Original post at http://www.johnleek.com/2014/09/gbcs-united-methodist-church-at-work-in.html
“I'm a dumb Methodist preacher so give me a moment,” Representative (and United Methodist Elder) Emanuel Cleaver said twice while speaking to several dozen young United Methodist Clergy on January 27, 2014. He served as the highlight of the General Board of Church and Society's 12th Annual Young Clergy Leadership Forum for me.
Cleaver shared from his experience as a pastor in Missouri and as an unofficial pastor to his colleagues and their staffs and reminded us that as pastors “the blood of the prophets flows through our veins.” He also shared his conviction that as pastors we must “put the church first and the other will come.”
|From Left: Representative Emmanuel Cleaver (D-MO) and Rev. John Wesley Leek|
I joined clergy from most of the United States' Annual Conferences along with two delegates from Liberia to meet many of the General Board's staff and study both how the GBCS works in the District of Colombia and how local churches can study and implement the United Methodist Church's Social Principles.
Assistant General Secretary Rev. Neal Christie shared that the GBCS' primary way of influencing policy in our capitol is not through direct lobbying, but through facilitating meetings between allied people and groups and the relevant elected officials and staff.
I was surprised to learn of the most significant example of this from the 90's. Christie shared that work on the Americans with Disabilities Act wasn't progressing at the Capitol. Staff from Senators Bob Dole and Ted Kennedy's offices were able to meet at the GBCS building, located on Capitol Hill, and wrote the bill there. The ADA was written at a United Methodist building!
The work of the GBCS is unmistakably political. Staff shared that they believe their work is guided only by our United Methodist Social Principles. Our Social Principles are not a concise document however and emphasis is clearly an issue of discretion. I would have liked to have learned more about how they choose which areas to emphasize and which to ignore with their staff of 23.
I was pleased to find the staff of the GBCS isn't limited to the United States. Reflective of the growth in conferences in Africa the GBCS now has staff located in Nigeria, Zimbabwe and the Democratic Republic of the Congo working on, among other things, helping lessen violence against women.
GBCS staff sought to communicate clearly that they are a resource to the local church. The impression I received was that if you are doing any work around justice in your community they can be reached for help with materials or to refer your church to others with expertise. I wasn't aware local churches could contact them directly for help. The message I heard was “do.”
It was a real blessing to participate in a word and table service at the GBCS' Simpson Memorial Chapel where GBCS General Secretary Susan Henry-Crowe and National Council of Churches General Secretary Jim Winkler served communion.
This forum was greatly enriching and I look forward to continuing to grow as a disciple of Jesus Christ actively involved in Jesus' ushering in of the Kingdom of God. I am thankful for the generous support and freedom given to attend by both our Mississippi Annual Conference and the people of Jefferson Street UMC.
Chaplain of the United States Senate Barry Black also took time to speak with our clergy group. His story and oratory are inspiring and he encouraged us with the words of Acts 13 to “(serve) the purpose of God in (your) own generation.” One of the other participants asked Black “What do you hope for most?” He responded from 1 Thessalonians 4:16 beginning “For the Lord Himself will come...” “The world cannot bring that which I seek,” Black said.