faith in action

Florida Advocacy Days: Advocating for a more just world

The annual Florida Advocacy Days is intended to inspire, educate, and motivate young adults to become active participants of advocacy within Florida via the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church.

Florida Advocacy Days 2019

The annual Florida Advocacy Days was held in Tallahassee this year. It is intended to inspire, educate, and motivate individuals, especially young adults, to become active machines of change within the state via the Florida Annual Conference.

The three-day event exposes young people to the awareness of issues important to The United Methodist Church and Florida and to experience how to effect change by participating in the process.

Many young people leave the three-day event inspired and with a new sense of purpose. The organizers hope that participants are inspired to commit to year-round advocacy as a result of the experience.

The March 24–26 event included participants from The United Methodist Church and the African Methodist Episcopal Church, as well as Florida Impact. The participants prepared to meet with legislators.

Among the issues and legislative agendas prioritized included Amendment 4, intended to reacquire voting rights for felons who have finished their terms, anti-racism, homelessness and hunger, and providing food to low income children.

According to The Rev. Neal Christie, assistant general secretary for Education & Leadership Formation, “The Florida Conference Advocacy Days mirrors the priorities of the Church: working ecumenically to stand with vulnerable people; standing for equitable and affordable housing; urging legislators to show their care for kids by making meals accessible to those who otherwise would not receive a healthy meal in the summer months; practicing restorative justice by ensuring that released felons who have served their time, have full access to vote. These are justice issues that show us who we value and what God’s realm looks like.”

Heidi Aspinwall, the director of Young Adult Missional Movement for the Florida Annual Conference, cited the “two feet of Christian ministry,” charity and justice, and expressed that throughout Florida “young adults participate in very direct service type of work,” including homeless assistance centers and children and youth in after school programs, throughout the year. She sees Florida Advocacy Days as “an opportunity for us to bring in a piece of the justice side” to the young adult experience, as “from the beginning, focuses of the program is to work on issues like antiracism actively.”

According to Aspinwall, Florida Advocacy Days is “very real, intense. It’s just a couple of days” but “the organizers spend a lot of time beforehand looking at what bills are going to come before the state legislature. It’s big enough to have a wide impact in the state, but it’s small enough to get your head around.”

Part of this desire for young adult engagement is the Young Adult Mission Movement, referred to as YAMMERS within the Florida Conference.

Clark Campbell Evans of the Office of Missional Engagement for the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church reiterated that the meeting focuses generally on several issues before the Florida legislature which tend to be issues affecting vulnerable children and the least fortunate people in Florida.

The Rev. Sharon Austin of Connectional Ministries with the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church has observed first-hand the success of Florida Advocacy Days but also recognizes the need to engage more young adults. Austin added that the intent of the program is in part to conduct “intentional work around advocacy while giving a voice to those who are vulnerable and marginalized.”