April 5, 2017

In 1860 our Free Methodist founder, Benjamin Titus Roberts, wrote in the April EARNEST CHRISTIAN that:

Open opposition to all wrong and injustice is another element of Scriptural righteousness. Many who will not do wrong themselves will countenance it, at least indirectly, in others. This is usually the first step in a loss of virtue. They who, for the sake of party interest, personal relationship, or any other cause, is silent when they should reprove, will soon apologize for, then justify, then approve, and, if occasion serves, perpetuate the wrong from which, at first, their moral sensibilities revolted. 

Often as we live our blessed lives due to Christ’s work in us, we can live in that blessing without speaking out against the injustice and wrong so prevalent in our day.  These convicting words, written 157 years ago, remind us that Christ calls  us to an active participation in bringing justice and mercy to our world.

Our 2015 Free Methodist Book of Discipline says it this way:

¶3221       Worth of Persons

We are committed to the worth of all humans regardless of gender, race, color, or any other distinctions (Acts 10:34-35) and will respect them as persons made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27) and redeemed by Christ’s death and resurrection.

The  Old  Testament  law  commands  such  respect  (Deuteronomy 5:11-21). Jesus summarized this law as love for God and neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). He ministered to all without distinction and His death on the cross was for all (John 3:16; Romans 5:8).

We are therefore pledged to active concern whenever human beings are demeaned, abused, depersonalized, enslaved or subjected to demonic forces in the world, whether by individuals or institutions (Galatians 3:28; Mark 2:27; 1 Timothy 1:8-10). We are committed to give meaning and significance to every person by God’s help. Remembering our tendency to be prejudicial, as Christians we must grow in awareness of the rights and needs of others.

Issues surrounding immigrants and refugees and modern slavery/ human trafficking* globally are complex. They require solutions that both serve the vulnerable and oppressed and also challenge individuals, organizations, and systems that create oppression and enslavement. These solutions include, but are not limited to: prayer, education, rescue, aftercare, proclamation, voting, protest, and an engaged discipleship that sees living justly as integral to spiritual and community formation.

As we minister to all immigrants and refugees, we do so with basic underlying convictions:

  1. We commit to the Biblical principle of caring for the foreigners among us regardless of racial or ethnic background, country of origin, or legal status.
  2. We commit to acting redemptively with love rather than fear, and to reach out to meet needs as we see them.
  3. We commit to identifying intolerance and working to end it, as well as ending any personal inclinations to refer to individuals in less than loving terms.
  4. Where there is a conflict, it is our duty to oppose all unjust and  harsh laws and to seek to change them.
  1. We commit to responding to this crisis in terms of the Great Commission, seeking to reach the lost whoever they may be; ministering to all, caring for all, and showing God’s grace to all people.

As we minister to all who are touched by modern slavery/human trafficking, we do so with basic underlying convictions:

  1. We commit to centering the work of setting captives free on Jesus our redeemer and his mission.
  2. We commit to working for holistic freedom; God desires for each person to experience the joy and hope of being free from physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual captivity.
  3. We commit to integrating the work of ending modern slavery/ human trafficking with both the orthodoxy and orthopraxy of the church.  Ending  modern  slavery/human  trafficking is integrally related to ending other injustices. Additionally, hopeful solutions for injustices are found in the community and character formation of people and institutions pursuing holiness.
  4. We commit to setting captives free within an atmosphere of worship and community, seeking partnerships with others while embracing lament, humility, prayer, and love.
  5. We commit to work towards the mobilization of all influencers within society, knowing that the church on mission with God is the greater change agent in society.

*For both local and global context; the terms modern slavery and human trafficking are used. Globally, the term human trafficking is more common. In the U.S., and among leading abolitionist organizations, the term modern slavery is widely used. The term human trafficking has a specific legal context, but within a church context the two terms are somewhat interchangeable. The term modern slavery is stronger for this resolution because of our historical context and because of the reality of the problem.