Posts Tagged ‘#WhyMFSA’
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.
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.
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.
I am currently serving my second quadrennium as a board member of the General Board of Church and Society, and my tenure on the board has certainly been a learning experience. In fact, it has radically shaped my life (influencing my choice of majors, International Studies and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies, and my life goals). It gave me a scriptural understanding of peace and justice, introducing me to the radical implications that my faith can have on my living and being in the world, passages such as Micah 6:8 (seek justice, love kindness, walk humbly with God), Isaiah 2:4 (beat your swords into plowshares), Matthew 25:31-46 (feed the hungry, give a drink to the thirsty, welcome the stranger, clothe the naked, visit the sick and imprisoned), and the like. It has opened my eyes to issues both local and global to which I might not have otherwise had such deep exposure. However, it was my tenure at DePaul University which really caused me to pause and reflect on why I do what I do.
I became involved in activist work on a number of different issues during my time at DePaul, doing international human rights activism through Amnesty International and working as a student organizer on DePaul’s Living Wage Campaign (targeted to guarantee living wages for all subcontracted workers at DePaul), so my attendance at the May Day rally was a natural fit. My time to reflect on my activism and service work while at DePaul has introduced me to the Vincentian (in the tradition of St. Vincent DePaul) understanding of this work; at DePaul, we talk about what we call the three ways of VIA (Vincentians in Action): awareness, dialogue, and solidarity – be aware of the context of the justice/service work, ask questions and talk with marginalized communities on a human-to-human basis, then act on that knowledge and understanding. Additionally, DePaul has given me the framework of human dignity as a rationale for such work; our Christian faith mandates that we respect and work for the promotion of dignity, and God requires that we seek justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with God.
As I have come to discover, I found the richness and beauty of my Wesleyan/Methodist identity mediated through my Vincentian identity. Wesley cared about and reached out to the poor and the oppressed, the worker and the marginalized. The first Social Creed (adopted in 1908 by the Methodist Episcopal Church) dealt exclusively with labor rights, and the tradition continues today through our Social Principles, the work of the GBCS, and the work of MFSA. My involvement in and support for labor and immigrant rights is very much part and parcel of my Christian faith. And this is why MFSA matters to me. It gives me and many others an opportunity to exercise our faith in what may be considered an unorthodox way, but in a way that is is both personally and socially significant. For as Wesley said, “there is no holiness but social holiness”.
Just last night (May 1, 2011) as I was preparing for a final, I saw the news on twitter: “So here's the thing: between Facebook and Twitter, I don't need you to tell me to turn on the news; you are telling me what they say.” This post sparked my curiosity and I immediately turned on CNN. The news that Osama bin Laden had been killed by a “US asset” was spreading like wildfire throughout the media. People are celebrating the “long anticipated death” of such an “evil” man, but what does this mean for us as Christians?
In the events of the night, I finally realized that there may still be hope that someone would remind us that life is too precious and it is sickening to celebrate the death of any person. As President Obama began his announcement of bin Laden’s assassination, I listened in anticipation of some hopeful sentence or gesture reminding us that we should move from this with sadness and consideration towards the value of life, but all I heard was the value of bin Laden’s death. Although the statement that hurt me the most and shattered my hope was when President Obama said, “So his demise should be welcomed by all who believe in peace and human dignity.” What human dignity? Celebrating death is not what I call peace or human dignity! It is not what God calls peace or human dignity.
Too often we as Christians desensitize ourselves. We focus on the individual and forget to see the sacred worth in one another. This keeps us from right relationship with one another and with God. Is it okay for us to forget our call to love our neighbor because our neighbor is Osama bin Laden? I struggle a lot with the idea that the US is and continues to be a death-loving society. This is evident in the cheers outside the White House, the fireworks being set off in North Carolina and the overall response from the American people to the murder of our nation’s enemy. If anything, we should be mourning that our nation actively sought the death of this man who was created by God. Proverbs 24:17 reminds us, “Do not gloat when your enemy falls; when he stumbles, do not let your heart rejoice.” Such wisdom should really be considered.
While writing this post, I was conversing with a friend, Kara Crawford, about the media and twitter responses to bin Laden’s death and this was one of her many responses, “the International Studies and Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies [double] major in me is reeling.” Her response challenged me to think; this is not just an issue of peace or justice, conflict and international studies, but a humanity issue. I simply responded saying, “the human inside of me is feeling the same.” This is why MFSA is important to me. It has helped me to realize the importance of humanity, of sacred worth and what it really means to work for justice and peace. The events that happened on May 1st should not be celebrated in the name of human dignity and peace, or for any reason at all. Life is too precious and all of God’s creation is too valuable to celebrate death!
by Eva Thai-Erwin
To answer the question of Why MFSA I must first tell you a little bit about my religious upbringing. I grew up in a home that practiced both Buddhism and Christianity. While I chose to follow the Christian route, I still hold some of the tenets of Buddhism in my heart. One of these tenets is the belief that wisdom is best developed with compassion. This means we are not to just believe everything we are told, but we learn the truth through courage, patience and love. For me these three things are the answer to why MFSA.
Courage- My first encounter with MFSA was when I was in college. One Sunday, I and other Wesley Foundation students were invited to join MFSA at a nearby UMC. We were not there to worship. We were there to support a member of the church who was a doctor that was being harassed by protesters because of his work with Planned Parenthood. I remember our small group of students and MFSA members as we stood in front of the church and faced the large crowd of protesters who sought to prevent the doctor from worshipping. To be honest, I was afraid of what the crowd of protesters were saying and threatening to do. Yet I drew from the courage of the MFSA members as we stood in solidarity and support for the doctor and his fellow church members. That day I learned many things, but the most important thing was that MFSA was a group whose courage would always shine through even in difficult times.
Patience- Having been a General Conference delegate (2000 and 2004) and reserve delegate (2008), I have seen first-hand how hurtful the Church can be. We proclaim to be the People of Christ, yet our actions do not reflect this when we deny ordination and recognition to our fellow human beings because of their sexual orientation and whom they choose to love. Year after year, we are still a Church divided. Yet, year after year, MFSA has continued its work. This takes great strength and patience. I admire that MFSA has continued to be an advocate for change and a voice for those who are marginalized.
Love- Lastly, as a long time member of my annual conference MFSA chapter I am moved by the love that is evident amongst our Lay and Clergy members. We hold each other up in love by our common work together. We are also like a family that can joke with each other (which sometime makes meetings last a very long time!), yet we know that we are always there for each other as we strive to do the prophetic work of MFSA that we are called to do.
Courage, Patience and Love are the qualities of MFSA that I have experienced. My own faith and knowledge has grown as I have seen how MFSA works for all of God’s people through these things. They are the reasons why I believe in the mission of MFSA and look forward to what lies ahead for us and the Church!
Eva Thai-Erwin is completing her Masters of Divinity degree at Claremont School of Theology and currently works in the areas of Young Adult and Care Team Ministries at Hollywood UMC in CA. She will be commissioned this June as a Provisional Member of the Order of Elders in the California-Pacific Annual Conference.
by Rev. Amanda Stein
(Note: this blog is also posted on Amanda's blog, which you can find here.)
As a pastor in the United Methodist Church, I am reminded every year at Annual Conference during clergy session that the Order of Elders is my "home church." Our Methodist history tells us that we are itinerant preachers who find "church" not within the walls of a clapboard chapel or under the stained glass of a certain sanctuary, but instead among the fellowship of those called to Word, Sacrament, Order, and Service.
Well, the truth is, even though I hear those words proclaimed year after year– I'm just not so sure about that. While I enjoy the annual reunion and reconnecting with my colleagues-made-friends, I find myself drawn to a particular crowd of folks which I see not just one time a year, but many times a year. I regularly see these people at education events, retreats, vigils, marches, and protests. In these varied settings we learn together about theology and up-coming issues at General Conference, pray for the poor, give voice to undocumented immigrants and boldly stand for the right (not privilege) of collective bargaining. They are the members– clergy and lay– of MFSA.
This past February and March, as the budget battle in Wisconsin drew national headlines, I stood with members of WUMFSA (Wisconsin United Methodists for Social Action) week after week. Together we marched with ecumenical clergy, protested with Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice, conducted sit-in-Bible studies at the doors of the Governor's office, and chanted the call and response, "Tell me what religion should look like: This is what religion should look like!" on the Capitol steps. These are the people I trust, I rely on. They help me deepen my faith and broaden my embrace. It is among this group of Christians that I find fellowship as a clergy person in The United Methodist Church. MFSA is "church" to me.
Rev. Amanda Stein is an ordained elder in the Wisconsin Annual Conference of the UMC, and currently serves as pastor to Trinity United Methodist Church in Madison, WI. She also serves as Convener for the Wisconsin United Methodists for Social Action.
by Adrienne Trevathan
I was thinking today about what I appreciate about MFSA. It isn’t that I can tell you the history of the organization from the first day to the way it exists now. It isn’t because this is an organization that is a parrot of my own theology, and that I therefore find it to be the best way to approach faith. I appreciate MFSA because it speaks against a Christianity that has little to nothing to do with engaging faith in creative and real ways.
One of the ways that MFSA is encouraging Christians to act is through the “Sing A New Song” conference with MOSAIC in August (you can register at sans2011.org). In a recent blog post, one of our MOSAIC leaders critiqued the often-heard logic that hearing the voice of a minority—struggling with issues of inclusion and equality—can be somehow “stalling” the work of the church; that these issues are causing inconvenience for the church as a whole. After all, don’t we have better things to do?
But what else is there to do but to work for justice, hear the oppressed and try to give voice? What else is there? The reality in which progressive Christians find ourselves today is that, in all our actions, we must learn to get past the things which we find to be inconvenient or uncomfortable. If we’re trying to offer something legitimate, then we can only find our strength and authenticity in community. This happens even in “partnering” with other organizations. Conferences like “Sing a New Song” will give progressive Christians a new language to articulate their faith, new people with whom to share their lives, and create a space for transformation. It is no small thing.
Whether you’ve only heard a little about MFSA, or if you know of a similar organization, find a way to get involved. You will do more than you can possibly know.
Adrienne is the Director of Christian Education at Northminster Presbyterian Church in Evanston, IL. A certified deacon candidate, Adrienne is also a regular blog contributor and leader for MOSAIC, RMN's young adult network.