CHEVY CHASE, Md. — During its recent spring meeting, the Board of Directors of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) approved nearly $120,000 in grants to ministries around the world, and heard the agency’s chief executive identify five challenges the denomination faces.
The spring meeting included education on Native American issues, sexual- and gender-based violence, the history of the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, and a report on the six Social Principles consultations convened in Africa, the Philippines, Europe and the United States in the fall of 2014 and the winter of 2015.
The bulk of the board meeting was spent in work groups reviewing, rewriting and developing petitions to be submitted to the 2016 General Conference.
The grants went to Ethnic/Minority Local Church ministries, and programs related to the denomination’s Special Sundays for Human Relations Day and Peace with Justice.
Seven programs split $53,280 for ethnic local-church grants. These included a youth development workshop by the United Methodist Hispanic caucus MARCHA and Ebola-stigma fighting in Liberia.
Human Relations Day grants totaling $46,193 were divided among seven programs. These included ministries in Nigeria, Mozambique, Congo and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.
Peace with Justice grants amounting to $20,000 were awarded to four programs in the United States. These are located in places as far apart as Alaska and Alabama, and California and the District of Columbia.
Keeping the vision
“Keeping the vision of justice and kindness, reconciliation and peace-building around the world is critically important,” said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, GBCS general secretary, in her report to the board. “As Christians we are invited to live as citizens of the reign of God with all people in all places and as neighbors.”
Keeping the vision of justice and kindness, reconciliation and peace-building around the world is critically important.
Henry-Crowe pointed out that the Methodist commitment to social holiness is stated in the denomination’s 1908 Social Creed. That creed, among other things, addressed equal rights and complete justice for all, abolition of child labor, protection of workers, a living wage, and “recognition of the Golden rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.”
“From this creed to the Social Principles as they evolved in 1968 and beyond, the work of the General Conference [the denomination’s highest policy-setting body] through the Board of Church & Society is speaking to issues of many of the societal ills and injustices around the globe,” Henry-Crowe said.
Henry-Crowe identified five challenges facing the denomination:
- Creating culture(s) of trust, respect, connection and engagement within and among the churches, across communities, societies and cultures, the halls of governments, and annual conferences and boards.
- Maintaining the United Methodist connectional identity by articulating theological grounding and Methodist identity, missional coherence, cultivating appreciation, and building trust at all levels.
- Communicating ethically and effectively in a social-media age.
- Accomplishing ministry and mission for the transmission of the Christian faith and Methodist identity in caring for the institution itself.
- Speaking forthrightly with a religious voice in a broken and hurting world.
“It is our job to live our principles,” Henry-Crowe said, “to advocate for justice, educate about the importance of living good and principled lives in the world, and always to organize for God’s justice.”
Journey to repentance
Meeting at the National 4H Youth Conference Center, the board members continued their journey toward an act of repentance and reconciliation with Native Americans, an emphasis of the denomination. The board participated in a learning experience at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The board also allotted plenary time for members to share reflections on the visit.
The next board meeting, in the Desert Southwest Conference, Sept. 16-20, is expected to include an act of repentance and reconciliation planned with Native American leaders from that area.
Social Principles consultations
The Social Principles consultations provided insight into how the denomination understands the significance of these denominational statements on social concerns. The consultations identified ways theology, history, moral and ethical teaching are understood or need to be enhanced as the denomination supports ministry in local contexts around the world. A seventh consultation is scheduled for this month in Nigeria.
GBCS promotes the ministry of United Methodism by advocating, educating and organizing around the issues that face the Church and the world contained in General Conference social-justice policies in the Book of Discipline, Book of Resolutions and other documents.
The board of directors approved preparing a report to the 2016 General Conference to propose steps to create a more globally inclusive and relevant Social Principles.
United Methodist Building
The Rev. Alfred Day III, general secretary of the General Commission on Archives & History, related history of the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. He said it is a surprise to him that the United Methodist Building, which in Washington, D.C., “houses one of the real-life, practical divinity centers of our historic tradition,” has not already been so designated as a Historic Site and Heritage Landmark.
Kathy Griffith, a grant officer for global health at the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), presented on Sexual- & Gender-based Violence. She said there is “dreadful brokenness,” and an “inability to be whole.”
“When stigma cuts you off, you are no longer alive,” Griffith said of women and girls subjected to violence. She added that HIV “now has a woman’s face, and it’s an adolescent girl.”
Petitions to General Conference
Overall, the board considered more than 100 petitions, mostly related to existing Social Principles and resolutions. The board members evaluated whether to let them expire, delete or rewrite them, and whether new subjects need to be addressed.
At the conclusion of this spring’s meeting, they had reduced the total number of petitions related to GBCS by 40%, which indicates a clear focus on streamlining and strengthening the Book of Resolutions.
In other business, the board voted to formally join and endorse the USAgainstAlzheimers coalition, which is committed to ending the affliction by 2020 through effective leadership, collaborative advocacy and strategic investments.
The hunger offering of $1,573 is designated to recipients: Asuncion Perez Memorial Center, the social service arm of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines; and the Washington Youth Garden, which provides a year-round environmental science and food education program for D.C. youths and their families.
The funds comprise two sources, an offering taken among the board and staff members at a “humble dinner of soup and salad,” supplemented by the difference in cost of catering the meal at the United Methodist Building versus eating at the conference center.
The board approved designating its fall meeting offering to the Justa Center, a homeless resource center in Phoenix, and Church to Church, a ministry of the Desert Southwest Conference in partnership with the Methodist Church in Mexico.
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.