More reflections from my fall General Board of Church and Society meeting:
I mentioned in my last post that we have several new board members. One new member presided at our opening worship at communion celebrant. As she was giving the invitation she said something like "it's not the size of the meal that matters, it is the number of people you can gather around the table." Well said. The whole opening worship centered on the death penalty and our historic United Methodist opposition to the death penalty. We had a list in our bulletins of all the names of those who had been executed since the 1970s, and we prayed for them, their families, their victims' families, etc. It was pretty powerful.
Later Jim Winkler gave his General Secretary's report. A few excerpts:
Did you know that GBCS' roots come from 1) "the old Board of Temperance, Prohibition, and Public Morals established by the 1912 General Conference to work for alcohol prohibition, the suppression of salacious literature, and against gambling and prize-fighting among other matters." I wonder what was considered "salacious literature"?! 2) "The 1908 Social Creed which highlighted justice for labor. The original Social Creed called for conciliation and arbitration in industrial disputes, a living wage, an end to child labor, and one day a week to observe the Lord's Sabbath. The 1952 General Conference established a Board of Social and Economic Relations" and 3) "The 1924 General Conference, reacting to the horrific slaughter of World War I in which 116,000 U.S. soldiers and some nine million Europeans perished, created the Commission on World Peace . . . "War is a horrid reproach to the Christian name - yea, to the name of man, to all reason and humanity," said Wesley. "So long as this monster stalks uncontrolled, where is reason, virtue, humanity? They are utterly excluded." - these three areas of consideration eventually all came together in the General Board of Church and Society. Today, you can see these streams in our four major work areas: Environmental and Economic Justice (which I serve on), Peace with Justice, Human Welfare, and Alcohol and Other Addictions.
Jim also talked about a variety of events sponsored in some way by GBCS, including and event in the Democratic Republic of Congo which helped train citizens preparing to participate in the first national elections since civil war. What to look for in a good candidate? "The president of the United Methodist Men, Stanislaus Kasongo Ka Swedi, highlighted the criteria and qualities that make a good candidate as one who shall bring blessing to the nation and who fears God."
Now that we are drawing closer to General Conference 2008, more of our work includes working on resolutions to General Conference - revising old resolutions, updating them, suggesting deletion for some that are no longer relevant or timely, and suggesting some new ones. Sometimes this shift in our work makes for a more tense atmosphere (at least I felt it did last quadrennium), but I was gladly surprised that we seemed to be working in a more collegial way this time around. Naturally, we disagreed still on some proposed resolutions. But I felt like the process moved quickly (We didn't even use up all of ourallottedd "for" and "against" speeches on some more controversial votes! That's saying something!) and that people seemed respectful and caring to one another when speaking. There is hope for us yet.
In my work area, I did jot down an interesting fact. Our legislative priority in the economic justice area this year is working to raise the federal minimum wage, which hasn't increased since 1997. In that decade, Congress has voted for themselves $31,000 in pay increases. This increase would be about 2 years salary for a person working full time at the current federal minimum wage.
Mark your calendars: GBCS is holding a big event, "Living Faith, Seeking Justice," in Fort Worth, November 2007. A couple featured speakers of note: Adam Hamilton and Shane Claiborne. (Many others too.)
Alright - probably one more set of reflections to come. More on worship services, IRD/UMAction's strange absence from our meeting, etc...