Rev. Chris Momany and others now invite all United Methodists to comment on the new draft of the Social Principles.
JOHN E. HARNISH
Michigan Conference Communications
“Theologically grounded, globally relevant and succinct”. According to Rev. Chris Momany, those were the three guiding themes in the work of rewriting the “Social Principles of the United Methodist Church”. Rev. Momany is the chaplain and member of the religion faculty at Adrian College. He is the only Michigander and the only college chaplain or campus minister on the writing team which has been working since 2012 on a new draft of the Social Principles. That first draft is now available for comment by the church at large.
The first “Social Creed” was adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1908. Within the next decade a similar document was adopted by the Methodist Episcopal Church South and the Methodist Protestant Churches. In 1946 when the Evangelical Association and the United Brethren merged to form the Evangelical United Brethren Church they also prepared a statement of social principles. In 1968 when these various antecedents came together to create the United Methodist Church, one of the first tasks was to write a shared “Social Creed” which was adopted in 1972 and has been the foundation of our stance on social issues ever since.
Momany says that the Social Creed is “…held in high regard and with a sort of reverence” as the writing teams work on the broader “Social Principles” document. Of course, the writings of John Wesley on issues like health, child labor, slavery and prison reform predate all of our current statements and witness to Methodism’s passion for social justice from the time of our creation.
In 2012 Momany took part in a series of “listening sessions” hosted by the General Board of Church and Society. Prior to the 2016 General Conference several trial statements were written to elicit feedback from the church. Chris was involved in the one on the “Economic Community”. With the affirmation of the 2016 General Conference, 50 persons were divided into seven teams of writers to began work on the document. Chris was assigned to the writing team on “the Economic Community”. It is comprised of seven members including United Methodists from New Jersey to Montana and Native American and Filipino representatives.
“Throughout the writing”, says Rev. Momany, “there was great concern that this not be an entirely American-centric document, but that it reflect a global perspective.” A good example is the paragraph on the gaming industry, a matter of great concern for the Native Americans and Filipinos alike.
Through it all, Momany said the writers were guided by their desire “… to be theologically grounded, as represented by the frequent use of Scripture, to be relevant to the broad global community of United Methodism and to make it as succinct as possible. On that point, when asked if he thought the 39-page document succeeded, Chris only chuckled because “…there was a desire to be concise and complete at the same time—a real challenge.”
To his credit, Chris’s impact can be seen as early as page 10 in the sentence, “Each person is formed in the image of God and endowed by God with intrinsic worth.” The term “intrinsic worth” comes from the writings of Asa Mahan, an early Michigan Methodist preacher and abolitionist who founded Adrian College. Under Chris’s leadership, the concern about human trafficking, present day slavery and the history of the abolitionist movement has become a hallmark of Adrian College and the term “intrinsic worth” has become a kind of a frequently heard refrain at the school. Chris’s participation in the process also represents the role of church-related colleges like Adrian in helping the church reflect on critical issues.
The introduction to the Social Principles reminds us that “…while not considered law, they are a prayerful and thoughtful effort on the part of the General Conference to speak to the human issues in the contemporary world. They are a call to faithfulness and are intended to be instructive and persuasive in the best of the prophetic spirit. They are a call to all United Methodists to prayerful and spirited dialogue about faith and practice.” (Book of Resolutions, page 43)
The first working draft of the new Social Principles is now being circulated across the church and every United Methodist is invited to read them and offer their comments. The final proposal will go to the 2020 General Conference for their consideration and if approved will comprise the new official statement of the United Methodist Church on social issues of our day. Rev. Momany says, “Our work has been done in a spirit of prayer, collegiality and with a sense of humor.” He hopes all United Methodists will receive their work in the same spirit.