Q&A with Church and Society
Your questions answered from our latest Justice Talks event.
Questions about Church and Society as an Organization
1. Does The United Methodist Church have a PAC? Does The United Methodist Church contribute to PACs? Are any Church and Society staff members registered as lobbyists?
The United Methodist Church does not have a PAC (Political Action Committee) nor does it financially contribute to any candidates. Church and Society staff are not registered lobbyists and operate within guidelines established for 501c(3) organizations. Our engagement, advocacy and organizing is aligned with the social teachings of The United Methodist Church and our shared vision of justice and peace.
2. How do I respond to church members who tell me we shouldn’t be political and the separation of church and state stops us from doing anything political?
The United Methodist Book of Resolutions state: “While declaring our ultimate allegiance is to God, Scripture recognizes that faithfulness to God requires political engagement by the people of God…The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church assert: ‘We believe that the state should not attempt to control the church, nor should the church seek to dominate the state… Separation of Church and state means no organic union of the two, but it does permit interaction’ (❡164.C). ‘The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, opposing policies and programs that are unjust’ (❡164.B).” (United Methodist Book of Resolutions, #5012)
3. How can new Church and Society Chairs and Peace With Justice Coordinators do a more effective job?
Questions about How to Get Involved in Advocacy
1. How does Church and Society help train United Methodists for advocacy?
Church and Society provides many opportunities for United Methodists to engage in faith-based advocacy and organizing. Our Seminar and Internship programs educate and equip United Methodists to better understand social concerns and how to effectively advocate for justice. Our staff trains United Methodists to engage in a variety of advocacy and organizing tactics that can influence decision makers from the highest levels of government to CEOs, school boards and town hall meetings.
Creating Change Together: A Civic Engagement Toolkit is a Church and Society resource that can guide beginners and seasoned advocates alike.
2. Does Church and Society host lobby days for United Methodists?
Church and Society participates annually in Ecumenical Advocacy Days (EAD), a gathering of Christian advocates and activists. In addition to worship and education on the pressing issues of society, EAD also trains and activates participants to meet with their Members of Congress to advocate for justice around the topics of the conference. Church and Society actively promotes United Methodist participation in EAD every year.
3. Given the ongoing divisiveness in society and the Congress, is it actually effective asking individuals in churches to contact their elected officials about legislation? Congress seems so entrenched and immovable.
Amid the brokenness of today’s world, God calls us to be instruments of healing – transforming relationships and systems to pursue justice and peace among people, communities and nations. And yet for too many of us, the tone and division of public discourse discourages us from using our voice or engaging our church and family in the important civic conversations of our day.
It can be discouraging if your decision maker never seems to share your views. Engaging with them might even seem futile. However, we cannot underestimate the power of the Holy Spirit to transform hearts and minds.
Sometimes, allies can come in the unlikeliest of places and at the unlikeliest of times. Don’t write off certain officials because they do not agree with you right now. By staying engaged and cultivating a relationship with their office, you may find areas of common ground. And it is important for decision makers to hear your opinion and not simply the voices of those who agree with them.
Regardless of the success of your advocacy efforts, registering your opinion with your leaders is an act of discipleship. Take inspiration from the story of the persistent widow (Luke 18:1-8) and remain faithful. As United Methodists, we cannot stand by as unjust actions are being proposed or implemented. To be silent is to be complicit. Raising our voices, whatever the immediate outcome, is a critical element of our faithful lives as disciples of Jesus Christ.
4. As a local church, we sometimes submit letters to our Members of Congress from our social justice team. Is it beneficial to cc (carbon copy) you? Do you want to hear what we are doing in the local church in the areas of your priorities?
Church and Society is a staff of 17 people serving our global church of more than 12 million members from more than 40,000 churches. While we would love to know about each and every advocacy effort taken by United Methodists, Church and Society doesn’t have the capacity to keep up with everything!
Rather than copying us on letters to Congress and other decision makers or reporting on our shared priorities, we would love for those details to be shared directly with your conference Church and Society Chair, Peace With Justice Coordinator, and conference staff. We are actively engaging with these conference leaders who help keep us informed of what is happening at the local level.
If you are unsure of who your Church and Society Chair and/or Peace With Justice Coordinator is, please reach out to us so that we can connect you. If your conference does not have a Church and Society Chair and/or Peace With Justice Coordinator, talk to us about how to get started!
5. How do we get connected to some of the rapid response teams?
Please connect with Rebecca Cole, Director of Grassroots Organizing, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Is there any effort to get rid of the Foreign Terror Organization list at the State Department? How can we push the U.S. to talk and negotiate first with all?
Church and Society is advocating through meetings with Congressional members and signing on to coalition letters to end US support for the war in Yemen. The Biden Administration needs to clarify what it means when it is said we no longer are supporting Saudi Arabia in its war on the people of Yemen.
2. What are alternatives to mass incarceration, and how does Church and Society partner with state networks since so many incarcerated are in state prisons?
For more information on The United Methodist Church’s position on criminal justice reform and ideas for engagement, please visit our issue page on criminal justice reform.
3. What is our United Methodist stance on religious freedom?
For more information on The United Methodist Church’s position on religious freedom and ideas for engagement, please visit our issue page on religious freedom.
4. Is there a position of support of H.R. 1 (For the People Act)?
Church and Society is supporting efforts, including the For the People Act, to safeguard voting rights and ensure free, fair, and safe elections. To learn more about The United Methodist Church’s position and current action opportunities, please visit our issue page on free and fair elections for all.
5. Does Church and Society support H.R.40 or H.R.1865 (reparations)? How can people in local churches engage with you on this issue?
Church and Society has been advocating for the establishment of a Commission on Reparations aligned with Resolution #3066 “Support Reparations for African Americans” which explicitly supports HR40.
Stay tuned for an announcement from Church and Society about a special seminar in June to explore the issue of reparations and equip United Methodists for faithful engagement.
6. What are some bills that are gaining momentum regarding stopping endless wars, reducing Pentagon spending, and nuclear disarmament?
Legislation is beginning to move in Congress. Most recently, we signed on to a letter to Congress on ways to cut Pentagon spending. Suggestions included cutting back on nuclear weapons. We will post legislative alerts on our website as these topics come up.
7. What bills have been filed about climate justice?
A number of bills have been introduced in the 117th Congress addressing climate justice. We are advocating to make climate justice a priority including policies to rapidly reduce emissions, support workers and communities in a just transition, and fulfill multilateral commitments for climate finance and adaptation assistance for climate-vulnerable countries. In March, The United Methodist Creation Justice Movement’s Federal Advocacy Team hosted a webinar providing an overview of Administration and Congressional responses to the climate crisis. Watch on YouTube here.
1. Where can I find more information about the 2021 Church and Society priorities?
2. What resources are available for teaching the Social Principles?
The United Methodist Church continues to use the 2017-2020 version of the Social Principles until after a new General Conference meets. You can purchase this edition through Cokesbury. There you will find many teaching tools, group exercises and suggestions on how to teach the Social Principles.
You can also find the video series Living Our Principles on our YouTube channel. The series will take you from the farmlands of Kenya to the coal mining communities of Appalachia to organic farms in the Philippines, and more. These stories highlight the value and importance of the Social Principles across the United Methodist connection.
The Social Principles recently went through a revision process that will be voted on during the next meeting of the General Conference. On our website, you can learn more about the revision process, read the revised text in eight languages, and find videos and Resource for Mission and Ministry Cards that will demonstrate how you can use them in worship, teaching, and advocacy today. The revised Social Principles will not be considered until General Conference meets in August 2022.
3. Does Church and Society have any educational materials on specific topics that could be used in short sessions that could be used to educate small groups?
Our Faith and Fact Cards are an excellent resource for this purpose. Faith and Fact Cards are two-sided cards that offer concise information on the given topic. Divided into four sections, the cards inform readers about what the Bible says, the United Methodist position, what the facts are, and opportunities for action on the topic. There are more than 30 Faith and Fact Cards on our website that can be downloaded for free.