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Issue 3         

2 February 2015  


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Every morning as I walk to MFSA's office on Capitol Hill, I walk through Lincoln Park, so named because of a statue of Abraham Lincoln situated in the middle of it. What many people don't realize is that there's another statue on the eastern edge of the park, one I find more compelling. It's a statue of an elderly woman with a cane and two school-aged children. Around the base of the statue are these words: "I leave you love. I leave you hope. I leave you the challenge of developing confidence in one another. I leave you a thirst for education. I leave you a respect for the use of power. I leave you faith. I leave you racial dignity. I leave you a desire to live harmoniously with your fellow men. I leave you finally, a responsibility to our young people."

These are words from Mary McLeod-Bethune. An educator and early activist for the rights of African Americans, Mary McLeod-Bethune held high expectations and saw education as the road to changing the policies and practices of racism.  Of her many accolades, one which stands out is her service to the Executive Committee of the Methodist Federation for Social Service (later MFSA) from 1940-1944. Her service to both Church and world remind us that the seeds of the civil rights movement were planted long before Martin Luther King and the march from Selma to Birmingham, but were watered through acts of justice, resistance, and creativity for many years proceeding.

MFSA was there in those early years, and we continue to be present today. I'm also painfully aware there are places where we've not been present, where we've struggled to be allies in the fight for justice, and where we see glimpses of hope, and I'm reminded of that every time I walk through Lincoln Park.

Grace and peace,

Chett Pritchett
Executive Director
New News on Divestment 
In December, the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and Wespath Investment Management held a webinar for their new Equity Social Values Plus Fund, a fund specifically set up to encourage socially responsible investments. In accordance to the United Methodist Book of Discipline, the fund generally does not invest in companies that derive more than 10% of their revenue from gambling or from the manufacture, sale or distribution of alcoholic beverages, tobacco-related products, pornography, weapons, or the management or operation of prison facilities.

On January 22, the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits made two important announcements for those concerned with social action. First, they announced divestment from coal. This momentous act was accomplished because of groups like Fossil Free UMC (of which MFSA's executive director is a participant) asking Pensions to take a serious look at their carbon-based investments. Global pressure on heavily-carbon based energy companies have made coal a poor investment. We celebrate this divestment and hope the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits will continue to research and respond to holdings in carbon-based energy corporations.

A second announcement from Pensions has to do with companies engaged in human rights violations. The new guidelines may exclude any company that provides significant financial services to or derives more than 10 percent of its revenues or raw materials from countries demonstrating prolonged and systemic patterns of human right violations or conflict areas in which human rights violations and/or breach of international law has occurred.

For MFSA and some of our partner organizations, we celebrate the work of the General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits and thank them for listening to the voices for peace calling for divestment from the illegal Israeli occupation of Palestine. However, we note that the ESVPF does not exclude Motorola Solutions and broader church funds are still invested in Caterpillar, both companies directly related to the increasing occupation in Palestine.

That's why it's important to engage our General Board of Pensions and Health Benefits even more - and to encourage conversations at the Annual Conference level, too.

It is important to show the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits that United Methodists want a socially responsible plan while we still work for divestment around specific injustices.

Tell the General Board of Pension and Health Benefits to Make the New Equity Social Values Plus Fund Available through LifeStage! Are you a LifeStage plan participant who wants to reduce your investments in companies with terrible environmental and human rights practices? The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits just launched the new Equity Social Values Plus (ESVP) Fund, which adds some environmental and human rights criteria to its current screening criteria. While not a substitute for full divestment from abhorrent companies, it represents a step in the right direction. However, the ESVP Fund is not currently an option within the LifeStage plan. Please take a moment to write the the Board. Tell them, "I'm a LifeStage plan participant, and I want the option to invest in the ESV Fund through LifeStage."

And if you're interested in working for divestment at the Annual Conference level, please contact us and we'll connect you with others working to bring divestment legislation at Annual Conferences.
Chapter Happenings
NORTH CAROLINA: Preparations are being made for the Jack Crum Conference on Prophetic Ministry to be held on April 18 at Epworth UMC in Durham. Learn more here - it promises to be a great event - even if you aren't from North Carolina, consider attending!

IOWA: The Spring Statewide Gathering will be held Saturday, March 21st, at 10:00, in the Parish Hall of First UMC in Indianola.   The program will be led by Rev. Jan Everhart and Rev. Mara Bailey, and feature Simpson College students.   A light lunch will be served for a free will donation. Following lunch, Terry Montgomery, Conference Treasurer, will be available for conversation about the 2016 Annual Conference Budget and concerns raised by many at the Town Hall Meetings held last year.  See the flyer here.
MFSA On The Road!
Wednesday, February 11, 12:10pm: Simpson Chapel, The United Methodist Building, Washington, DC
     MFSA Staff leading in worship
     Chett Pritchett, executive director, preaching
Sunday, February 16: Fairlington UMC, Alexandria, VA
     Rev. Steve Clunn, preaching

Wednesday, March 4: Lutheran Theological Seminary of Philadelphia, Germantown, PA
     Chett Pritchett, executive director, speaking to student in course: Race, Gender, Sexuality, and Leadership

Thursday, March 12 and Friday, March 13: MFSA Board of Directors Meeting, First UMC, Portland, OR

Saturday, March 14: Pacific Northwest Chapter-In-Formation Gathering, Seattle, WA, Location and Time TBA

Wednesday, March 25: California UMC, California, PA
     Chett Pritchett, executive director, leading Lenten gathering
Progressive Ponderings
Methodist Federation for Social Action
212 East Capitol Street, NE
Washington, DC 20003