By Keri Cress
In mid September I had the opportunity to make my way to our nation’s capital to attend a Leadership Training with the General Board Church and Society at the United Methodist Building, which is located at the heart of Washington DC, right on Capitol Hill. It is only the non-governmental building there, standing witness as our elected leaders pass by, moving to and from making decisions that have both small and profound effects on our daily lives and the quality of those lives, sometimes determining whether or not people have access to the very basic necessities of life. At a time when much of the American church wrestles with the place of politics in faith, we were reminded that while how we organize ourselves as a society might involve political parties, the outcomes affect all of us, including the neighbors we are called to love.
Our United Methodist Social Principles guide us into a deeper love of God and neighbor. Looking together at the human picture of what the numbers of our nation’s budget mean for people’s lived realities, it became clear that deep love of neighbor requires something from us. It calls us to justice, more than proclaiming beautiful words in our scripture, hymns, or in our liturgy, deep love calls us to action, to the action of pursuing justice. Justice for all of our neighbors, a justice that is beyond punishment and rewards, it is the kind of justice called upon by the prophets. The kind that liberates the oppressed and allows for greater access to the abundant living Jesus came proclaiming.
Church and Society and Peace with Justice Coordinators from across the United Methodist connection gathered over the three days of training sessions and we revisited our Social Principles in very tangible ways. We were reminded that our call to disciple making is “for the transformation of the world.” We were encouraged to find our own personal connection to the many areas of justice and advocacy including the five priorities of health, poverty, climate, peace, and civil and human rights. We were further encouraged to think about how we could make deep and meaningful connections with others over these very human issues so that together we could do something about it, something transformational.
As we looked at all the work there is to be done in love and solidarity for our neighbors our attention shifted to some concrete action steps. We prepared for meetings with our senators and representatives. I had the opportunity to meet with a representative from Senator Bill Haggerty’s office. I shared my experience with work towards gun reform, our TWK resolution on gun reform, and asked for our Senator representing Tennessee to look for the common ground many of his constituents have been able to find so that our state could be a safer place. While I have had no further comment from the Senator’s office, the statistics demonstrate that contact with our legislators, specifically in person visits, have the potential for the largest impact.
I am grateful for our United Methodist connection. It was encouraging to hear the stories of the United Methodist Church at work across our country. The work of justice and advocacy is really the work of deeply loving people well in the midst of a complex world. I came back with many General Board of Church and Society Resources I am excited to share with our conference as we continue the work of loving our neighbors through ministries of justice and advocacy.