Members heard reports from the General Secretary Harriett Jane Olson and National President Shannon Priddy as well as on the Legacy Fund, Mission Giving, deaconess and home missioner community and the upcoming Assembly in May 2018 in Columbus, Ohio. The meeting started with a viewing and discussion of parts of the documentary 13th, a look at the U.S. prison system and how it reveals the country’s history of racial injustice.
In line with United Methodist Women’s historical work for racial justice, the program advisory group also spent time working on eliminating institutional racism. The panel focused on the topics of the school to prison pipeline, the criminalization of dissent, the criminalization of migrants, and the criminalization of Arab, Muslim and South Asian communities.
“Some examples of criminalization are stop and frisk, zero tolerance policies in schools, ‘quality of life’ policing, suspicionless surveillance of Muslims and mosques, mass detention and deportation of migrants, and targeting of whistleblowers, journalists and protesters,” said Janis Rosheuvel, United Methodist Women’s executive for racial justice.
Criminalization is the process of using the legal, social, political, media, economic, criminal justice and other systems to make the actions of an individual or an entire community illegal.
“Immigration policies are shaped more by fear and stereotypes than by evidence,” said Clara Ester, national vice president, who spoke on the criminalizing of immigrants. “Two simple but powerful truths are that immigrants are less likely to commit crimes than are native born, and high rates of immigration are associated with lower rates of violent and property crimes.” But these are not the messages we receive.
“Contact your legislators and hold the legislative system accountable. Use United Methodist Women resources,” Ester said. “Speak out on ending family detention. We must visit migrants in detention. Remember the Good Samaritan: If I do not stop to help this man, what will happen to him? That’s the question for us today.”
Policies of The United Methodist Church in line with this welcoming theology are the Charter for Racial Justice,
Resolution 3379: Stop Criminalization of Communities of Color in the U.S.,
Resolution 3422: Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the U.S.,
Resolution 3126: Prejudice Against Muslims and Arabs in the USA and
Resolution 6006: Our Muslim Neighbors.
“As Methodists, as women, there should be no equivocating,” said Rosheuvel. “Our mandates are extremely clear.”
The Program Advisory Group consists of the 25 members of the board of directors, the five United Methodist Women jurisdiction presidents, a representative from each conference not already represented on the board of directors, representatives from United Methodist agencies and the deaconess and home missioner community and, with voice but no vote, United Methodist Women regional missionaries and representatives of World Federation of Methodist and Uniting Church Women.
National President Shannon Priddy challenged group members to invite new women into United Methodist Leadership. She also challenged them to put their visions to action.
“Each one of us has chosen United Methodist Women, and no two reasons are the same,” said Priddy. “So, let’s go back to the basics. Let’s practice radical hospitality. Let’s invite women to join. It isn’t easy and it isn’t always comfortable. It takes time and it takes passion to build relationship and community. Let’s get started.”
In 2016, members increased their giving from 2015 by $79,000, for a total of $13,845,521.18. Money designated for Mission Giving was $12,098,221.72, with designated and supplemental giving totaling $1,747,299.46.
“We celebrate the giver, each gift to mission,” said Treasurer Martha Knight. “This is true each and every day.
“In this particular time, as those on the margins become more marginalized, the minds and hearts of United Methodist Women members are fully engaged,” Knight said.
Twenty-eight conferences met or exceeded their pledge, as did two jurisdictions.
“We are at an amazing time in United Methodist Women history and present,” said Priddy. “We have the opportunity to do more, to be more. We have this time to make United Methodist Women our United Methodist Women.
“If your dreams for United Methodist Women don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough.”
Tara Barnes is editor of response