The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church is a lengthy document that details the UMC stand on social issues. It is comprehensive, addressing issues as diverse as marriage, the church’s interaction with governments, discrimination, to taking care of the planet. The Social Principles consist of a number of different sections as follows:
- The Preface and Preamble
- The Natural World
- The Nurturing World
- The Social Community
- The Economic Community
- The Political Community
- The World Community
- Our Social Creed
- A Companion Litany to Our Social Creed
Each of these sections except the Preface, Creed, and Litany detail a list of different issues and the UMC stand on each of them.
The Natural World – The stand taken by The United Methodist Church regarding the use and abuse of the earth is that we are called to be good stewards of the earth, not just because of the way this affects us, but because it is God’s creation. With increases and improvement in health care, we are a growing population with increasing life expectancies. At the same time industrial processes have enabled us to access and use natural resources (both renewable and non-renewable) at an ever increasing rate. This has caused tremendous stresses on our planet particularly defoliation, extinction of species, over population, and depletion of non-renewable resources. We have a responsibility to address these issues economically, politically, and personally.
The Natural World sections includes statements about UMC beliefs regarding water, air, soil, mineral, and plant resources; space technologies and the “weaponization” of space; climate change, energy conservation, the development of all energy resources, and governmental call for reduction of greenhouse gases; protection of animal life; science and technology; and food safety.
The Nurturing Community – This section relates to community and “the potential for nurturing human beings into the fullness of their humanity.” The United Methodist Church maintains that the social climate should be one that fosters the personal growth of individuals. This applies to all individuals within the culture not because of any particular characteristic, but because each individual is created in the image of God and important to God.
The Nurturing Community section addresses family, marriage, divorce, abortion, adoption, single people, human sexuality, family violence, sexual abuse, sexual harassment, care for people who have had an abortion, suicide, and care for dying persons.
The Social Community – The United Methodist Church affirms that all people are valuable in the sight of God. Because the rights given to any group of people reveal the value given to those people in any society, the UMC believes in and supports equal rights to all individuals. This includes all adults, young people, and children regardless of gender, race, religious affiliation, ethnicity, sexual orientation, disability, or economic status. We support the adoption and implementation of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Among other things, these rights should include equal access to housing, education, protection under the law, and medical care.
The Social Community section includes statements about the UMC beliefs regarding individuals in categories such as children, men, women, different races and ethnicities, as well as people of different sexual orientations. It also includes sections related to population, alcohol, tobacco and other drugs, rural life, genetic technology, medical experimentation, sustainable agriculture, media, and the right to health care.
The Economic Community – The United Methodist Church supports the responsibility of governments to develop sound fiscal policies with regard to both corporations and individuals, which would provide for full employment with a minimum of inflation. We believe that businesses, both private and public, are responsible for the environmental and social costs of their businesses and should be held accountable. The UMC supports measures “ that would reduce the concentration of wealth in the hands of a few.” This includes revision of tax codes that do not benefit the wealthy at the expense of others.
This section includes statements about property, collective bargaining, poverty, work and leisure, consumption, foreign workers, gambling, corporate responsibility, family farms, and trade and investment.
The Political Community – The United Methodist Church affirms that our responsibility is first to God. However, government is a vital force in ordering society.
This section contains information on the stance of the UMC with regard to basic freedoms and human rights, political responsibility, church and state relations, freedom of information, education, civil obedience and disobedience, the death penalty, justice, and military service.
The World Community – We have become one world community, largely through the rapid expansion of technology, in ways that have outrun our ability to create a stable world. The UMC is committed to addressing issues that prevent us from becoming one community of people that care about each other. Some of these issues are injustice, tyranny, exploitation, privilege, population growth, environmental crises, proliferation of nuclear weapons, and transnational businesses that are outside the control of any one government.
This section of the Social Principles includes statements concerning nations and cultures, national power and responsibility, war and peace, and justice and law.
As you can see these principles cover a huge range of topics, many of which are controversial in our society. Remember that these statements of principle are prayerfully and thoughtfully considered by the governing body of the church. None of them are made lightly. As United Methodists, The Social Principles are a resource that we can and should use in determining the individual positions we take on issues in our lives, our communities, and our countries. The document that is linked to at the beginning of this post, and here, is The 2008 Social Principles. The General Conference reassesses the principles every four years. The next revision will be next year in 2012.
Please comment. Is there a particular principle that you would like to see here, or discuss? Is there something that you agree or disagree with? Comments are moderated, but not to eliminate disagreement, just to ensure civil discussion.