This study guide accompanied the "By Faith..." message delivered at Oak Lawn 4-22-2012.
What first comes to mind when you hear the words, “political” or “politics”? What connotations are there for you?
The word “politics” comes from the Greek word polis, or city. It refers to groupings of people. Anywhere folk gather together is, therefore, political by its nature: the country club, a Rangers game, a city council meeting. Yes, even churches are political entities. In fact, the word religion is derived from the same word for ligament—a connection. So when people say, “The church is too political,” or “The church should stay out of politics,” what are they saying?
What are the benefits—as well as the risks—of the church having a voice in the political arena? Should Christians be silent when it comes to their faith, or does being a person of faith obligate us to express ourselves?
Since 2010, more and more people want the church out of public life: even 40% of those who self identify as conservative Republicans want churches to refrain from joining the conversation (30% in 2004). Why the change?
More and more people under the age of 30 are self-identifying as “Nones,” those who profess or follow no particular religious expression—this increased from 12% in the 1990s to 19% last year. How is this trend impacting our political actions and discourse? How should persons of faith respond?
The United Methodist Church has a long history of concern for social justice. Its members have often taken forthright positions on controversial issues involving Christian principles. Early Methodists expressed their opposition to the slave trade, to smuggling, and to the cruel treatment of prisoners.
A social creed was adopted by The Methodist Episcopal Church (North) in 1908. Within the next decade similar statements were adopted by The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, and by The Methodist Protestant Church. The Evangelical United Brethren Church adopted a statement of social principles in 1946 at the time of the uniting of the United Brethren and The Evangelical Church. In 1972, four years after the uniting in 1968 of The Methodist Church and The Evangelical United Brethren Church, the General Conference of The United Methodist Church adopted a new statement of Social Principles, which was revised in 1976 (and by each successive General Conference).
The Social Principles are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world from a sound biblical and theological foundation as historically demonstrated in United Methodist traditions. They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit; however, they are not church law. The Social Principles are a call to all members of The United Methodist Church to a prayerful, studied dialogue of faith and practice.
For more information on our Social Principles, and to read them in full, visit www.umc.org.