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Advocacy agency sends Messages to Congress

Courtesy photo.
Courtesy photo.
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United Methodists are sending more messages to Congress this year through the General Board of Church and Society.

The denomination’s social justice agency has supported a substantial increase in advocacy efforts by United Methodists in 2021, even as most staff worked remotely during the pandemic.

Your support of the World Service Fund apportionment supports program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church.

During the virtual fall board meeting, directors of the General Board of Church and Society learned of a 370% increase in United Methodist engagement with decision makers since the inauguration of a new Administration and Congress last January.

That translates to more than 5,400 messages sent to 440 congressional offices and the White House through the Church and Society website. Staff members also have conducted 32 congressional visits and 18 visits with the Biden Administration.

Top areas of concern included voting rights, climate action, immigrants and refugees, the Israel/Palestine conflict, women’s healthcare and human rights for Native Americans.

In her report, the Rev. Susan Henry-Crowe, general secretary, noted that the agency’s programming and operations were informed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the attending social inequities that were exposed during the pandemic.

“Peace, poverty, health, climate and migration and immigration through a racial equity lens continued to be our focus,” she told the directors.

Topics that served as major markers of the agency’s work in 2021 include human rights violations in the Philippines, historical injustices in the U.S. against people of color, global climate change action and global aid for vaccine access.

A webinar series, “Reparations: Remembering, Repairing and Reimagining,” featured experts who discussed examples of reparations in the U.S., the history of slavery and the biblical theological framework for understanding a call for reparations. Some 2,900 viewers registered, with up to 500 participants in attendance at each of the three sessions.

The General Board of Church and Society also supported advocacy for a pathway to citizenship by offering the United Methodist Building as a canvas for portraits of individuals created by the Inside Out Project. “It goes away when it rains and there’s no harm done to the building but it’s really a fun project,” Henry-Crowe said.

Plans are in the works for a new IT system in the United Methodist Building, she reported. The building itself is open but the staff continues to work remotely for now and public spaces have remained closed during the pandemic. Henry-Crowe said she hopes to reopen the public spaces early in 2022. The security system has been adjusted to include a sign-in system through an iPad so the staff will know who is in the building, both for security and contact tracing purposes.

During the meeting, Church and Society directors approved an operating budget of $5,822,509 for 2022, which includes a 3% pay increase and 1% bonus for staff. The budget is based on a 65 percent payout from World Service funds.

excerpt from a story by Linda Bloom, interim communications director, General Board of Church and Society

The World Service Fund provides basic financial support to program-related general agencies, which are especially important to the common vision, mission, and ministry of The United Methodist Church. Through World Service funding, agencies support annual conferences and local congregations in living out God’s mission for the worldwide Church. General agencies also provide essential services and ministries beyond the scope of individual local congregations and annual conferences through services and ministries that are highly focused, flexible, and capable of rapid response.