UMNS photo of The United Methodist Board of Church and Society’s decorated tent on the National Mall by Kathy L. Gilbert.

By Jim Winkler, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society

It’s been a significant couple of weeks recently on Capitol Hill, particularly around issues such as gun violence, immigration and discrimination, matters of long-standing concern to United Methodists.For any number of reasons, the tragic mass shooting of schoolchildren in Newtown, Conn., has sparked not only a major debate on gun violence but actual action as well as several important pieces of proposed legislation.

Call 1-877-897-0174. Let your elected officials know you want them to act.

Our denomination has not only been ministering directly to those affected by the many mass shootings that have taken place in recent years, we have been mobilizing for action. I serve as chair of Faiths United to Prevent Gun Violence, the broadest and deepest coalition of national denominations and faith groups dedicated to ensuring criminal background checks for purchasers of guns, making gun trafficking a federal crime, and keeping high capacity weapons and ammunition magazines off the streets.

Our denomination has a strong statement on gun violence. We’ve been at this for a long time and are now poised to turn the tide against the violence that dominates our culture, but it won’t happen unless a great many United Methodists contact their members of Congress and demand action. I encourage all United Methodists to participate in today’s Interfaith Call-in Day to Prevent Gun Violence. Call 1-877-897-0174. Let your elected officials know you want them to act.

Immigration reform

On immigration, there will be another effort this year to secure comprehensive reform. We have long felt there must be a pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants as well as a means to unify families who are split apart in their efforts to seek a better life.

My colleague, Bill Mefford, has helped organize “rapid response teams” dedicated to immigration reform in 42 annual conferences. He also works with a United Methodist interagency task force on immigration reform, and with the Interfaith Immigration Coalition. Our denomination’s statement on immigration begins with a clear, simple sentence, “As followers of Christ we are called to love the stranger in our midst because we were once strangers in a foreign land.” The biblical imperative for Christians to act on this issue is profound.

The Boy Scouts

Finally, the news arrived that the leaders of the Boy Scouts are proposing to make changes in their hitherto discriminatory policies against homosexuals. I welcome this news and pray the national council will move forward with the plan to permit local troops to set their own policies. While I would prefer for the Boy Scouts to state unequivocally that discrimination against homosexuals is forbidden — which is consistent with the stance of The United Methodist Church — would also note that if they make this change they will have moved further than our own denomination!

Some people feel that issues like gun violence, immigration and discrimination are simply political issues that have nothing to do with the church because they are not “spiritual” in nature. But real people are affected and the question is whether we are treating people as we wish to be treated. It would be antithetical to our faith to fail to act by remaining silent.

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