United Methodist Beacon on Capitol Hill
The United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. is a Heritage Landmark and the only non-governmental building on Capitol Hill. For almost 100 years, this has been a space for the denomination to advocate for the values of United Methodists. That commitment continues today through the work of the Board of Church and Society.
The sign in front of the United Methodist Building in Washington, D.C. bears a strong witness in a prime location, next door to the Supreme Court and steps from the U.S. Capitol. This beacon on the Hill shines a light on the beliefs of a church grounded in peace and justice.
The Rev. William Bobby McClain: “Childcare, poverty, human sexuality. This is not something we just decided on. This is biblical. It’s strongly and staunchly and clearly the biblical teachings of Jesus.”
The Rev. William Bobby McClain is a retired preacher and professor who has seen the church come together here to make a stand on social issues.
The Rev. William Bobby McClain: “During the days of segregation black people and white people could meet together and eat together in a segregated Washington, the only place I know of in Washington that people could sit down at the same table and eat together.”
The Board of Church and Society is the only non-government building on the Hill.
In the 1960’s, civil rights leaders met here just steps away from the March on Washington. The landmark Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 was drafted around this conference table. And those protesting wars from Vietnam to Iraq have marched out front.
The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe: “It’s been Church and Society. It’s been the Board of Temperance. It has been the Board of World Peace. So it’s had different names.”
The Reverend Susan Henry-Crowe leads the agency, housed in this Heritage Landmark of The United Methodist Church.
Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe: “This building has been here since 1923. It preceded the Supreme Court.”
The Temperance Movement had gained momentum under the leadership of Methodists like Frances Willard and Clarence True Wilson. The idea was to move Prohibition efforts to the front line in the nation’s capitol. Construction cost 650,000 dollars. Seventy percent of the donations came from women in gifts as small as 15 cents.
The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe: “It was the vision of a lot of women and a lot of people who did not have a lot to contribute, but were so profoundly committed to the work that would be carried on here.”
Current advocacy on behalf of the church focuses on more than 30 social issues including affordable healthcare, immigration, climate change, and gun violence. United Methodists can gather here to participate in educational seminars on topics such as human trafficking and gender-based violence, and to make their voices heard by lawmakers.
The Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe: “Many shared commitments about the importance of faith in action come together here in this building.”
The Rev. William Bobby McClain: “Come and see who we are. Come and see what we can do. And come and see what you can do as a Methodist to help transform the world.”
For more information, contact www.umcjustice.org.
This video was first posted on August 24, 2017.