Part of a series on how the church works
The goals for the United Methodist Board of Church and Society change little from year to year: Advocate for issues of peace, justice and equality with both church and national leaders. A highlight for 2016 was a three-day conference to educate and mobilize around the issue of gun violence prevention.
In response to questions from United Methodist News Service, executive staff of the commission discussed the agency’s role and accomplishments in the past year.
What were the top three to five goals of your agency in 2016?
• Educate and form leaders for forthright moral witness and ethical action on issues of justice, peace and the integrity of creation through Social Principles trainings, issue-based seminars and internship opportunities.
• Implement the policy statements of the General Conference on issues of Christian social concern by educating, equipping and mobilizing teams of United Methodists through grassroots organizing and advocacy efforts.
• Build stronger networks for action through various channels and on numerous topics determined by General Conference and the Board.
• Strategically align the communications efforts of the agency with our Disciplinary mandate to effectively portray the work of Church and Society to the church and the wider world.
Were you able to fully or partly accomplish these goals? How was that done?
These goals are ongoing, and we successfully were able to advance all of them. For instance, the number of seminars that we designed and hosted increased in 2016 with over 500 participants and we reached more annual conferences than the previous year. We also hosted our first seminar in Washington, D.C., for participants from a central conference (West Angola).
In 2016, we were able to actively educate United Methodists and engage policy makers on nearly 30 social issues based on the stances determined by the General Conference. Teams of United Methodists in conferences across the connection engaged in faithful advocacy on issues like health care in Tennessee and Mississippi, peacebuilding in Nigeria, and climate justice in the Philippines.
We were able to provide significant support in grants to support churches and conferences as they seek to implement justice and peace ministries in their local contexts.
In terms of improving our reach for those interested in engaging in faith-based advocacy, we have increased our reach through our email lists, Twitter and Facebook each by double-digit percentage increases.
What was your budget for 2016? How much of that budget was put toward each of these goals?
More than $4 million of Church and Society’s budget was used to accomplish these goals.
Please give a specific example of how one of your programs benefited a United Methodist, a church or a specific community.
In November, Church and Society brought over 50 United Methodists from 15 annual conferences to Washington, D.C., for three days of education, organizing training and advocacy opportunities around the issue of gun violence prevention. Participants heard from experts in the fields of public health, race and policy about the epidemic that is gun violence in the United States. There were many opportunities for worship and grounding in the shared United Methodist faith. Some churches and conferences sent multiple people to the forum in hopes of spurring action back home in their local contexts. Church and Society is committing to following up with each participant as they create action plans for their own communities and helping to resource them as we work together to create change.
What particular challenges did the agency face in accomplishing these goals?
Church and Society is working to engage in the world at a time of great transition, anxiety, and ongoing conflict. The United Methodist Church maintains a strong and consistent commitment to building a future of hope, rooted in justice and peace.
If the goals are ongoing, what do you plan to accomplish in 2017?
These goals are ongoing, and we plan to build on the successes of 2016. In the coming quadrennium, Church and Society will focus on:
• Leading a process for revision of the Social Principles
• Engaging with our sister agencies, conference and community leadership to prioritize ministries with the poor that work to address root causes of poverty
• Improving our ability to equip United Methodists across the connection for advocacy in a variety of political and societal contexts
• Improving and regularizing agency communication through various channels including internet, social media, email and print materials