Social Principles consultations begun

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) is accepting applications for persons to participate in consultations to consider a process about how to make the United Methodist Social Principles more succinct, theologically founded and globally relevant.

Social Principles book

Applications are still being accepted for the European consultation to be held in Prague, Czech Republic, Dec. 14-15, and the two in the United States, both next year in Washington, D.C., Jan. 16-17 and 23-24. Deadline to apply for the U.S. consultations is Dec. 15.

Eight consultations are planned: six in Central Conferences and two in the United States. Consultations in Africa in Democratic Republic of Congo and Mozambique have been completed, and the Philippines will be Nov. 14-15 in Tagatay.

The Rev. Neal Christie, GBCS assistant general secretary for Education & Leadership Formation, is spearheading the consultations. He said two GBCS staff members and two members of a task force approved by the agency’s Board of Directors are attending each consultation.

Tremendous participation

“We celebrate the tremendous participation in our recent consultations in Kinshasa and then in Maputo,” Christie said. “The diversity of articulate voices was most evident across region and nationality; incisive scholarship as well as effective congregational leadership informed participants' understanding and constructive dialogue around the application of specific Social Principles and the import of the document as a whole as a public prophetic witness in church and in society.”

This richness of discussion has been achieved because of the diversity of voices drawn to the consultations.

Christie said he expects the stories, ethical and theological reflection grappling with the application of the Social Principles will be equally as rich when the next consultation convenes in a few days in Tagaytay comprising people from the islands of the Philippines. He said this richness of discussion has been achieved because of the diversity of voices drawn to the consultations, and he hopes the European and U.S. events will be similarly representative of the denomination’s multi-ethnic membership.

A consultation for people in West Africa is still in the works for Abuja, Nigeria, but it is threatened by the Ebola crisis. A first consultation was held in Tagaytay, Philippines, during the Division on Young People Conference in July.

Preliminary step

The consultations are a preliminary step to develop a recommendation to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-setting body, to fund a process of six to eight public hearings across the connection. Those hearings will lead to a proposal to the 2020 General Conference to update the Social Principles to be more succinct, theologically founded and globally relevant.

The consultations are a preliminary step to develop a recommendation to the 2016 United Methodist General Conference.

The 2012 General Conference approved establishing a process to assess the Social Principles, which call all members of the denomination to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice. Their preface in the 2012 Book of Discipline, the United Methodist book of laws, states that the Social Principles are “a call to faithfulness, and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit.”

3 questions

Each consultation comprising about 20 persons lasts two days and focuses on three questions:

  1. What role do the current Social Principles play in enhancing the mission and ministry of The United Methodist Church?
  2. How much or how well have the current Social Principles served to empower mission and ministry in your geographical area?
  3. What might globally relevant Social Principles look like?

Application process

The consultations are being funded through the denomination’s World Service Contingency Fund. Participants will be selected from criteria representing the diversity of the United Methodist connection. Christie said experience and competencies in theology, ethics and practices that shape the mission and ministry of the Social Principles in a region will be important.

To apply to participate in these consultations, complete the application on the GBCS website: Consultation Application.

The General Board of Church & Society will cover costs for participant transportation, lodging and meals during the consultations.

Findings will be considered by GBCS’s Board of Directors in February 2015.

For more information

For more information about the consultations or the application process, contact Katie Monfortte (kmonfortte@umc-gbcs.org), (202) 488-5679, or the Rev. Neal Christie, (nchristie@umc-gbcs.org), (202) 488-5611.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards

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