Note: This article is the first in a bimonthly series by the Economic Inequality Task Force of the DSC Board of Church & Society. The mission/purpose of the task force is to transform the social structures that cause economic inequality through Scriptures, education, imagination, and action.
The objectives of the series of articles are:
- To encourage the formation of new Church & Society Ministry Teams in local churches.
- To assist emerging and existing Church & Society Ministry Teams in their work, particularly with the issue of economic inequality.
By Dan Sagramoso
The mission of The United Methodist Church is “to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (BOD, 2016). This definition of the church’s work helps us see that our faith is not just about us, it’s about making a positive difference in a troubled world.
Jesus, as seen in the Gospels, is our model for this approach. Jesus often said, “The kingdom of heaven is like” (Matthew 13:31, 33, 44, 45, 47, 52, 20:1). Over and over Jesus began his teaching with this phrase to paint a picture of a preferred future and to invite people to join in the task of making it happen. Now, how do we make that kingdom a reality right now, right here, “on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10)?
What does social justice mean?
To United Methodists, Micah 6:8 is a guiding principle:
“What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”
While missions (charity or mercy) tend to focus on immediate recognizable needs and short-term answers to long-term problems, justice focuses on long-term change. While charity is often reactive, justice is proactive; it goes upstream to address the cause of issues. Going upstream requires a willingness to challenge what Paul referred to as the powers and principalities of this world. But those powers and principalities have instilled within all of us a grave concern that going upstream is downright futile if not disloyal or even unfaithful.
Mercy depends on benevolence. But justice has to do with fairness and with what people deserve. Mercy can be withdrawn from those to whom we offer it whenever we choose. But justice results from social structures that guarantee human dignity, moral rights, and stewardship of God’s creation. Mercy can preoccupy our time and talents to the point that we are too weary even to imagine a world of justice.
How does the local United Methodist Church engage in social justice issues?
The church engages with the world through advocacy. An advocate is “one who pleads the cause of another” (Merriam-Webster, 2017). We, as Christians, are called to let our voices be heard, to speak up, to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves” (UMBOW, 2016). The local church builds a ministry of Advocacy that we call Church and Society.
- Find out more about the General Board of Church and Society at https://www.umcjustice.org
- M. (1997). The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments: New Revised Standard version (13th ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: World Pub.
- Advocate. (n.d.). Retrieved July 11, 2017, from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/advocate
- “The Services of the Baptismal Covenant of The United Methodist Church as Revised to Align with the 2016 Book of Discipline and Book of Resolutions,” Copyright © 2016, The United Methodist Publishing House.