Doing MFSA

Wednesday, May 4th, 2011 9:00 am

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.

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One Response to “Doing MFSA”

  1. Vicki Woods Says:

    So grateful for Jill's witness and her coming to MFSA to share in leading our church and world to be social justice

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