Archive for September, 2016

Press Release: Reproductive Health & Justice Faith Action Network

Thursday, September 29th, 2016
MFSA Board of Directors announces new Faith Action Network focusing on reproductive health, justice and choice. 

September 29, 2016
Contact: Deaconess Darlene DiDomineck, Interim Executive Director; Irene DeMaris, Chair, Reproductive Health & Justice Faith Action Network

Washington, DC – The Board of Directors of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) announced this week they have approved the formation of the first Reproductive Health & Justice Faith Action Network (FAN). This Faith Action Network is a way for United Methodist advocates for reproductive health, choice and justice to connect, stay informed and organize for change within our denomination and at local, state and national levels. 

This new Faith Action Network will be led by Irene DeMaris, MDIV who is a long time advocate for gender justice through a faith lens and previously served with MFSA as a seminary intern focusing on reproductive justice. DeMaris shares: “It’s more important than ever to begin this work for women and girls from a faith perspective. Our Wesleyan Heritage of social justice and our historic leadership of the Social Gospel Movement require us to take action, to stand with those who are oppressed. Having no United Methodist voice at the table for all parts of women's health, choice, and justice is dangerous.The MFSA has been walking with women from our founding and today, we further affirm that commitment through the creation of our Reproductive Health & Justice FAN!”

The 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church, instructed official United Methodist agencies including the General Board of Church and Society and United Methodist Women to withdraw immediately from membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice (RCRC). This ended the denomination’s over 40-year relationship with the coalition, of which The United Methodist Church (UMC) was a founding member. As the remaining United Methodist voice, theMethodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) must further our commitment to reproductive health, choice, and justice both within our denomination and at local, state, and national levels. For the first time since the 1970s, the MFSA voice is positioned to be the strongest United Methodist voice at the table for a women’s right to choose and the time is now for the MFSA and its supporters to be prophetic for women’s reproductive health. After General Conference 2016, many women and those who advocate for women’s health were utterly dismayed. This Faith Action Network will empower United Methodist advocates to be a collective voice for change. 

Ways to get involved:

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MFSA Continues to Stand with Women’s Reproductive Health

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

Methodist Federation for Social Action continues to stand with women’s reproductive health

By Irene R. DeMaris

Monday, September 26th marks the beginning of the United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action. It is also the day the Methodist Federation for Social Action joins a group of interfaith justice-seeking organizations in signing a letter to Congress showing our support of the EACH Woman Act. The United for Abortion Coverage Week of Action and the EACH Woman Act are intertwined together because this year is the 40th anniversary of the Hyde Amendment, which the act would overturn it.

What is the EACH Act and what does it do? It essentially does two things:

  • “First, the bill respects that every woman should be able to make her own decisions about pregnancy. If a woman gets her care or insurance through the federal government, she will be covered for all pregnancy-related care, including abortion.

  • Second, the EACH Woman Act prohibits political interference with decisions of private health insurance companies to offer coverage for abortion care. Federal, state and local legislators will not be able to interfere with the private insurance market to prevent insurance companies from providing abortion coverage.” (

What is the Hyde Amendment? First of all, it’s not an actual amendment, it’s a provision added to legislation that prevents the use of federal funds to pay for abortion unless it is to save the life of the mother or if the woman is pregnant from incest or rape. From the Hyde Amendment, arose the Helms Amendment that bans federal foreign assistance from being used for abortion as a type of family planning or encourage anyone to have an abortion.

After General Conference 2016, many women and those who advocate for women’s health were utterly dismayed about the actions against women through legislation removing The United Methodist Church from the table of the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, not passing the historic and amazing resolution Responsible Parenthood, and the stack of legislation that advocates for women and girls that got abandoned in committee. For the first time since the 1970s, the MFSA voice is positioned to be the strongest United Methodist voice at the table for a women’s right to choose and the time is now for the MFSA and its supporters to be prophetic for women’s reproductive health.

The prophet Isaiah said: “Learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow.” I am always struck with this verse; it is a call to action and something we as justice-seeking United Methodists need to take seriously. Learning to do good isn’t a one off, it’s a lifetime of work, and so is seeking justice. We live in a broken world and we must rescue, defend, and plead for women. The world must see United Methodists doing this.

The Hyde Amendment oppresses women. It disproportionally oppresses women of color, women who struggle to make ends meet, women who do not have access to health care through work, and women who rely on federal money for health care. The Hyde Amendment is not just; it is just another form of systemic oppression that people of faith must overturn. The MFSA is in a unique position to add our uniquely Wesleyan voice into the discussion and model the subversive grace of Jesus to all. To show that we believe that women’s God-given agency is a priority and that we can trust women with their gift of freewill from the Divine.

Standing with, or rescuing, defending, and pleading, takes many shapes and sizes. As a MFSA member or enthusiast, you can educate yourself on our stance on women’s reproductive health. You can start talking about the Hyde Amendment and contact your state representatives about passing the EACH Woman Act. Let people know that you, as a person of faith, support women’s health. That you will be working towards the dismantling of systems of oppression, including hindering the right of a woman to use her freewill. The time to do is now, please join the MFSA today in acting for women.

Irene R. DeMaris, M.Div. is a feminist, lifelong member of The United Methodist Church, and former MFSA intern who advocates for women’s health through a faith-based lens.

Weeping with Rachel

Thursday, September 22nd, 2016

“Thus says YHWH: ‘A voice is heard in Ramah, mourning and bitter weeping. Rachel, weeping for her children, refuses to be comforted, for her children are no more.”  

- Jeremiah 31:15 (The Inclusive Bible)

Beloved MFSA Family,

Our hearts mourn acts of violence committed against black and brown bodies; our prayers join Rachel’s, and we too cry out into the wilderness refusing to be comforted for our children are no more.

In recent days we are once again in anguish but, cannot and will not let ourselves be paralyzed by our fear and feelings of helplessness. This is a time when we are called to listen more, learn more and lead more. We recall and reaffirm our baptismal vows to “accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” We must continually live into our commitments and move to make justice ever more real in our own lives, congregations and communities.

Audre Lorde once said: “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master's house.” We need a new narrative and a new structure.  More importantly we need a new set of tools for us to build new houses.  The racism within our houses of worship, our houses of government and even the houses our movements reside within cannot be dismantled with the same tools we’ve used for centuries. It’s time to have a new conversation — a conversation that looks within our own movement first at the ways we continue to perpetuate a racist system. Only then will we be able to build a new house, one where the beloved community can call home.  

“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. Personal racism is manifested through the individual expressions, attitudes, and/or behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and that maintain the benefits of this system. Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racist value system.” (Par 162.A 2012 Book of Discipline)

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. As we seek to increase racial diversity among decision-makers and prioritize anti-racism in our programs and ministry, we also will call The United Methodist Church, its general boards and agencies, and its leadership to join us in sacred change. In doing so, we hope to embody the beloved community to which Christ calls us.

The work for racial justice must go deeper than statements and endless pastoral letters. James Cone once said: “sympathy does not change the structures of injustice.” We invite you to partner with us in committing to listen more, learn more, and lead more. Linked here are resources to help you and your communities begin and continue to have conversations about race, racial justice, and white privilege as well as organizations committed to racial justice that you might consider partnering with locally.

Seeking Justice,  
Your Staff and Board of Directors
Methodist Federation for Social Action

Faith and Sacred Change

Monday, September 12th, 2016
Beloved MFSA Family,

The window in my office is painted with the word “faith.” The view from my window looks on the Supreme Court, the Capitol building can be seen peeking out just to its left and the Washington Monument finds its place in between the two. In quiet moments it’s hard not to ponder what lived faith looks like through this view. I am reminded of these words MLK preached fifty-three years ago just beyond my view: “With this faith, we will be able to hew out of the mountain of despair a stone of hope. With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood. With this faith, we will be able to work together, to pray together, to struggle together, to go to jail together, to stand up for freedom together, knowing that we will be free one day.”

That’s the faith that gets me up in the morning. It’s the story of our predecessors who were called out of their faith to speak truth to power at the 1908 General Conference when they drafted and passed the first Social Creed stating: “The Methodist Episcopal Church stands – For equal rights and complete justice for all (people) in all stations of life…”  It might be hard to read those words following this General Conference. My view shows me signs of hope and change in the justice-seeking people of faith in our movement each day. I see the election of bishops who have long lived out their ministry call through intersectional justice movements, I see MFSA in Annual Conferences living out their faith as agents of sacred change in their communities. I see our Board of Directors calling itself and the church to end institutional racism, re-affirming our commitment to reproductive justice by affirming our membership in the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Justice, re-affirming our commitment to peace in the Middle East that can only come through justice and equality, re-affirming our roots in labor justice by joining the Coalition of Immokalee Workers calling for farmworker justice and living into the affirmation that all persons are of sacred worth by calling for the full inclusion of our LGBTQIA siblings.  Justice-seeking people of faith like you remind me what lived faith looks like in what often feels like a broken world.

MFSA is telling the story of what lived faith looks like by mobilizing United Methodists to be agents of sacred change in the church and the world. It hasn’t always been the sweet story of a Hallmark movie but, it is our story. A messy story filled with struggle, community, hope and justice-seeking. It is a story that changed and is changing the course of the church. We are partners, co-creators of justice and co-sharers in a sacred story of faith and change. Join me in sharing this sacred story by making a donation to support the ongoing work of the Methodist Federation for Social Action. Your story and your gift make sacred change possible.

With This Faith,

Interim Executive Director

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