By Patrick Scriven

Last Saturday, several dozen United Methodists gathered at Federal Way United Methodist Church for a Social Principles Training Event. The training coincidentally occurred the morning after the United States, Great Britain, and France launched 105 missiles into Syria, an attack proposed as a deterrent to the Bashar al-Assad regime and its continued use of chemical weapons in the country’s civil war.

Rev. Dr. Clayton Childers gets assistance during the morning session from event organizer Ann Mayer. Photo by Patrick Scriven.

Of course the Social Principles have much to say regarding the use of the relationships of nation, military force, and the treatment of innocents in such conflict but they cover many other areas as well. The Rev. Dr. Clayton Childers, Conference Relations Director for the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), was in the Pacific Northwest Conference to offer this workshop, co-sponsored by our Conference Board of Church and Society, to help participants to understand what the Social Principles mean for them and their church.

This week, GBCS announced the availability of a draft version of new Social Principles to be brought before the 2020 General Conference. According to a press release, listening sessions which started in 2012 surfaced that the “Social Principles needed to be more theologically grounded, more globally relevant, and more succinct.” The 2016 General Conference tasked the agency with developing a revised version.

Childers will return to the Conference next month for a repeat of the training. It will be held on May 12 at Spokane Valley United Methodist Church. Click here for more information on this opportunity.

On Saturday morning at Federal Way, participants engaged in a broad conversation about the nature of justice. How does one balance and consider concepts like rights, access, needs and privilege. Quoting a 14-year old, Childers offered that “Justice is making the world look the way Jesus would like it to look.” The work is not easy, but it is fundamentally related to how we understand our faith.

Childers introduced the group to a quadrant he uses to visualize the intersections and distinctions between mercy/charity and justice work, and each offered generally or personally. “Churches tend to be focused on mercy ministries,” he said, “there is nothing wrong with that but justice work is needed as well.”

Participants engage the Social Principle drafts in small groups. Photos by Ann Mayer.

Participants were also encouraged to share personal stories of faith, further grounding the conversations about what justice looks like in people’s personal experiences of God and of those who had helped to shape them as disciples of Jesus.

With the morning providing a foundation and common language, the afternoon was spent engaging with the Social Principals and the newly released draft version. Participants took a close look at the revised sections. Feedback was collected to inform the GBCS’ continued work on these drafts as they perfect them for consideration in 2020.

If you were unable to attend this event, or are similarly unavailable for the event on May 12th at Spokane Valley UMC, you can review and offer feedback on the current draft of the revised Social Principles using an online mechanism offered by GBCS.

Patrick Scriven serves as Director of Communications and Young People’s Ministries for the Pacific Northwest Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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