Listening sessions about the revision of The United Methodist Church’s 50-year-old Social Principles are the first contact many have had with the document that helps guide the denomination’s efforts to create justice in the world.
“This conversation, gives a boost to … the pillars of Methodism. For many, this is the first time they have a contact with this valuable and precious instrument that regulates the church activity in the different challenges … imposed in our society. Everything we discuss here will be useful to the global church. Great is our responsibility because we will be representing the church in Angola,” said the Rev. Manuel André, Western Angola Conference bishop’s assistant and a United Methodist Board of Church and Society member.
The 2012 General Conference asked for a revision of the Social Principles with a greater theological, biblical foundation. the Board of Church and Society has been facilitating that work. The Social Principles present denominational values and perspectives on climate justice, economic sustainability, environmental care, food security, gender violence, war and peace, and much more.
The board has had public listening sessions across the connection. The Rev. Neal Christie, assistant general secretary for education and leadership formation, coordinated the conversations in the Western Angola Conference.
In Africa, he explained, the board has held listening sessions at Africa University with students from across the continent, and in the Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria and Zimbabwe episcopal areas. The Sierra Leone Episcopal Area’s sessions are slated for this month.
The document was introduced at the African clergywomen’s conference in Zimbabwe in July. Public conversations also are occurring in the Philippines Central Conference, the most recent with deaconesses at Harris Memorial College in the Philippines. Another public conversation included participants from across northern Europe and central Eurasia conferences in Oslo. One hundred participants in the Young People’s Global Convocation in Johannesburg, South Africa, in July also offered feedback.
Christie noted that more than 30 public meetings took place before Aug. 31 in about 25 U.S. conferences, including sessions with church ethnic groups.
He said the Eastern and Western Angolan conferences “have unique stories and challenges. We expect leaders to be frank in their beliefs, values, convictions and application of the Social Principles in their own contexts.
“We look forward to deeply listening to the ways in which we have perfected the document so that it reflects the challenges of ministry, the needs and aspirations of congregations of worship, and society that is committed to transforming people and communities to Jesus Christ.”
The Rev. Adriano Kilende believes the annual conferences are the real support for this work. “I believe the final outcome will be very interesting when presented to the 2020 General Conference,” he said.
Domingos Azevedo, conference deputy director of men, said this session was his first time to hear about the Social Principles. “The church will be grateful for the work Church and Society is doing in all annual conferences,” Azevedo said.
Jassira Manjola, who represented the Kwanza Bengo District youth in Luanda, expressed gratitude for the opportunity to make her voice heard.
“We can show what goes on in our minds and souls. We believe that everything we can present here and in our report is the desire of the Methodists in Angola in a general and youthful way.
“Our pastors should teach and speak more about this matter in our churches,” Manjola added. “I believe that many are unaware of the existence of these Social Principles, which seem to regulate the action of the church in society in accordance with the reality of each people and society. These principles should be taught in our churches as the catechism is taught to us. Our schools and universities should have the Social Principles as institutional values.”
Christie said hundreds of people from different perspectives have offered comments so far in the first draft.
“I see this as improving the good work that so many passionate and well-informed people have already begun to do. We hope that this revised text will be widely read worldwide,” he said. “The church will contribute to even more vital ministries of compassion, accompaniment, peacemaking, reconciliation and justice.”
A draft and subsequent materials are available in English, French, Portuguese and Swahili, said Tricia Bruckbauer, Board of Church and Society communications director. An editorial team will compile feedback and edit the document to be presented to the board.
Six writing teams, assigned to the six sections of the Social Principles, worked on the project, Christie said. When these representative teams gathered in Germany in March, the Rev. Manuel Andre represented Angola.
Da Cruz is a communicator for the West Angola Annual Conference.