Final Message from Susan Henry-Crowe
Another Beginning Without Pause for Church and Society
On December 31, 2022, I officially retired as the General Secretary of GBCS and from almost 49 years in active ministry in the United Methodist Church. It has been an amazing journey and my retirement is both joyful and bittersweet. Finishing my last eight years in ministry in The United Methodist Church at the General Board of Church and Society has truly been an honor. We have worked hard to align our raison d'etre (reason for being); to refine our mission, redefine our message, build our staff and uphold the commitments of The United Methodist Church. I cherish how we have effectively addressed civil society issues out of a living faith for seeking justice and pursuing peace on Capitol Hill and at the United Nations. Alongside of us, tens of thousands of United Methodists across the world engage and support this work. Yes, with our guidance, United Methodists around the globe are giving witness to the Gospel mandates for justice and peace.
Inspiration From The United Methodist’s Social Principles
My first attraction to GBCS came in 1967 when my home church had a United Nations Seminar in New York City. Later as a young pastor, working in textile communities in South Carolina, the Social Principles inspired my preaching and the care of congregants in Greenville, SC. The Social Principles continued to guide and inspire me when I served on staff of the SC Annual Conference as we worked for cross-racial appointments and full inclusion.
Today, we must continue to know, understand, preach and teach the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church. The most often spoken comment we hear from United Methodists is “Why did I not know about the Social Principles? They have changed my understanding and commitment to United Methodism.” This is a call to renew our faith witness from the pulpit, in Sunday School classes and with youth and young people. People want this expressed witness. The world needs such principles by which to be guided and to live.
Faith-filled Courageous Witness
A United Methodist public faith witness is now more important than ever. The global public square is divided and recalcitrant. White nationalism and white supremacy are dangerously on the rise. The effects of colonialism continue to influence social, political, and economic structures. Brave people living with mental illness and/or different abilities have been neglected. There is heart breaking homophobia violence. Children and families are still living in poverty. Greed, selfishness and inequity abound in political and economic systems. Gun violence is becoming normalized even with federal legislative action. The struggle for democracy and election reform in the United States is profound. Policies on DACA and immigration must be addressed. United States military spending must be addressed. So, when it comes to peace and justice there is much to do… and we are still hopeful.
Even with mean, ugly, selfish, greedy behavior, we also have witnessed examples of the most caring, brave, tenacious, steadfast, faith-filled actions imaginable. People offering tireless care and expressions of compassion to those who are vulnerable and living on the margins. Those on the margins extending themselves in generous and hospitable ways.
Combined Scripture, Tradition, Reason and Experience is a Gift
As for those who feel discouraged and beleaguered by the UMC, I know it can be both isolating and surprisingly courageous at the same time. I have been a part of every General Conference since 1980. There are always times of deep pain and of profound joy. I am always moved by the procession of people from around the world claiming the causes of Jesus Christ, commitments to diversity and inclusion, and standing together for a more just, whole and redeemed creation. The Holy Scriptures that unite us, the reason that centers us, traditions that inspire us, prayers that hold us, the principles that guide us and the mission around which we journey - animates us all. It is a gift that we must never take for granted.
Advancing The UMC Legacy
For more than 100 years, the people called Methodists have generously given of their time, talents, gifts and service. And we are continuing to advance this legacy for a brighter future.
We must continue to highlight, honor and recognize the legacy and the gifts. There are those young people who come to Washington D.C. to urge Congressional action on DACA. There are church groups that push Congress to take action on gun violence prevention. There are people who give a monthly contribution to sustain and continue the ministry carried out by GBCS. There are UMC Bishops who promote Climate Justice.
And recently, wonderful bequests from Reverend Robert and Mrs. Marilyn McClean will endow Church and Society’s international advocacy for peace and justice through our work at the United Nations and in Central Conferences. Bob and Marilyn’s gift extends their legacy of global thinking and local action in the U.S. or anywhere around the world.
I am grateful and so blessed to leave this ministry to the visionary mind, gentle heart, and gifted hands of John Hill, the GBCS Deputy Secretary, who will serve as Interim General Secretary; Bishop Sally Dyck, President of the GBCS Board, who leads with wisdom and joy; the Board itself which has been a pleasure with whom to have served; a dedicated and creative staff; thousands of people called Methodists, who desire a better world and are willing to work for it; and a United Methodist Church which I continue to hold dear.
And so, we begin again and again and again.
I leave this poem with you as the GBCS mission moves forward without pause.
by Denise Levertov
But we have only begun to love the earth. We have only begun to imagine the fullness of life.
How could we tire of hope? So much is in bud.
How can desire fail? We have only begun to imagine justice and mercy.
Only begun to envision how it might be to live as siblings with beast and flower, not as oppressors.
Surely our river cannot already be hastening into the sea of nonbeing?
Surely it cannot drag in the silt all that is innocent?
Not yet, not yet–there is too much broken that must be mended. Too much hurt that we have done to each other that cannot yet be forgiven.
We have only begun to know the power that is in us if we would join our solitudes in the communion of struggle.
So much is unfolding that must complete its gesture, so much is in bud.