to marry same-sex partners, based on Article XXI of the Articles of Religion in the Book of Discipline, which states in part that "it is lawful for [clergy] to marry at their own discretion as they shall judge the same to serve best to godliness."  This case was first presented by Ann Craig and Nehemiah Luckett (both MFSA members) at the October 2010 Judicial Council meeting.  A second oral presentation was given by Kevin Nelson (MFSA board member and NY chapter chair) when the case was deferred to the spring 2011 meeting.  The Judicial Council ruled that the General Conference can define the meaning of marriage in Article XXI (and has done so in the Social Principles ¶161 B), thus making the New York Annual Conference policy undisciplinary and unconstitutional.

MFSA Statement in response to JC Decision 1185:

While not surprising, the United Methodist Judicial Council's decision is nonetheless disappointing.

A principle that the Judicial Council missed in Article XXI is that the church does not have the authority to regulate the decision of whether to marry or not marry on behalf of its clergy.  The principle that is being lifted up in the article grows out of long and painful experience in which the church tried to regulate marriage among clergy, often with disastrous consequences.  The General Conference does have legislative authority to establish the rules by which the church operates, but it cannot exercise that authority where it is prohibited from doing so.  Article XXI prohibits the insertion of church law into an arena that is seen as the personal prerogative of the clergy.  The Council has seriously weakened both the Constitution and the Articles of Religion by establishing a principle that these documents can be amended through simple majority legislative definitions.  This is a dangerous and slippery slope.

In our time, many state supreme courts have shown remarkable courage in overturning unjust state laws that deny LGBT persons the right to marry. Yet in Decision 1185, the Judicial Council has decided to rule narrowly rather than justly, denying the constitutional protections in the Articles of Religion that allow clergy to marry as all other United Methodists are allowed to marry.
 
Furthermore, this decision leaves in place the chains of discrimination on LGBT clergy and sustains a broken covenant; it is a rejection of the alternative sunlit path of justice.  It is a sad day for United Methodists and for the integrity of the Constitution, the Articles of Religion, and the United Methodist Church.

MFSA welcomes new Executive Director, Jill A. Warren

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

MFSA Board of Directors elects new executive

Jill A. Warren has been unanimously selected by the Methodist Federation for Social Action's (MFSA) Board of Directors to serve as the next Executive Director of the organization beginning July 5, 2011.  

"We were humbled with the number of qualified candidates called to lead MFSA," said Tara Thronson, MFSA co-president and Chair of the Search Committee. "The search committee went through an extensive process of evaluation, prayer, and discernment of candidates.  Jill brings a unique combination of passion for social justice, deeply rooted Wesleyan beliefs, and vast experience with nonprofit leadership."  

Jill is a lay member of West Bloomfield United Methodist Church in the Detroit Annual Conference, and has been active at the congregational, district and conference levels.  She has served on the Board of the United Methodist Foundation of Michigan, and has led workshops and worship on the United Methodist Social Principles, most recently at the US Social Forum.  She is a proud member of United Methodist Women, which initially introduced her to social justice work.  Jill cherishes her work with children and youth as a Christian Educator, having taught continuously since the age of sixteen. This passion enabled her to help shape the next generation to live according to the example of Christ as they encounter the world beyond their church home.

Jill is an experienced nonprofit executive who has led agencies, taught management and leadership courses at the graduate and undergraduate level, and provided consulting services to foundations, agencies, boards of directors and nonprofit CEOs.  Her faith has led her to do justice work in family violence prevention, reproductive health, and civil rights while giving boldly in her personal philanthropy to create a more just world.  Jill brings a contagious level of enthusiasm and energy to her work, and MFSA is delighted to welcome her to its leadership.
 
Click here to hear more from Jill Warren in our "Why MFSA?" campaign.  Join us on Facebook, Twitter and our blog to hear stories and share your own.
 
The Methodist Federation for Social Action is a 104-year-old faith-based non-profit helping progressive United Methodists connect with one another and turn their faith into action to serve as agents of God's justice, peace and reconciliation.  

Doing MFSA

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011

I can’t say I knew what social justice was until I connected to MFSA. I always knew my grandparents were involved in the labor movement through their participation in the 1937 UAW sit-down strike, but it was an ordinary knowledge, much like knowing that my mother had brown eyes and taught 5th grade and my father was a teacher at Michigan School for the Deaf.  I knew about deaf culture as a result, and labor history, but only realized in college when studying business that labor relations and the formation of labor unions were seen as antithetical to capitalism and typical business-school curriculum and that discrimination against people who were deaf or hard-of-hearing (we never use the term “hearing impaired”) existed in housing and employment. Similarly, as a young adult I didn’t realize that working for Planned Parenthood might be viewed as a radical choice by some. The mission seemed like such a logical and practical one to me and I enjoyed volunteering at bingo fundraisers with my great-Aunt Shirley to raise money for them. It never occurred to me that this was social justice work. It was just what my family did.

I chose to work in the nonprofit sector after business school, something University of Michigan students simply didn’t do at the time.  I didn’t realize it was social justice work. I just continued on the path set by my family of origin and where I felt God was leading me. What I’ve learned after being immersed in the work, however, is that living with integrity as a Christian disciple and as a Methodist, is that my individual choices are not enough unless they’re coupled with broader action that effect change in systems of oppression and injustice. When I found MFSA – I knew God had found a place for me to continue advocating for social justice through my church, too.

I’ve learned to use my time, talents and money for more than just doing good. I’ve learned that it’s important to do justice through my day-to-day choices, including how I use money. You can view my use of money as a social justice tool in interviews with Bolder Giving. And United Methodist TV.

John Wesley has been a strong influence on me with his instruction to “…. do all the good you can, in all the ways you can, for all that you can, for as long as you can…” and the prophet Micah’s answer to the question, “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, love mercy and walk humbly…” The action-orientation appeals to me – to do justice and do good, not just believe in them.

I’ve attempted to live each day according to these principles and we tend to joke about it in our family since we’re so outside the norm of most people in the U.S. We give more than 30% of our income away, we boycott goods and services that don’t provide workers rights and fair wages or which harm the environment (quite a struggle when we have to buy gas for our car, even though we drive a hybrid), or discriminate based on sexual orientation. We support local farmers, growers and shops, avoid purchasing on the primary market when we can’t find goods that meet our social justice criteria on the primary market. We invest in socially responsible funds and view money as a tool for change. 

There have been times when my life was threatened, my income crushed and personal integrity challenged in my professional social justice work and I still come back for more. MFSA has helped keep me strong in the work I’m called to do.  It is a personal and professional privilege to do the work with you as MFSA’s newest Executive Director.

Jill has dedicated her career to helping nonprofits succeed through leadership and teaching. She is an engaged, "hands-on" volunteer who also believes in using money as a tool for social justice. She is married to The Rev. Robert D.Schoenhals, a member of the Detroit Annual Conference, and the mother of Alison Warren, a development professional at Earlham College. She has graduate degrees from Michigan State University and earned her undergraduate degree at the University of Michigan.

Continuing the Fight for Justice

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2011

by Bunnie Bryant


I joined MFSA because some friends told me it was a good place for me.  Very soon after becoming a dues-paying member, I was asked to fill out the three-year term of Eastern PA's National Director (that's what we called them in the 80's) since he was chosen to be Co-Convener of the National Board.  Sure, why not?  I walked into my first national meeting (was it Chicago or San Francisco?) and immediately felt "at home."  As  a newly realized bisexual woman, I came to a place where not only was it okay for me to be me, but also it was celebrated.  The joy of our time together was electric as it centered on the celebration of EVERYONE as a child of God.  I came home from each national board meeting ready to go to work for all the issues we held dear. 

When my time as National Director was finished, EPA elected me one of their own co-conveners, a position I held for 8 years.  We tackled racism and named it white privilege; we held seminars on homosexuality and called those who would exclude to task; we sent folks to Palestine so that we might move outside the status quo. We have had some wonderful leadership at the local level, and I am particularly proud of the energy and sacrificial participation of the laity.  Because we continue the fight for justice around the world, I remain a member of MFSA.

Bunnie Bryant taught English for 35 years at Avon Grove HS, West Grove, retiring in 2006.  No one loved teaching more than she did–so she continues by teaching the adult class at Union United Methodist Church in Havertown.  She lives with her partner Mary in West Chester–all PA communities in which she has been actively pursuing justice and doing volunteer work since she traveled to Washington, DC, to hear Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" Speech.

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