Tuesday, April 25, 2006

General Board of Church and Society Meeting - Reflections, Part 2

More thoughts from my GBCS meeting this past week. My work area is Environmental and Economic Justice. As part of our work, we also spent time talking about the continuing Gulf Coast Recovery efforts. We heard from Bishop William Hutchinson, Louisiana Area and vice-president of the board, and our work-area chairperson William Scott, from Mississippi. They talked about the frustration of how the cleanup/rebuild process is going. The levees, for example, are being rebuilt at only the same strength as they were before the storm – with the engineers stating that we are “only doing what we are authorized to do.” With another hurricane season approaching quickly, both said the tension is palpable. Bishop Hutchinson shared with us that something like $20 million worth of labor hours have been contributed by United Methodists in relief efforts. They also shared concerns for the environmental effects of the hurricane – how will the mercury, for example, affect crops that grow? Scott, who is a professor of chemistry at the University of Mississippi, compared the possible environmental effects to the effects of the Chernobyl accident.

Also in my work area, we talked about our legislative priorities for this year, particularly the priority for the Economic Justice area, which is Raising the Federal Minimum Wage. The program director for Environmental/Economic Justice, John Hill, led us through some exercises in resources he’s developed to help people understand minimum wage, living wage, and the budget. Again, I’ll link to resources once they’re posted. But for right now, go to the Online Calculator section at the website of the Economic Policy Institute. You can figure out how much it would cost different sized families to live in your area, and get some statistics about who lives below the “family budget line” in your state. Fun fact: Did you know that the UMC has advocated for a “living wage” since 1908?

On Saturday, we heard from some different speakers, one of whom was Kakenya Ntaiya. (Check out this 2003 article from the Washington Post.) Kakenya shared with us her own story, and her arranged marriage that was to take place when she was a child. Kakenya, however, worked hard to find other paths for her life instead, finally getting permission to come to the US to get her undergraduate and now graduate degrees. She was extremely eloquent, and spoke with great passion and emotion about the young girls in Kenya who are forced to marry, giving birth to children when they themselves are 11, 12, 13. She talked about the extreme medical crisis this has caused, with many young women suffering from untreated obstetric fistulas, shunned and shamed by their communities. We worked on a statement about child marriage which I will link to when posted on the GBCS site.

On Sunday morning, Julius Trimble, board member, gave the message at our closing worship. (We rotate leadership of worship services through our task forces, committees, and work areas – this closing worship was led by the Strengthening the Black Church for the 21st Century Task Force.) He gave a great illustration. He was talking about the James Bond movies and reading an interview with the director of the Pierce Brosnan/Halle Barry James Bond Film Die Another Day. The director, Lee Tamahori, was asked, “how does James Bond survive from movie to movie through such catastrophes and drama?” The director responded, “It’s in the script.” Julius urged us to use this metaphor for our work in the board. Why do we do what we do? What’s our rationale? “It’s in the script,” he said, holding up the scriptures, (and the Book of Discipline, amid some giggling.)

Ok, I think that’s enough for one post! I will probably have one more ‘reflection’ page, then finally get back to some of the other posts swimming in my head.
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