Editor's Note: As the 2012 General Conferenceapproaches, United Methodist News Service is looking at details of legislation and offering information to help readers better understand how the church works. A number of proposals are aimed at restructuring the denomination and its general ministries, so UMNS asked the top executives of each agency to answer five questions about their agency's role in the church. This is the response from the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
Church and Society's prime mission is to seek the implementation of the United Methodist Social Principles and other policy statements adopted by the General Conference. We carry this out through a program of education, witness and action.
The past half century has seen dramatic and positive changes in our denomination and the society at large through our role in justice movements focused on civil rights; women; the environment; rights and dignity of all people; ending the Vietnam War and those in Iraq and Afghanistan; ending the nuclear arms race; ending apartheid in South Africa; stopping HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis and malaria, and eradicating world hunger. Our denomination, through the Board of Church and Society, in particular, has been on the front lines of all of these Christ-inspired efforts for peace and justice.
3. Name at least one exciting thing in which your agency has been involved during the current quadrennium. How does it relate to the Four Areas of Focus?
Church and Society played a central role in securing federal regulation of tobacco in the United States. Our top executive was on the front row at the bill-signing ceremony at the White House in recognition of The United Methodist Church's vital role in this effort that will save at least 650,000 lives around the world in coming years, many of them United Methodists. This relates directly to the global health emphasis of the denomination.
4. How does the average United Methodist pastor or member benefit from your agency's work? Social advocacy? Curriculum? Scholarships? Please give a concrete example, ideally quoting a testimonial from someone outside of your agency.
Albert Otshudi Longe, 20, from the Central Congo Episcopal Area and a student at Africa University, wrote about his internship.
"In June 2011," he said, "I participated in the Ethnic Young Adult Internship sponsored by the Board of Church and Society in Washington, D.C. The &ellipsis; program trains young adults to handle advocacy work for social justice in various placements around Washington. The interns come from the five ethnic minority caucuses of The United Methodist Church, including Native Americans, Pacific Islanders, Hispanic/Latinos, African Americans and Asian Americans. The program challenges young adults to live out their faith.
"The internship has transformed me and strengthened my ability to advocate for social justice and be a voice of the voiceless," Longe wrote. "The internship has been a source of inspiration for me, and I believe will also be for the many youths of Africa who are serving God. It will be a great joy to have my fellow African brothers and sisters participate in the program."
5. How much money and how many employees does it take to maintain the work your agency is currently doing?
Church and Society has 22 staff and receives some $2.8 million each year in general church funds. That amount covers only half of the agency's operating expenses.
Learn more: Website of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.
For more information, visit the 2012 General Conference website.