Getting it done!

Sometimes the struggle for justice seems at times to be more struggle than justice. You know what I'm talking about: People get uncomfortable when you're around because of what you might mention. People go after you on social media or worse, make fun of what you care passionately about. The worse thing is that sometimes it feels like for every step forward, you take two steps back.

If you're feeling down and frustrated, consider the successes I cite here.

So, if you're feeling down and frustrated, consider the successes I cite here. Then get back in the game. There's too much to do, and you're needed in the struggle!

One of the most amazing reversals I have seen in Washington, D.C., since I have been here happened this year with Iowa Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee. In January, he proclaimed long and loud how sentencing reform legislation was never going to pass through his committee.

Well, some Iowa United Methodists and other people of faith responded: 130 clergy signed a letter to Sen. Grassley urging him to allow reform legislation to proceed. Their letter was followed by an op-ed in the Des Moines Register, signed by United Methodist Bishop Julius Trimble and two bishops from other denominations urging him to consider supporting sentencing reform legislation.

180-degree turn

Through such grassroots advocacy, Sen. Grassley not only relented, he led a bipartisan group of senators that last week introduced sentencing reform legislation! It's not everything we want, but it is a total 180-degree turn for a senator who objected to any such reform just nine months ago.

More than 400 clergy signed the petition — and, 250+ of those were United Methodists!

Is this Heaven? No, it's Iowa.

Here's another one: Last week I sent an email to my network asking for clergy to sign a letter urging Congress to allow Syrian refugees to migrate to the United States, and not to discriminate against Muslim refugees from Syria. This was an interfaith effort with dozens of faith groups participating.

More than 400 clergy signed the petition — and, 250+ of those were United Methodists! You can read the letter with signatures).

That ain't nothing but cool!

Other stories

There are other stories, too:

  • There's West Ohio doing amazing things around providing returning citizens opportunities not only for employment, but to lead congregations in the work to be Healing Communities.
  • There's Nebraska who repealed the death penalty and passed a law ensuring DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) recipients have driver's licenses.
  • There's North Georgia getting organized through Healing Communities to serve returning citizens, and reform its youth and adult criminal-justice systems.

On the move

All over, United Methodists are joining other people of faith and people of no faith to end gun violence, defend and support the rights of immigrants, and end mass incarceration. We are on the move!

Here's the thing: I believe local churches are the locus of God's change and transformation in the world, not Washington, D.C. It's not general boards and agencies, it's y'all: loving people, standing alongside those directly impacted by injustice, and utilizing your access to resources to gain access to them for people whose access has been restricted or denied.

This is the essence of advocating for justice.

This is the Gospel, y'all! Thanks for being faithful. Now let's get back to work.

Editor's note: Bill Mefford directs the Civil & Human Rights work area at the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society.

Letter to the Editor