May 9, 2005
|A Web-only image by Lateef Mangum
Mayor Anthony Williams speaks at the grand opening of a community center in D.C.
By Erik Alsgaard*
(UMNS)--A small delegation of United Methodist Church leaders met
privately with the Honorable Anthony Williams, mayor of Washington on
May 5 to discuss various opportunities and concerns.
The discussion ranged from gangs and youth violence to the name of the city’s football team.
Linda Lee of the Milwaukee Area, Beverly Shamana of the San Francisco
Area, and John R. Schol of the Washington Area, along with Jim Winkler,
chief executive of the United Methodist Board of Church and Society,
based in Washington, talked with the mayor.
Noting the city’s football team is the Washington Redskins, Shamana
said, “Our church has taken a strong position on sports team’s names
that denigrate Native Americans.” She told the mayor that the church has
passed a resolution encouraging denominational meetings not be held in
cities where team names reflect racist attitudes.
Bishop Beverly J. Shamana
She asked the mayor to make a public statement acknowledging the tensions that exist around such monikers.
a Democrat who is in his second term as mayor, said that the city
council has made statements that would support the church’s position, as
recently as last year. But, he admitted, the issue is not on the front
impact of budget cuts on urban areas was also discussed. “President
Bush talks about churches helping cities,” Schol noted, “when budgets
are cut. Where is the money going to come from?”
responded with two thoughts. He said that cities and urban areas need
both to spend their money more efficiently and to seek to find ways to
deliver services in partnership with private organizations, such as the
“I grew up in a faith-based family,” said the mayor. “I think there should be more partnerships with faith-based communities.”
he said, it’s not fair to expect faith-based organizations to take care
of everything. “Don’t cut the dollars (at the government level) and
then say that the faith-based communities will take care of it. They
Responding to Lee’s question as to what he saw as some of the critical
areas across the country where churches could make an impact, Williams
didn’t hesitate: gangs.
Bishop John Schol
a huge thing right now,” he said. “The kids aren’t hearing the right
message of self-discipline, and they also need to find a sense that
someone cares about them.”
Lee said that she recently downloaded some hip-hop music and noticed in the lyrics a definite cry for help.
Churches and faith-based organizations, the mayor said, can be helpful in providing alternatives to gangs.
asked Williams how churches can get the attention of mayors and city
officials across the country, regardless of how large the municipality.
public officials with more respect,” Williams replied. “We’re doing
important work, and we need your prayers, too. Don’t forget us. If
you’re not praying for your public officials, what does that say about
the church’s view of public officials?”
is managing editor of the UMConnection newspaper and co-director of
communications for the Baltimore-Washington Conference.