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reflections from d.c.

Have you ever struggled with finding your purpose in life? Ever wondered if anyone listens to you? If you are making a difference? Or what about the opposite concern: You are passionate about something, a specific cause or issue, but have nowhere to express yourself? Many of us find ourselves in one or all of those situations again and again. I know I have.
Recently I was privileged to be a part of a group of eighty-four pastors from all across the United States, plus Norway and the Philippines, that convened at the United Methodist Building in Washington D.C. The General Board of Church and Society invited us for an insider’s tour into their work on behalf of eight million United Methodists. I was stunned to learn that the United Methodist Building is literally right next door to the Supreme Court Building and right across the street from the Capitol. As one unidentified bishop was remembered to say, “The Supreme Court is the voice of the law, Congress is the voice of the people, you [the GBCS], are the voice of the prophets.”
General Conference mandates the General Board of Church and Society to implement our Social Principles. Divided into six distinct categories, the Social Principles, since their first edition in 1908, declare what the United Methodist Church says. For example, the United Methodist connection holds a very strong stance against gambling. One significant issue at hand today is Internet gambling, which is a powerful temptation for many children. They use their parent’s credit card to gamble and run up thousands of dollars of debt. Regulation on the Internet is virtually impossible, and any effort to make Internet gambling illegal would face the wrath of the powerful gaming lobby. A possible solution? A bill in the Congress right now that would allow credit card companies to withhold payment to these offshore companies when the money is attributed to a minor. We had a meeting with Senator John Kyl (R-Az.), who has been at the forefront of this debate for years. And the strongest religious voice against Internet gambling is the United Methodist Church.
Many people, most of whom have little idea about the work of GBCS, believe the United Methodist Building should be closed down: “What about separation of church and state? They have no business there in the first place!” That attitude seems to ignore the biblical witness of advocacy. God time and time again sent prophets to “speak truth to power.” How would God’s story read if Moses was never sent to Pharaoh? What if Jeremiah had not been sent to Zedekiah? The United Methodist Building is the only spiritual presence on Capitol Hill which works directly with Congress on issues of peace and justice. And I know first-hand how much members of Congress appreciate that voice. Time and time again members of the Board meet with representatives to express the Church’s view. I am very proud to have that presence.
You can learn much more about GBCS and the Social Principles by visiting
www.umpower.org (pronounced “You Empower!”). There you can read action alerts, learn who your representatives are and how to contact them, read articles from a variety of perspectives on various issues, or sign up for a workshop for your youth group to learn about a certain issue. I urge everyone to learn the Social Principles and teach them.
Working with the General Board of Church and Society last week was a great joy for me, and I am grateful to the North Texas Conference for sending me. If you are searching for purpose, or know yours but feel frustrated because you do not know how to express it, GBCS and the Social Principles can help.

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