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United Methodist Men work to eradicate domestic violence

3/18/2003 News media contact: Kathy Gilbert (615) 742-5470 Nashville, Tenn.

By J. Richard Peck*

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS) - The National Association of Conference Presidents of United Methodist Men has committed to the "eradication of domestic violence within society, especially where it exists within United Methodist churches."

The association also "desires to join with the United Methodist Women in a joint effort to accomplish this goal."

The action followed a workshop for the men's group led by Peggy Halsey, a staff member of the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries, during their meeting March 5-9 in Nashville.

"Why is domestic violence considered a woman's issue when it involves the whole family?" Halsey asked.

Halsey reported that 31 percent of U.S. women say they have been physically or sexually assaulted by a boyfriend or a husband, and the statistics are not a lot better within the church. A 1992 survey found that 15 to 20 percent of United Methodist women report such abuse. Halsey said it is critical for men to be involved in the struggle.

Tracing the history of actions regarding domestic violence within the United Methodist Church, the veteran church executive said that in 1980 everyone agreed domestic violence was an issue that needed to be addressed, but most believed that such abuse was "out there" and not within the church. Surveys in 1982 and 1992 found that battering occurred only slightly less frequently within the denomination.

In order to be allies in the fight against domestic violence, men must:
· Listen to women and believe them.
· Understand that women know that all men are not batterers.
· Understand that even men in high positions can be abusers.
· Challenge the attitudes and behavior of other men.

Following the workshop, the conference presidents committed to join with the United Methodist Women to accomplish this goal. The group encouraged staff executives of the Commission on United Methodist Men to initiate contacts with leaders of the Women's Division of the Board of Global Ministries to begin this action.

Joyce Sohl, top staff executive of the Women's Division, said she has not yet received notification of the action, but she will discuss next steps with the Rev. Joe Harris, top executive of the men's commission, when she does.

In other action, United Methodist Men learned that:

· Harris has been elected as the first president of the recently formed World Fellowship of Methodist and Uniting Church Men.

· The United Methodist Church leads all denominations in sponsoring scouting units. The church sponsors 12,200 Boy Scout units for 408,000 boys and 15,000 Girl Scout troops for 108,000 girls. The number of Venture Crews sponsored by United Methodist churches increased from 600 to 1,200 in five years.

· The commission has sent 25,000 copies of Strength for Service to God and Country, a revised book of daily devotions first sent to members of the armed forces in World War II, to U.S. service men and women stationed around the world. Bishop Felton May of the Baltimore-Washington Area presented a copy of the book to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.

· Through joint efforts with the Society of Saint Andrew in 2002, the men gleaned or recovered 901,575 pounds of produce valued at $300,000 at 174 events. The food was delivered to hunger relief agencies across America. The commission and the society have established 18 annual (regional) conference hunger relief advocates. In 2002, the men also raised $257,000 for Meals for Millions.

· There will be six regional men's conferences on "Sons of the Father," led by the Revs. Jimmy and Chris Buskirk.

· The commission pays telephone costs for the Upper Room Prayer Line, and a 60-second public service announcement will be sent to radio stations about the prayer line.

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*Peck is communications director for the Commission on United Methodist Men in Nashville, Tenn.

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