FORT WORTH, Texas (UMNS) - New resolutions adopted by United Methodists touch on a variety of social justice issues, including a living wage, hate crimes and the use of torture.
The resolutions were among the consent calendar items approved by the denomination's General Conference during its April 23-May 2 legislative event at the Fort Worth Convention Center.
The impact of globalization is addressed in a resolution on "Global Living Wage," which calls upon "all members of the global United Methodist Church to work in partnership with persons, communities and governments everywhere around the world to bring about the creation of conditions that encompass fundamental workers' rights, fair wages, a safe and healthy workplace, reasonable hours of work, decent living standards, support for community infrastructure and commitment to community economic development."
The approved updating of the denomination's resolution on "Principles of Welfare Reform" calls on United Methodists to urge state and county governments "to create programs that assist current and former welfare recipients in making the transition from dependence onto economic health, including: training, public sector job creation, child care and resources for parenting."
Concerns about "The Girl Child" led to a petition advocating the church's active support "to the empowerment of girls in all aspects of life." The focus includes health, education, financial literacy and family environment.
A petition on "Grieving and Repenting from Acts of Hate and Violence" calls both for education and a variety of action steps, including taking strong nonviolent action in opposition to hate groups, promoting diversity dialogue and programs and encouraging victims of hate crimes to speak up.
Another petition on "Resisting Hate" calls for biblically-based resources for young people and adults addressing the historic and systemic roots of hate, along with resources "to help United Methodists analyze the language of hate among groups that use religious language to justify hatred and bigotry."
The denomination's annual conferences are asked to advocate for comprehensive state hate-crime laws, develop databases of information about local and state hate groups and create a task force to develop strategies "to address actions of the media that use or condone hate speech, stereotypes or racial profiling."
An adopted resolution on "The Abolition of Torture" requires The United Methodist Church "to publicly condemn and oppose torture wherever it occurs through legislative and other means." That includes advocating for the ratification of the Convention Against Torture, fully supporting the International Criminal Court and organizing or joining events such as the United Nations International Day to Remember the Victims of Torture on June 26.
Another resolution on "Opposition to Torture" states that the Geneva Conventions should be applied "to all enemy soldiers" and supports "the humane treatment with due process for all combatants held by both government and nongovernment forces anywhere in the world."
Church tackles difficult subject of abortion
The United Methodist Church will continue to "sit at the table" and retain its 35-year membership with the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice. In a May 2 vote of 416-384, the 2008 General Conference affirmed continued membership of the denomination's Board of Church and Society and the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries in the organization.
Justice for migrants
The United Methodist Church is urging justice for migrants worldwide and reform of U.S. immigration laws. Delegates adopted resolutions covering both global migration and immigration issues in the United States.
U.S. immigration. The U.S. domestic resolution calls for "full protection of all workers, which includes the opportunity to gain legal status for all migrants." It also urges U.S. lawmakers to ensure that immigrant laws do not rip apart families.
General Conference also added a new section on "Rights of Immigrants" to the denomination's Social Principles. It states in part, "We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, health care, education and freedom from social discrimination."
The resolution, "Welcoming the Migrant to the United States," was written to incorporate six other resolutions that currently appear in the church's Book of Resolutions.
A third resolution, proposed by Metodistas Associados Representando la Causa de Hispano-Americanos (MARCHA), addressed both U.S. immigration reform and the church's responsibility to ensure fair treatment to immigrants.
Global migration. The "Global Migration and the Quest for Justice" resolution stresses both the economic needs that contribute to massive movements of people today and the difficulties encountered by migrants.
The resolution commits the church to help all types of migrants and to engage in advocacy on their behalf. It urges investigation of the causes of displacement and marginalization and calls for the preparation of "educational resources for the achievement of these objectives."
Assembly approves $642 million budget
Following a declaration that "the budget defines who we are and what we believe" as the church, the General Conference approved a $642 million denominational spending plan for the next four years built around four areas of mission and ministry.
With minimal discussion, the delegates approved the budget by a vote of 750-28 and later approved the "apportionment formula" by which it is funded through money requested of the church's 63 U.S. annual conferences and their local congregations. Less than 2 percent of the money placed in local church offering plates goes to fund denominational ministries and administration.
Focusing the church's resources. The budget represents a 4.8 percent increase over the 2005-2008 spending plan of $612.5 million approved by the 2004 General Conference. The $642 million budget translates into a 1.2 percent increase over each of the next four years. Church finance leaders acknowledge this does not keep pace with projections for inflation, but say the amount is sufficient.
For the first time, the budget was developed on an outcome-based model shaped around the denomination's four areas of focus for the immediate future.