Social Justice Agency Sets 2011 Legislative Priorities

February 09, 2011

Overcoming global poverty, U.S. jobs crisis, clean air – on list along with holdovers immigration and healthcare reform, and international family planning. 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) has set its 2011 legislative priorities for the 112th U.S. Congress. The six priorities include several holdovers from 2010, including healthcare and immigration reform.
The priorities support social justice stances approved by The United Methodist Church's highest policy-making body, General Conference. The priorities are based on the denomination's "Social Principles" and its Book of Resolutions. They also are aligned with focus areas of the denomination approved by General Conference, which meets every four years.
GBCS's legislative priorities are determined by the social action agency's work area directors in consultation with its top executive, Jim Winkler. Winkler said the priorities all represent areas to which the faith community can bring a unique voice to the legislative process through a focus on justice.
Advocacy efforts targeted at overcoming poverty and improving health resonate with The United Methodist Church's four focus areas, according to Winkler.
The six legislative priorities for 2011 are:
  • Ensure the highest level of funding for foreign assistance to overcome global poverty;
  • Reform the U.S. healthcare system;
  • Fully fund international family planning;
  • Just, humane immigration reform;
  • Advocate for a clean energy future; and
  • Address the jobs crisis.
Overcome global poverty
"God's Spirit is always and everywhere at work in the world fighting poverty," said Mark Harrison, director of the Peace with Justice work area at GBCS. "The federal budget deficit should not be balanced on the backs of the poor and the vulnerable."
Harrison pointed out that 1.5 billion people are in extreme poverty, living on less than $1.25 a day. "One out of six people inhabiting the earth will suffer chronic hunger," he said, "and a child will die every six seconds because of undernourishment-related problems."
Advocacy efforts will focus on foreign-aid funding levels to overcome poverty, according to Harrison. He said these include education, health care, agriculture production/nutrition, clean water, and sanitation.
For more information contact Mark Harrison at 202.488.5645 or the Rev. Liberato Bautista, assistant general secretary, United Nations & International Ministry, at 212.682.3633, Wxt. 3112.
Reform U.S. healthcare system
Reform of the U.S. healthcare system is the priority of GBCS's work area on Alcohol, Other Addictions & Health Care. This was a priority in 2010 when healthcare reform finally passed the U.S. Congress and was signed into law by President Obama. It remains on the agency's priority list, and not just because of efforts this year in the new Congress to repeal it.
"Major reform happened last year," said the Rev. Cynthia Abrams, director of the work area, "but there is more work to be done to ensure we live completely into God's vision that no one is left out."
Abrams said a healthcare system that is inclusive, accessible, and available to all mirrors God's intention for wholeness and abundant life. She emphasized that preserving the Children's Health Insurance, Medicare, and Medicaid programs as well as implementing the new law are important initiatives that need to happen.
For more information about healthcare reform, contact Cynthia Abrams at 203.488.5636.
Fully fund international family planning
"This year, given budget realities," said Linda Bales Todd, director of the Louise & Hugh Moore Population Project at GBCS, "it will be very important for members of the U.S. Congress to hear from constituents about the importance of fully funding programs aimed at improving maternal health, reducing abortions, and saving women's lives."
Millions of people worldwide lack access to information and services for family planning, according to Todd. She said advocacy also will include increased funding for the United Nations Population Fund, which provides maternal health services and AIDS prevention.
For more information contact Linda Todd at 202.488.5649.
Just, humane immigration reform
GBCS's Civil & Human Rights work area has set just, humane immigration reform as its priority again this year. "In responding to the Scriptural call to welcome the sojourner to our land," said Bill Mefford, director of Civil & Human Rights, "we call on Congress to pass immigration reform that will provide a pathway to citizenship to undocumented immigrants, reunite immigrant families, and protect the rights of all workers."
For more details contact Bill Mefford at 202.488.5657.
Address the jobs crisis
"Our Social Principles affirm the right of every person to a job at a living wage, said John Hill, director of GBCS's work area on Economic & Environmental Justice. "The ongoing economic crisis in the United States has left millions unemployed and millions more underemployed."
Hill said GBCS will advocate for legislation to protect those out of work and create opportunities for all who seek employment.
For more information on this priority contact John Hill at 202.488.5654.
A clean energy future
"As United Methodist congregations continue to lead us toward a clean energy future through conservation, efficiency, and renewable energy efforts," Hill said, "GBCS calls on Congress to strengthen, not roll back, efforts to ensure clean air in our communities." He said this includes a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
For more information on this priority contact John Hill at 202.488.5654.
The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. The board's primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination worldwide. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center at the United Nations.