Editor's note: Last week, passionate, committed United Methodists gathered at the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., for team training led by the General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) on Addictions Prevention Advocacy. During the training, GBCS’s National Organizer for Addictions Prevention Advocacy, Dotti Groover-Skipper shared about the justice ministry of the agency and its impetus for changing public perspectives, public policy and public witness on the issues of addiction. The training was intended to energize participants to expand teams in their communities to tackle the critical issues of alcohol, tobacco, drugs and gambling addictions that affect the lives of so many individuals and families around the globe. The following is her witness.
In the fall of 2011, the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) initiated a project to expand its education and advocacy work. A team of organizers was hired to work with GBCS staff members during 2012 to increase the agency’s grassroots engagement of congregational and annual conference leaders. This engagement was to develop stronger, more active national networks around priority issue areas of GBCS, which is charged by The United Methodist Church’s highest policy-making body, General Conference, to provide forthright witness and action on issues of human well-being.
Grassroots organizers were hired to cover the following program areas:
- Addictions Prevention
- Conference Relations
- Criminal Justice
- Economic Justice
- Health Care
- Peace with Justice, and
- Women and Children
In addition, a communications consultant was added to the team to work with each organizer to develop communications strategies with local and annual conference leaders.
Each organizer and their staff partners were trained together on congregational organizing skills and strategies. Organizers conducted on-the-ground visits, coordinated training opportunities, supported local leaders in building teams in their congregations and annual conferences, and built national or regional networks of leaders.
Organizers … built national or regional networks of leaders.
As the National Organizer for Addiction Prevention Advocacy, I’ve worked with GBCS staff, particularly the Rev. Cynthia Abrams, director of Alcohol, Other Addictions & Health Care, to:
Develop and connect new relationships and resources to United Methodists on the issues of addiction prevention education, advocacy and targeted policy, through the following ways:
- Research, identify and contact key leaders in annual conferences, and
- Connect the current Drug & Alcohol Coordinators to each other.
- Revitalize, promote and strengthen the existing National Addictions Network;
- Plan, promote and host monthly National Addictions Conference Calls;
- Plan, promote and host State Team Calls geared toward grassroots advocacy and action;
- Prepare and facilitate training for Stephen Ministers on addiction;
- Partner with the National Assn. for Children of Alcoholics (NACoA) to help facilitate and organize United Methodist attendees for Clergy/Faith Leader Trainings on Addiction; and
- Connect with national experts in the addiction field.
Our overall goal has been to establish solid teams in The United Methodist Church focused on addiction-prevention advocacy and serve as liaisons for addiction public policy issues.
“Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, to all the people you can, as long as ever you can.”
Does this quote sound familiar?
John Wesley taught that people must be Christians in both word and deed.
John Wesley taught that people must be Christians in both word and deed. He preached about works of mercy, and he practiced what he preached. He went beyond reaching out through acts of mercy, he followed through to ensure justice for the people he served.
You see, John Wesley loved and helped the poor. He visited those in prison. He provided spiritual guidance, food and clothing to those in need. These were acts of mercy.
But, he carried it further and beyond: He stood up and spoke out against slavery and alcohol. He founded schools. He published books. He wrote about good health practices.
Wesley was a voice for the oppressed. I imagine he was a force to be reckoned with. He loved people where they were and came alongside them to bring resolve.
Desperate educational need
Recently, I attended a church in Florida. A woman approached me to say she was so thrilled to hear of the addiction work I was doing and how desperate this educational need was.
She told me that a few years ago she had sought out her pastor to tell him about her alcohol problem. This precious woman was turned away by her pastor, told to go get help, and come back when she was clean and sober. Her pastor offered no resources for help.
This is an outrage and totally unacceptable! Unfortunately, this scenario happens frequently — not because pastors are apathetic and uncaring — but perhaps they don’t know how to help.
We need to equip our pastors and congregations to understand and help those we love who suffer from the chains of addiction.
Addictions advocacy training
An important aspect of accomplishing this is the recent gathering of persons who responded to our addictions grassroots efforts. They gathered last week in our magnificent United Methodist Building, the only non-governmental building on Capitol Hill, for training in addictions advocacy.
We were in Washington, D.C., because of Methodists who pushed beyond acts of mercy and toward acts of justice that had an impact on alcohol policy. The United Methodist Building is a symbol of justice. It serves as a witness at the very center of government power to the church’s belief.
We stand on the shoulders of bold, courageous folks before us, who reached out with love and mercy, then spoke up to effect change through works of policy.
This is why we gathered: to become better equipped for the journey. The goal was for participants to go back to their congregations and build a team who will help bring about necessary, lasting change for those we love who suffer from addiction. We gathered to help others find freedom from the chains of addiction through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior.