Two Arkansas Annual Conference clergy members recently had the opportunity to attend the General Board of Church and Society’s Young Adult Clergy Leadership Forum in Washington, D.C.
The Rev. Lauren DeLano, Conway First UMC, and the Rev. Jennie Williams, Highland Valley UMC, joined a group of 50 young clergy from around the world in a forum that helped connect clergy with the mission of GBCS and provide a gathering to share knowledge and experience across Conferences.
“We were with young UMC clergy from all over the world,” Williams said. “GBCS is the advocacy arm of the UMC and this forum gave us facts and tools for how to be pastoral and prophetic as we think about advocacy and activism.”
The forum, which took place Jan. 27 – 30 on Capitol Hill, hosted speakers from inside and outside the United Methodist Church, including author and activist Shane Claiborne, Director of Communications for the Council of Bishops Maidstone Mulenga, and U.S. Senate Chaplain the Rev. Brian Black.
“As we talked about the opportunities for advocacy and solidarity with those in need, I was able to reflect on the ways my local congregation cares for those in our community,” DeLano said. “And the ways we can continue to grow as we not only serve those in our community but intentionally come alongside them as they offer us resources and gifts, too.”
One of the topics of the forum was gun violence prevention. The clergy heard stories of gun violence from laity, gun violence prevention organizers and clergy. The group was then asked to “put faith into action” and were encouraged to visit the Senate Building on Capitol Hill and meet with U.S. Senators about gun violence prevention.
Williams and DeLano were able to meet with U.S. Senator John Boozman’s (R-AR) legislative assistant and said the experience allowed them to have an open dialogue about how their faith informs their views on advocacy.
“As we had this conversation, I learned that being politically engaged doesn’t mean needing to have all the answers or to be an expert on a topic, it just requires the courage to have conversation, knowing that we might not all agree or change minds, but can seek to understand people of different viewpoints a little more fully,” DeLano said.
The General Board of Church and Society is the advocacy arm of the United Methodist Church. Its headquarters is located in Washington, D.C., in the historic United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill.
According to the 2016 Book of Discipline, the GBCS’s purpose is to “seek to bring the whole of human life, activities, possessions, use of resources, and community and world relationships into conformity with the will of God. It shall show the members of the Church and the society that the reconciliation that God effected through Christ involves personal, social, and civic righteousness.” (¶ 1002)
DeLano said the forum encouraged her to think deeply about her own experiences engaging in her local community, including her state legislature and others that who are justice-minded.
She also felt a conviction to be more courageous in her faith in places that are outside the walls of the church.
“Building relationships and knowing our communities is the basis of much of the work GBCS does. It is also what Christ calls us to, as we trust in him; to be faithful is to move beyond our comfort zones, the boundaries we set for ourselves, and the ideas and expectations we have of who Jesus is and who Jesus is for.”
For more info on the General Board of Church and Society and their mission, visit https://www.umcjustice.org/.