LAKE JUNALUSKA, N.C. — The directors of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) were encouraged to pursue “the higher common good” as they prepared to organize themselves into work areas and set missional priorities for the next four years.
Bishop Lawrence McCleskey, representing the United Methodist Council of Bishops, issued that call to the 63-member board during a worship service that inaugurated the organizational meeting here Sept. 13-16 at Lake Junaluska Conference & Retreat Center.
“When we divide ourselves into camps of 'us' verses 'them' we cease to be good," the bishop said. He went on to encourage directors and GBCS staff to move beyond self-interests and embrace a paradigm of leadership as an act of stewardship.
Hoshibata elected president
Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Desert Southwest Conference was elected president of the Board of Directors. Hoshibata succeeds Bishop Deborah Kiesey. He will be serving his second four-year term on the board.
Bishop Robert Hoshibata of the Desert Southwest Conference was elected president of the Board of Directors.
Dr. Clarenda Phillips of Kentucky was elected Vice President.
Chairs of work areas were also elected at the organizational meeting. They are:
- Alcohol, Other Addictions and Healthcare. Dr. Randall Miller (California-Nevada),
- Economic & Environmental Justice. The Rev. Molly Vetter (California-Pacific),
- Human Welfare. Kurt Karandy (Upper New York), and
- Peace with Justice/United Nations & International Affairs. The Rev. Chris Pierson (Northern Illinois)
Winkler elected for another year
The directors reelected Jim Winkler to be General Secretary (chief executive) for another year. He has served as the agency’s chief executive officer since 2000.
Directors discussed renewing GBCS’s commitment to incarnational ministry through a continued focus on grassroots community organizing.
In addition to the organizational elections, directors discussed renewing GBCS’s commitment to incarnational ministry through a continued focus on grassroots community organizing.
A team of grassroots organizers was assembled by GBCS at the beginning this year to lead a year-long initiative to empower local United Methodist congregations to address social justice issues. The new team has worked to build local networks within the denomination on specific issues, such as unjust criminal justice, immigration reform, health-care systems and worker’s rights.
Through these networks, local advocates continue to connect with like-minded United Methodists across the country to collaborate and share resources.
Directors passed a motion to evaluate the work of the organizers following this year. Trustees are to review the evaluation and initiate further conversations at the spring 2013 board meeting to discuss a sustained grassroots program. Directors also approved an Executive Committee proposal to host the next two board meetings in Washington, D.C., where GBCS is located.
Part of the new creation
In reporting to the directors after his reelection, Winkler reminded that the board’s task is to “confront and unmask and unmake those systems that wreak havoc and misery upon the planet.” The board does this, Winkler reminded, not on its own accord, but because “we follow the Prince of Peace.”
Winkler conceded that the work of GBCS experiences different levels of appreciation among United Methodists. There are those who cite the United Methodist Social Principles and the denomination’s willingness to stand for the least of these as their reason for joining the church, according to him. And he conceded, there are those who believe the church’s controversial stands drive people away.
In the midst of this tension, Winkler encouraged directors to focus on being a people of action who live as part of God’s new creation.
“Let us be among those who seek to make things happen,” Winkler urged. “The central challenge facing us today is the same one that has faced Christians everywhere and always: How to make our faith real and thereby transform the world. If anyone is in Christ, St. Paul says, they are a new Creation.”
Winkler assured directors that the staff of GBCS, as followers of Christ, will continue to work alongside the board to seek the implementation of the Social Principles and other statements on Christian social concerns adopted by The United Methodist Church.
Make our words count
At the closing worship service, Bishop Hoshibata encouraged the directors to make their words count. Directors will explore “The Word” as a worship theme throughout the four years of their term. The organizational meeting focused on what The Word has to say about use of words.
“Sometimes our words can get in the way of our hearing and understanding of each other and God,” said Hoshibata as he reflected on James 3:1-13. The bishop assured directors that there would be many opportunities for them to speak as they receive both praise and criticism over the next four years as they serve on the board.
Hoshibata encouraged directors to be quick to listen and slow to speak. “Our words are empty if not connected to something positive and good that we do,” he advised.
The bishop closed with a quote from philosopher and children’s author Dr. Seuss to help remember that every person is of equal worth in the Kingdom of God: “To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world.”
GBCS is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.