One thing I like about the United Methodist Church is that it has a rich history of social action. Methodist church members have often taken controversial positions on social issues such as the slave trade, smuggling, cruel treatment of prisoners, temperance, etc. In the early days of our country you could find Methodists in prisons ensuring humane treatment of prisoners, running orphanages, and feeding the poor. These positions haven’t always been popular or unanimous. For example, the issue of holding slaves split the church before the Civil War into the Methodist Church North and the Methodist Church South. But the idea of working to improve the social condition of all members of society has persisted in our denomination.
The first social creed in our history was adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in 1908. After the Methodist Church and the Evangelical United Brethren Church united in 1968, the United Methodist Church adopted a new statement of Social Principles which is revised at each General Conference. These principles are NOT considered church law. They are, however, a prayerful attempt to address social issues of our time from a biblical and theological foundation. Because social issues change with time, they are revised every 4 years as needed.
I will be the Social Action Coordinator for our UMW unit this year. In reading through the training materials from our conference, I found one statement that I really like. The Women’s Division Directors take positions in agreement with the position of The United Methodist Church as found in The Book of Discipline and The Book of Resolutions. However, in the training materials, they make it clear that “The Women’s Division speaks to United Methodist Women, not for them.” They don’t elaborate on this statement, but they acknowledge that opinions and positions within any group of women, or I would add church members, will vary. Taking action on social issues often requires political action. Any group of people, such as a church, will have members with varying political positions. We should respect these differences.
I have been in other churches where there was pressure to conform to specific political positions. I personally can’t stand this and feel it has no place in any church. Talking about values and issues related to human experience, in my opinion, is within the purview of the church. Translating those values into telling people how to vote, or implying that they are any less of a Christian if they have a different viewpoint are again, in my opinion, off limits. (Besides, there are those little issues of “separation of church and state” and tax exemptions.) In my experience, this is not a problem at our church. I’m thankful for this, although I do enjoy reasonable discussion and differences of opinion, as long as the discussion is respectful of all opinions.
Over the next few weeks, I will be writing posts about the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church. I will make every attempt to summarize them accurately. My intention with these posts will NOT be to offer my opinion, just a summary of the principle, however, I am human. In each post I’ll put the link to the official principles and other resources so that you can read for yourself. You might agree or not with my interpretation, or with the principle itself. Please feel free to comment, with agreement, disagreement, a different interpretation, etc. That’s the beauty of our church, you are welcome whether you agree or not.
The United Methodist Social Creed
We believe in God, Creator of the world; and in Jesus Christ, the Redeemer of creation. We believe in the Holy Spirit, through whom we acknowledge God’s gifts, and we repent of our sin in misusing these gifts to idolatrous ends.
We affirm the natural world as God’s handiwork and dedicate ourselves to its preservation, enhancement, and faithful use by humankind.
We joyfully receive for ourselves and others the blessings of community, sexuality, marriage, and the family.
We commit ourselves to the rights of men, women, children, youth, young adults, the aging, and people with disabilities; to improvement of the quality of life; and to the rights and dignity of all persons.
We believe in the right and duty of persons to work for the glory of God and the good of themselves and others and in the protection of their welfare in so doing; in the rights to property as a trust from God, collective bargaining, and responsible consumption; and in the elimination of economic and social distress.
We dedicate ourselves to peace throughout the world, to the rule of justice and law among nations, and to individual freedom for all people of the world.
We believe in the present and final triumph of God’s Word in human affairs and gladly accept our commission to manifest the life of the gospel in the world. Amen.
© The United Methodist Church
Comments on this blog are moderated and I reserve the right to not publish comments that contain ad hominem attacks, use language that is not appropriate for a church forum, and of course spam.