Archive for May, 2016

Will The Real RCRC Please Stand Up?

Friday, May 20th, 2016

This afternoon, Beth Ann Cook (Indiana Annual Conference) presented a report on behalf of the Board of Church and Society B Legislative Committee urging The United Methodist Church to withdraw from the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). Her presentation contained so much misinformation it’s hard to know where to begin in addressing the inaccuracies. It’s important to do, however, given the large number of United Methodist leaders who heard this presentation.  

To listen to Rev. Cook’s presentation, one would think that RCRC is a political lobbying organization that promotes unrestricted abortions including those obtained up until the moment of birth and based on a woman’s gender preference for her child.

In actuality, RCRC is a community of religious organizations and faithful individuals in the United States dedicated to achieving reproductive health, rights and justice. As an ecumenical and interfaith coalition, RCRC encompasses a range of theological perspectives on reproductive issues. While the groups that compose the RCRC coalition have diverse views on abortion, all affirm that women are trusted moral agents in decisions about childbearing.

RCRC promotes human rights including the human right to have children, to not have children, and to parent the children we have in safe and healthy environments. This includes supporting a woman in making decisions about when and if she will have children based on what is best for her and her family, in light of her faith and with the medical counsel of her doctor and of others she chooses to involve.

RCRC does not advocate for or against abortion. RCRC advocates for making sure that women have full access to reproductive healthcare services including safe and affordable contraception, and to safe and affordable abortion services should that be a woman’s decision. RCRC supports the Reproductive Justice Movement in placing reproductive healthcare decisions within the larger context of economic justice, gender justice, racial justice and environmental justice.

At various times in recent years RCRC programs have focused on comprehensive sexuality education for young people, on the eradication of HIV/AIDS and domestic and sexual violence, support for equitable health insurance and child health measures and family planning assistance.

Among its current programs that have benefited United Methodist faith leaders across the United States is RCRC’s Pastoral Care Training on Reproductive Decision-Making and Reproductive Loss. This program provides a forum for pastors and other faith leaders to explore complex issues related to reproductive justice and to discuss them compassionately in a faith context. Participants explore the particular circumstances and pastoral concerns in common situations related to reproductive decisions and loss, including abortion, miscarriage and stillbirth, infertility, post-adoption loss, and pre-natal loss due to fetal anomalies. Participants develop specific skills for providing effective care in these situations and discuss the use of ritual and other resources from their faith tradition to promote healing.

A decision by the General Conference of the United Methodist Church to withdraw membership in the coalition is truly regrettable. It makes no difference whatsoever, however, in whether individual United Methodists or individual United Methodist Churches for that matter, can benefit from RCRC’s information, resources, and training opportunities. The Methodist Federation for Social Action has long been supportive of and involved in RCRC and presumably will continue to be so. Check out the RCRC web site and join your voice to the voices of other faith leaders across the country in supporting human rights and reproductive justice!

——————————————————————————————————

Kathryn Johnson is ordained United Methodist clergy, a member of the New England Annual Conference. She lives in Washington, DC where she attends Dumbarton United Methodist Church and serves as the Program Director for the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. Kathryn is known to many as the former executive director of MFSA.

 

 

 

STATEMENT: Racism, The United Methodist Church, and Progressive Movements

Thursday, May 19th, 2016

Inspired by the honesty regarding our egregious participation in the Sand Creek Massacre and the words of Wednesday afternoon’s speaker Gary L. Roberts who said, “Evil acts are not confined to the wicked,” the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) acknowledges racism is present within our denomination and the progressive movement.

Throughout General Conference 2016, we have witnessed many incidents of personal and institutional racism. As United Methodists, we believe “racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism (162.A)” In our denomination we experience this as white privilege including unconscious bias, colonialism, and xenophobia.

As we committed in our baptismal vows, we “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”

MFSA calls upon ourselves and our progressive partners, along with local churches, annual conferences,and all denominational bodies, to confess and condemn the sins of systemic and personal racism, and to engage in the hard work of repentance and reconciliation.  To assist in this, we recommend the resources and work of the General Commission on Religion and Race.

As an organization, MFSA will continue to educate our board and member leadership in anti-racism, bias,and white privilege. We seek to increase racial diversity among decision-makers and prioritize anti-racism in our programs and ministry. In doing so, we hope to embody the beloved community to which Christ calls us.

###

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice in The United Methodist Church. For more information visit www.mfsaweb.org

 

 

MFSA Statement on Unity

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

This morning Bishop Ivan Abrahams of the Methodist Church of Southern Africa challenged General Conference to “Go in the name of Jesus of Palestine, rather than in the name of Constantine.”

 

“The bishop’s challenge reminds us that sometimes the Church becomes the empire, rather than the gathered followers of Jesus who stood with the marginalized,” states Chett Pritchett, executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action.

 

Last night, leaders of the Love Your Neighbor Coalition, of which MFSA is a part, were made aware of a group, called together by former President of the Council of Bishops, Bishop Warner Brown, to explore developing a Task Force of what amicable separation might look like in The United Methodist Church. The Love Your Neighbor Coalition was assured by members of this group that it was public knowledge, that the Council of Bishops were meeting, and that all parties could share this news.

 

This morning, General Conference reconvened to hear Bishop Bruce Ough read a statement from the Council of Bishops in which he stated that, just like General Conference, the Council of Bishops are not of one mind and that they seek the unity of the Church surrounding issues of human sexuality, which is church-speak for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) people.

 

Incoming MFSA interim executive director Darlene DiDomineck reminds us that “unity is not a lack of conflict, but requires real, sustainable, intersectional justice for all people.” MFSA understands the conversations around unity to be about a much more complex system of interrelated justice issues. MFSA believes that conversations around unity must be about a fully inclusive, radically loving church. As stated in our Organizing Principles, affirmed by our board of directors in 2015, “All experiences of marginalization and injustice are interconnected because the struggle for justice is tied to concepts of power and privilege.”

 

Although we already knew the discord among the Council of Bishops, we are pleased with their public statement of difference. While neutral on the issue of unity, MFSA’s primary value is justice. “The conversation about human sexuality must also coincide with conversations about racism, colonialism, poverty, and self-determination,” states Pritchett. “Only then are we following the Jesus of Palestine, instead of the Church of Constantine.”

 

“Chaos is to be expected in a successful movement for justice. This acknowledgement from the Council of Bishops happened because justice-seeking people of faith are strong and brave and passionate in fulfilling our baptismal covenant to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in all its forms,” comments Rev. Vicki Flippin, Co-President of MFSA’s board of directors.

 

 

 

POSITION STATEMENT: United States as Central Conference

Tuesday, May 17th, 2016

Living in the Pentecost passion the Spirit brings to the Church, the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) has been listening to those gathered for the 2016 General Conference. Amidst experiences of difficult conversations, injustice, and frustration, our board, volunteers, and executive director have discerned that action must be taken by General Conference to create equity in our global denominational structure, repent from a tradition of colonialism, and actively work to build relationships globally while freeing one another to minister locally.

We recognize no legislation is ever perfected by General Conference and pledge to continue aiding in this important work as justice-seeking people of faith. We do, however, believe in this moment that, across our contextual boundaries, we might move ourselves forward as United Methodists and as disciples of Jesus Christ by stepping into this Pentecost moment.

Therefore, MFSA supports both the Global Connection Concept Proposal (60891) and the US UMC as Central Conference Proposal (60935). Under this tandem plan, the United States would be declared a Central Conference and a General Church task force would be selected to develop detailed legislation for the 2020 General Conference, as it is the work of the whole Church to ensure equity in our global relationships.

By creating a US Central Conference, we take a step toward equity. The Global Connection Plan leads us forward in our continued work of overcoming colonialism while remaining connected in our denominational structure and shared Wesleyan heritage.

MFSA encourages progressive delegates to join with more moderate and conservative delegates in supporting both pieces of legislation.

 

 

 

 

Do Not Put Your Trust in Princes: A Reflection on General Conference, Week One

Saturday, May 14th, 2016

“I will praise the LORD as long as I live;

I will sing praises to my God all my life long.


Do not put your trust in princes,

In mortals, in whom there is no help,

When their breath departs, they return to the earth;

And that very day their plans perish.


Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob,

Whose hope is in the LORD their God,

Who made the heaven and earth,

The sea, and all that is in them;

Who keeps faith forever;

Who executes justice for the oppressed

Who gives food to the hungry.


The LORD sets the prisoners free;

The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.

The LORD lifts up those who are bowed down;

The LORD loves the righteous.

The LORD watches over the strangers;

God upholds the orphan and the widow,

But the way of the wicked God brings to ruin.


The LORD will reign forever,

Your God, O Zion, for all generations.

Praise the LORD!”
                                    -Psalm 146

 

Over the past week, Psalm 146 has been in both my mind and my heart. I have watched the news about petition after petition streaming in on my phone. Some passing, some failing, some we support, some we oppose. It has been a struggle to see God in the bleak moments as The United Methodist Church appears to be continuing its embrace of fear and intolerance.

However, I find hope in the words of Psalm 146. “Do not put your trust in princes, in mortals in whom there is no help.” I could easily interpret this to say “Do not put your trust and hope in delegates or bishops.” The Conference delegates and church bishops are human beings. Their affirmations and power are still finite. Even in bleak times, I must hold fast to the belief that God is the one who rules. God rules even over the committees and subcommittees that are meeting as I write. The same God who rules, is the very God who created all of us in the divine image. God created us in beautiful diversity and loves and affirms us for who we are. The United Methodist Church may not share that affirmation as of yet. It still may not by the end of this conference, but I know that the God who rules over The United Methodist Church, and over all the vast universe, does.

It is my hope in God’s rulership that keeps me going. It keeps me passionate and hard at work, even when hope seems like a faint speck of light in the distance. I hope that our faith in God’s rulership, even over General Conference, inspires all of those around me who are working and suffering for inclusion, because The United Methodist Church will one day be a place of affirmation and inclusion. I know this is true and proclaim this with all certainty because our God, the God who created us, affirms us, and preserves us, is LORD.

——————————————————————————————————-

Matt Knonenborg is a graduate of Wesley Theological Seminary and an intern with the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Also a graduate of Shenandoah University, Matt served congregations in rural Virginia prior to coming to MFSA. He's a passionate researcher and hopes to continue this studies to one day become a professor.

PRESS RELEASE: United Methodist Church Requires Removal of Reference to LGBTQI Christians from Worship Greetings

Tuesday, May 10th, 2016

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Chett Pritchett, Executive Director

chett@mfsaweb.org (Email)

 

PORTLAND, OR – May 10, 2016 – This morning, Methodist Federation for Social Action’s (MFSA) board of director’s Co-President, Rev. Vicki Flippin, received notice from the Worship Director of the General Conference of The United Methodist Church to remove mention of sexual orientation and gender identity from her remarks in this afternoon’s opening worship for the every-four-year global gathering of the denomination in Portland, Oregon.

Those asked to bring opening remarks were asked to share greetings from their ministry contexts. Rev. Flippin serves as Associate Pastor at Church of the Village, a progressive, multi-cultural, and Reconciling congregation in the West Village section in the borough of Manhattan in New York City. “My context is one of ministry to and with the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and intersex (LGBTQI) people in our city,” states Flippin.

When asked to remove her references to sexual orientation and gender identity and expression, Flippin responded that she could not “in good conscience participate in a service that will not even pretend to welcome and include God’s LGBTQI children.”

MFSA executive director, Chett Pritchett, states, “Worship should be the space for all people to be welcomed and recognized as being made in God’s image. Sadly, the institutional Church has failed queer people like myself yet again, on one hand calling us ‘of sacred worth,’ but clearly not worthy enough to be directly mentioned in what should be our denomination’s proudest moment.”

This afternoon’s opening worship begins 10 days of legislation, worship, and witness for the 12 million member global denomination. One of the most pressing conversations will center on the Church’s welcome to LGBTQI people and those in ministry with them.

Since 1907, the Methodist Federation for Social Action has worked to mobilize, lead, and sustain a progressive movement, energizing people to be agents of God’s justice, peace, and reconciliation. As an independent, faith-based organization, MFSA leads both church and society on issues of peace, poverty, people’s rights, progressive issues, and justice in The United Methodist Church 

### 

 

For more information about MFSA, please visit www.mfsaweb.org. During General Conference, please follow @MFSAVoices on Twitter, and the following hashtags: #UMCGC and #JustLove 

Who Are You?: Words from the Incoming Interim Executive Director

Monday, May 2nd, 2016

As the incoming Interim Executive Director, I was asked to share a little about myself and the excitement I have for the journey before us. It has been a tremendous honor to serve on the Board of Directors these last three years and I look forward to serving in this new way beginning on June 10th.

During my first week of classes at Union Theological Seminary a professor of mine asked us to share with the gathered community our answers to four questions:

1.       Who are you?

2.       Where do you come from?

3.       Why are you here?

4.       What are you most passionate about?

She believed life was more about who we learn with than what we learn. She was reminding us that community should always be our starting place. Learning, organizing, movement building, and justice seeking must always be first and foremost about loving people. As a facilitator I always begin by asking the gathered community those same four questions.  I believe when we have the courage to share our own story and open ourselves to hearing the story of another we both are changed. I believe that storytelling is the root of justice making.

I found my way to the Methodist Federation for Social Action through story.  I was welcomed by friends and colleagues in the movement who dared to share their sacred stories of faith and hope, struggle and community, justice and courage. We became partners, co-creators of justice, and co-sharers in a sacred story. I am here today because those stories forever changed me. I am most passionate about intersectional, faith-based, justice-seeking, community-based movements that are rooted in story.

I am the child of a radically loving, fully inclusive, justice seeking, and boundary crossing God.  I find my faith in Jesus of Nazareth, born of great struggle, who challenged the oppressive powers and principalities of his day, overturning the tables in the temple to call out economic exploitation and corruption, and calling the children to his side to share sacred stories of faith and hope, struggle and community, justice and courage.  I am baptized United Methodist and our baptismal vow to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever form they present themselves is at the very center of my call. I am a child of a community of the poor and my lived experience calls me to seek economic and labor justice for all people. I share my life with an interfaith family and my call to a ministry of engaging in dialogue is born of great love.

I was born in Seneca Falls, NY in the midst of so great a Cloud of Witnesses who called me at my birth to struggle for gender justice and voting rights.  I find my home in the Deaconess/Home Missioner movement alleviating suffering, eradicating the causes of injustice that robs all life of dignity and worth, facilitating the development of full human potential and building global community through the church universal. I serve in ministry with Arch Street United Methodist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. We are a reconciling community of faith-keeping and faith-seeking people who embrace diversity and affirm the dignity and worth of every person as created in the image of God.

I am honored to be asked to step into the role of Interim Executive Director as we share the stories of who we are, where we come from, why we are here and what we are most passionate about.  I hope as we journey together you will reach out and share your sacred stories of faith and hope, struggle and community, justice and courage. May we together be avenues of sacred change calling the church and world to make justice a reality for all of God’s people.

 

 ————————————————————————————————————————————

Darlene DiDomineck is the incoming Interim Executive Director for the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Her term will begin on June 10, 2016.

National Office:212 East Capitol St., NE,Washington, DC 20003 * tel: 202.546.8806 *email: mfsa@mfsaweb.org