JUSTICE ADVOCACY PASTORAL PRIMER
The work of a pastor is complex and multilayered. From the care of individual Christians, to the care of a congregation, to the care of a community, pastors are responsible not only to assist people in their own spiritual growth but to assist individuals, congregations and communities to pursue justice. Speaking on behalf of God the prophet Micah states: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).
Knowing how to act justly and to love mercy, Superintendents Michael Traylor and Mark Adams have written a primer for our pastors. They define their purpose as:
“This primer seeks to provide brief guidelines for pastors and church leaders who seek to proclaim biblical truth, represent the needs of their congregation and community, becoming fully engaged as salt and light on earth while grasping the great truth that our citizenship is in heaven and our allegiance first and foremost to the Lord Jesus Christ. In this primer you will find a brief framework in which to 1) understand advocacy in a contentious time, 2) view various legitimate but often competing moral advocacy views, 3) remember the Free Methodist story of advocacy and action borne of a passion to be more like Jesus, and 4) specific guidelines for advocacy that will keep you in the fight but above water, undergirded by the victory of Jesus Christ.”
They further explain:
“Free Methodists operate in a connection of congregations that is ethnically, linguistically, culturally and economically diverse. While Christ unites us all, massive bridges are still required to be crossed in terms of developing understanding among people groups. Add to these divides the polarized nature of our political debates in and out of church and the chasm seems to grow wider still. So much of this divide flows not from real value differences but from indiscriminate use of volatile and imprecise terms that carry more cultural baggage than ideological truth.
Let’s bridge the divide and understand our calling from God to be salt and light in the world, touching upon difficult issues with Christ as our unifying power. We will do so by understanding a basis for advocacy seen through the lens of our Free Methodist heritage, and discover several key principles to guide our conversation, preaching, advocacy and action in a politically divisive world.”
“According to Theologian and Historian, Howard Snyder, a review of B.T. Robert’s politics should influence contemporary Free Methodists in five ways:
- Christian discipleship includes civic responsibility. It is important to inform ourselves of the candidates and the issues.
- Christians should not be aligned, affiliated, or uncritically devoted to any political organization.
- The Role of government to protect its citizens against economic exploitation by corporations is very important.
- Christians should look at political issues through the lens of what helps the most vulnerable and poor.
- Christians should develop an ethos grounded in the Kingdom of God over any common political interests of our time, including economic prosperity, patriotism, or national security.”
“The Freedoms on which the Free Methodist church was founded upon are largely influenced by social justice.
Freedom in Worship: Worship is a political discipline in that it radically declares the Lordship and Kingship of Jesus Christ. Worship declares an end to every philosophy or ideology that seeks to dominate and control our imaginations and our activities over and against God. The Free Methodist Church was founded on encouraging true worship and allowing worship to be the paradigm through which all activism flows.
Freedom against Slavery: The concept of ownership of another made in the image of God is an affront to God, even if lawful in a nation, and despite it being mentioned in the Scriptures (slavery in first century Palestine was significantly different that Chattel Slavery in the US and Europe). The conviction that Christ is calling His Church to see and honor the image of God within creation compelled early Free Methodists to stand against slavery, racism, sexism, and every identifiable means of dehumanization, including worker exploitation. Free Methodists today are free to stand with and for the dehumanized, disadvantaged, and the exploited.
Freedom for Everyone to be fully involved in ministry: The early Free Methodists took inclusiveness very seriously. Empowering laity, women, and people of color at all levels of the local church was radical at that time, and unfortunately, is still radical in many American churches. Liberation for people everywhere to participate in the mission of Christ according to gifting and calling releases churches to be the Church. This freedom frames church activism to speak out against discrimination and demonstrate inclusiveness in its own polity….”
To read the entire document click here.