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Latino United Methodists learn value of Social Principles

11/13/2003 News media contact: Linda Green · (615) 742-5470 · Nashville, Tenn

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United Methodist Latino leaders attend an Oct. 31-Nov 2 training event on the Social Principles to learn practical methods of teaching the Social Principles in their local ministry settings. UMNS photo by Ron Whitlatch, Photo number 03-471, Accompanies UMNS #552, 11/13/03
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (UMNS)--"We acknowledge our complete dependence upon God, in birth, in life, in death and in life eternal. Secure in God's love, we affirm the goodness of life and confess our many sins against God's will for us as we find it in Jesus Christ."

No, the words are not part of some pledge or oath to join an organization. The words are a part of the preamble to the Social Principles, "a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world."

Many United Methodists are not aware of their denomination's beliefs nor of the church's legacy of advocacy, said the Rev. Clayton Childers, staff member of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS). Increasing that awareness is the reason that a group of Hispanic ministry leaders came to Washington, D.C. for the first ever Social Principles training event for United Methodist Latino leaders.

"Faithfully Engaging the World" brought 44 Latinos to the United Methodist Building Oct. 31-Nov. 2 to meet with GBCS staff and for an "opportunity to come together and discuss the church's Social Principles and learn practical, experiential methods of teaching the Social Principles in local ministry settings," Childers said.

The training provided the Rev. Tim Espinoza with the opportunity to learn about the commitment of the denomination to human rights.

"I was surprised at the extent to which the United Methodist Church is involved in worldwide to human rights," said Espinoza, pastor of Fuente de Vida United Methodist Church, Oklahoma City.

"The church is a constant voice of justice," he said. "I was surprised at this and happy to learn about the level of commitment the church has."

As GBCS director of annual conference relations, Childers said it is unfortunate that many United Methodist leaders are not well versed in the Social Principles and "many are unaware of our rich history of prophetic advocacy and action in the public square."

While numerous members are aware of what the church teaches about societal issues, Childers said just as many are hesitant to talk about those issues in church.

"There are ways the Social Principles can be discussed respectfully, and without division," he said, knowing that everyone is not going to agree with every point. Referring to the document's preface, he said, "The principles," he said, "exist to lead United Methodists into 'prayerful studied dialogue and faith of practice.'"

He noted that the Social Principles could draw United Methodists together, challenge them and lead them to take actions that faithfully engage the world.

"The Social Principles are important," said Thelma Flores, a doctoral student at United Methodist-related Drew University, Madison, N.J. "There needs to be greater awareness of what we as United Methodist believe," she said.

Flores, a member of the Emanu-El United Methodist Church, Dallas, said the opportunity to meet with the GBCS members and to attend the training event on the Social Principles was empowering for her as a member of the Rio Grande Annual (regional) Conference. She said the event enabled her to "gain whatever knowledge I could and bring it back to the Rio Grande."

The benefit of such a training event was in the meeting of Latino ministry leaders from across the United Methodist Church who have an interest in the Social Principles, Flores said. "I also appreciated the fact that they brought John Wesley into the event, tying us back to the roots of who are and what we believe."

The training event also enabled the participants to put a human face on societial issues and to gain familiarity with the scope of the GBCS work. The participants also heard from one another about community advocacy needs, priorities and passions and to brainstorm about the ways the board can effectively support Latino ministry.

*The Social Principles may be found on pages 95-121 of the 2000 Book of Discipline of the United Methodist Church

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