Could you go alcohol-free for Lent?

A glass of wine with dinner, a beer while watching the big game, a sip of bourbon before going to bed - all pretty harmless activities if you watch television, go to movies, browse the Internet or talk to most folks.

You might be shocked to know that the world's worst killer - more than AIDS, malaria or tuberculosis - is alcohol, according to

Here is another sobering fact: Alcohol is the top health risk factor for middle-income people. Riskier than obesity, inactivity and even tobacco.

So during Lent this year, from Ash Wednesday on Feb. 22 to April 8, the United Methodist Board of Church and Society is asking all United Methodists to give up alcohol, donate the funds they would have used to buy alcohol and start an international conversation about the harm done by this common vice.

"The world has changed drastically around us as it relates to alcohol use," writes Jim Winkler, top executive for the denomination's social action agency. "A lack of awareness to the implications and consequences of normalizing alcohol use is an ongoing concern and threat to public health that begs the question: 'If a society integrates alcohol use into its regular activities without awareness to its impact on the health and well-being of individuals and communities, what are the consequences?'"

The Rev. Cynthia Abrams, director of the agency's work on alcohol, other addictions and health care, knows this is not an easy task.

"Everyone must grapple daily with the influence of alcohol on our lives, whether we drink or not. Frank conversation is unlikely to happen, however, without bold action such as this initiative that calls us to take a dramatic step, to make a personal or corporate statement about alcohol and its impact," she said.

A few years ago, the Rev. James Howell, pastor of Myers Park United Methodist Church in Charlotte, N.C., conceived the idea for a "Spirit Fund," the amount of money that would have gone toward buying alcohol.

Myers Park members accepted the challenge, exceeding expectations also by raising $25,901 for a local recovery project.

The United Methodist Church has a strong commitment to alcohol avoidance in its law book, The Book of Discipline.

"We affirm our long-standing support of abstinence from alcohol as a faithful witness to God's liberating and redeeming love for persons .&ellipsis; Since the use of illegal drugs, as well as illegal and problematic use of alcohol, is a major factor in crime, disease, death and family dysfunction, we support educational programs as well as other prevention strategies encouraging abstinence from illegal drug use and, with regard to those who choose to consume alcoholic beverages, judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint, with Scripture as a guide" (¶162L, United Methodist Book of Discipline).

In 2011, the agency issued the challenge, and 50 churches in 22 states, the District of Columbia and nations overseas accepted, Abrams said. This year the challenge is being expanded to include churches, small groups and individuals.

"Don't worry; this is not an attempt by United Methodists to renew the fight for Prohibition. This is a means to glorify God and prepare ourselves for the coming celebration of the Risen Christ," Winkler said.

*Gilbert is a multimedia reporter for the young adult content team at United Methodist Communications, Nashville, Tenn.

News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or [email protected].

Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at

Sign up for our newsletter!

Human Rights
A view of the U.S. Supreme Court. United Methodists have varied reactions after the Supreme Court on June 24 overturned Roe v. Wade, holding that there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion. Photo courtesy of the Architect of the Capitol.

United Methodists react to end of Roe v. Wade

United Methodists alternately expressed fear and contentment with the U.S. Supreme Court decision released June 24 that holds there is no longer a federal constitutional right to an abortion.
Mission and Ministry
Tim Tanton (center, in red), chief news and information officer for United Methodist Communications, shares updates with African communicators and other UMCom staff during the 2019 General Conference. World Press Freedom Day, observed May 3, commemorates journalists and highlights the difficulties they face while reporting truth. File photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

World Press Freedom Day and the church

Tim Tanton with United Methodist News talks about giving voice to the voiceless and why freedom of information is essential not only for society but for the church.
The Rev. Tom Berlin (left) presents a copy of his book, “Courage,” to Massachusetts National Guard Chaplain Chad McCabe in the chapel at Wesley Theological Seminary in Washington. McCabe, whose unit was assigned to help provide security at the U.S. Capitol after the January riot, contacted Wesley Seminary asking for Bibles, novels and board games for troops stationed there. Photo by Lisa Helfert for Wesley Theological Seminary. Copyright 2021. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

Church responds to chaplain's call to help soldiers

A National Guard chaplain got Bibles, games and 150 copies of a new book about courage when he turned to Wesley Theological Seminary for help keeping soldiers occupied in Washington in the aftermath of the Capitol insurrection.