Panel Looks at Use of Social Principles

7/27/2021



Joyce Davis, the new coordinator of United Methodist Advocacy in Pennsylvania, has launched a webinar series to help United Methodists learn about the denomination's Social Principles, which form the basis of much of its Christian witness on contemporary issues. 

The video above is an edited recording of the first webinar in the series Understanding the Social Principles. Held on July 22, the discussion focused on how the Social Principles were developed and how they can be used by clergy and groups within the church. Davis served as moderator for the session which included four panelists:

  • The Rev. Dr. Liberato Bautista, assistant general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society (GBCS)
  • The Rev. Dr. Kathy Kind, pastor of Camp Hill UMC and member of the GBCS Board
  • Pastor Paul McReynolds pastor of Albright Bethune UMC
  • Linda Thayer, president of the Western PA Conference United Methodist Women
"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," Bautista said. As such, their development reflects the Wesleyan quadrilateral: scripture, reason, experience, and tradition. 

Kind pointed out that while the Social Principles are in the front of the Book of Discipline, they are not church law. "We have room to agree and we have room to disagree, but we stay in the conversation," she said. 

Thayer said the Social Principles have been used to generate discussion among UMW leaders, who may not agree on specific issues, but seek to understand other points of view and cultures.  They also provide a basis for advocacy by the UMW, as well as other groups and individuals across the denomination seeking address relevant issues in society. 

McReynolds said while he has not taught the Social Principles in his church, but they are a resource that he and other pastors can use and refer to when preaching or discussing current events and issues.  

Since its founding, The United Methodist Church has spoken to the issues of the day as an expression of the Wesleyan commitment to social holiness.

In 2012, the General Conference asked Church and Society to research how the Social Principles are used throughout the denomination. Drawing from that research, the 2016 General Conference called on GBCS to rewrite them, creating a version that is more deeply theologically rooted, more succinct and more globally relevant. 

Nearly 100 people from across the denomination served on the Social Principles Task Force, writing teams and an editorial team. Each person brought unique and diverse perspectives. Members of the writing teams were selected to ensure geographic, theological, political, and life experience diversity. Once drafted, listening sessions were held in annual conferences, theological schools and regional gatherings throughout The United Methodist Church. More than 1,500 people participated in those conversations, and more than 3,000 people responded to an open online survey before the final draft.

The revised and streamlined Social Principles, which will go before the postponed 2020 General Conference, are divided into four main sections:

  • The Community of All Creation
  • The Economic Community
  • The Social Community
  • The Political Community 

Learn more about and download the Revised Social Principles at umcjustice.org/who-we-are/the-revised-social-principles

Read more about the webinar series in a WPAUMC blog post by Joyce Davis. The next session in the webinar series will focus on specific parts of the Social Principles. Watch for times and dates on this website.