Posts Tagged ‘Social Justice’

First Plenary

The theme of this years’ Ecumenical Advocacy was Troubling the Waters for Movement Building. We were reminded that faith communities have been troubling the waters for social justice throughout our histories as well as recently. Last year, Methodists troubled Jeff Sessions about immigrant family separation and Presbyterians advocated against modern day debtors prisons last summer in St. Louis. We were encouraged to continue the work by Inspiring hope in order to transform communities.

Rev. Adam Taylor of Sojourners Magazine spoke to us about creative maladjustment and getting into “good trouble”. He described our work as Five smooth stones to still the waters & heal the world:
1.         Persistence – ongoing relationships and relentless persistence w/ legislators and community
2.         Perseverance
3.         Pragmatic Solidarity – advocate not just for but with others.
4.         Be Pastoral – recognize humanity of politicians. Don’t use tactics that break relationships.
5.         Be Prophetic – don’t shy away from truth or confrontation. Be “the way.”

With persistence it is essential to mobilize people for change by taking control of the public narrative, in essence, weaving stories of our values through the public mind. Those stories must include stories of ourselves and our communities and they must convey a sense of urgency to our audiences.  Guiding the public narrative is both an artform & a science.

Rev. Taylor went on to explain that social movements require providence and intervention. Movements need both legislative advocacy and deep, local leadership development. In addition, there must be headway into institutional structures and mass disruption – civil disobedience must be included. #goodtrouble.

Throughout the conference we were reminded to always be mindful of the intersectionality of movements. We must combine disparate campaigns into the broader movement. Rev. Taylor reminded us to root our organizing in a faith rooted response:
a.         Build a compelling and moral vision
b.         Name the spiritual lie that is at the heart of injustice. Have the                            conviction that we are made in the image of god.
c.         Embrace the redemptive power of suffering.
d.         Take the long view while urging the short term urgency of our campaigns.
e.         Tap into Kairos (how god interprets time). Summon god to work in and                             through us.

Anna Garcia-Ashley of Gamaliel National Network ( implored us to recognize that every moment is an opportunity to organize. That every person can be an activist and we are destined to be activists. Every minute we have an opportunity to change the world. She suggested that we need to do this by building relationships, education and training. Ms. Garcia-Ashley reminded us that our faith needs to be at the center of everything we do. That by being true to our faith & values we will be able to love enough to agitate every individual as a potential activist.

As part of a panel discussion the following Movement Builders shared their stories:
Valery Nodom – Presbyterian Hunger Program.  Started as an attorney in Cameroon. Became an activist with local communities helping them prove their citizenship.
Myrna Oronco – Church World Service, Movement Voter Project, first action was as a dreamer, getting arrested to save the program, got her green card 1 week before the event!
Rev. Robin Tanner, National Faith Team Leader, Poor People’s Campaign
Rebecca Heimbrock, HS Sophomore, Gun Control Activist
Kieran Ooman, Our Children’s Land Trust Lawsuit (climate change lawsuit), Seattle area college student

Below are the responses to the 2 questions asked of each Movement Builder:

What are your most effective tactics?
1.         On twitter/social media particularly for direct action (i.e., sit-in, protest, etc…). Best for youth.
2.         Town Hall discussions for educating adults.
3.         Local, national & international structure. Starting with building power at the local level. Build coalitions, particularly among faith communities.
4.         Direct action, showing up & making sure that they “see you.” Keep the cause alive in the vernacular. Sanctuary movement is huge in the past couple of years. Build coalitions around issue intersections.
5.         “Fusion” – creating communities between those that are “willing & able” and those that are impacted. Help people understand that those impacted (ex., the poor) are all around us, not just those in the ghetto’s or living in car.
6.         Listen to the youth, especially in their confusion and indignation.

What do you do for self-care/self-encouragement?
1.         Watch others and their participation. Look for connections made and families created. Honor the magic. Find hope.
2.         Leaving and entering the movement aren’t really options. Movements are within us. We can rest, process our actions or look outside ourselves, but we should all contribute to society as activists.
3.         Therapy. Give yourself time & space however you need to. Don’t let guilt overwhelm you. Sit with and accept your emotions.
4.         Focus on family.


There was a detailed discussion about the challenging realities of climate change and what’s at stake in regard to justice issues:
1.         6th Mass Extinction Phase with a distinct increase in extinction rates
2.         Extreme weather events, most common = floods.
3.         Access to clean water sources
4.         Impacts are greatest on women and people of color.
5.         Changes to the food system.
6.         Changes in human relationships and interactions

The presenters lifted the theory that white, European, male centered theology got us where we are today. A dualistic and binary worldview developed over time and as Sallie McFague argues: “Western culture and religion have a long, painful history of demeaning the female by identifying her with the body and with nature, while elevating the male by identifing him with reason and spirit”. There was lively conversation around such cultural norms as:
b.         Natural Theology – Aristotle & Aquinas
c.         Hierarchy
d.         Colonization – serving the interest of white European men
e.         Enlightenment – built on scientific justifications for structural oppression
f.          Exclusively transcendental view of God (wholly other) & personal salvation.

But, in order to get back to an ecological theology we must advance an ethos of human rights & ecology & right relationships. That ethos is embodied in Ecofeminism which combines social feminism and holistic ecology and Ecowomanism which applies womanist intersectional analysis. Common characteristics of these social structures include:
1.         challenging binary systems
2.         makes connections b/w oppression of women and oppression of earth
3.         knows god through relatedness.
4.         Knowledge rooted in experience.
5.         Reflects real life of local communities
6.         Values bodies and embodied wisdom/experience.
7.         Does not hold a utilitarian view of creation but honors intrinsic value/dignity of every     part of creation
8.         Post-colonial thought and recovery of indigenous wisdom.
9.         Lifts up stories and traditions of women and earth.

But there are characteristics unique to Ecowomanism:
1.         Examines particularities of women of color
2.         Recovers other histories and cosmologies.
3.         Includes the paradox of working the land and holding respect for it.
4.         Brings in a more critical lens.

Further Reading:
The Christian Imagination,Willie Jennings, author, Yale
Ecowomanism, Harris


Jurisdictional Discussion Questions:
1.         What social justice work & issues are we doing?
Angela:  In Seminary, Intern at GBCS working on issues about women & children including domestic violence, health & reproductive health.
Gail: Oil Pipeline/Environmental Justice, Native American rights, voting rights, limited polling on reservations.
Kristina: District UMW Vice President focusing on Interrupting the school-to-prison pipeline. Also working on gun violence prevention & reproductive choice.
Cody Wiswasser: In Seminary, Intern @ GBC&S – Living Wage, eco-justice
2.         What is the most critical issue that we can work on together?
Human dignity, racial division, economic & environmental.
3.         What resources & capacities can we bring to the work?
Being allies & showing up for each other. UMW website & materials. GCORR Implicit bias workshop. Art, narrative, urging the telling of stories. Keep level of commitment up (the 5 P’s!).

n.b. 6 Conference Peace w/ Justice Coordinators were in attendance


Marcia Johnson- Blanco: Voting Rights Project

I.          DOMESTIC ASK

We were given a very detailed history of the voter restrictions since the adoption of the 15th amendment.
1965 Selma march to register to vote, beatings were televised. The extent of the violence shocked the nation which led to signing of the Voting Rights Act by LBJ.

The Voting Rights Act:

Sec. 2 – mirrors language of 15th amendment. Cannot restrict or dilute vote.
Sec. 5 – looks at jurisdictions w/ history of voting change has to be submitted to congress before enactment. In effect between 1965 – 2013.
Sec. 203 – minority language provision. Requires minority language materials available to voters.
Sec. 208 – requires assistance of choice for disabled (includes foreign language speakers not included in 203.)

2005 challenge to 2006 VRA reauthorization. Dispute over Sec. 5. Founding of National Commission on Voting Rights created 10,000+ page documentation of voting discrimination. VRA reauthorized until Shelby, AL sued (Shelby County v. Holder – 2013). “Equal Sovereignty of the States” used by Supreme Court to justify repeal of Sec. 5. Still looking to Congress to fix the Shelby County Decision.

Legal Challenges After Shelby:
1.         Texas photo ID – passed before Shelby. Required specific ID including license/ID, concealed carry gun, etc… but not student ID. Knocked down under Sec. 5. Implemented again after Shelby. Kept over 6K voters from voting. In 2017, trump administration reviewed the discrimination claim and found the temporary remedy sufficient.
2.         NC Voter ID – Elimination of registration procedures as well. 4thCircuit determined that the law was enacted w/ “surgical precision” to suppress votes.
3.         GA Exact-Match Law – can have no discrepancies between registration forms & ID’s & SS records. 2018 – 53,000 eligible voters had “pending” registrations because of the law. 2019 GA legislature allowed limbo registrations to cast ballots.
4.         Voter Purge
a.         OH – removal for not voting. Hustead v. APR, allows the law because they are only “in the process” of removal.
5.         Absentee Ballot Match
a.         GA

Procedural Problems:
1.         Polling Place Closures & Consolidations (particularly AZ TX LA MS AL SC NC) – disproportionate impact on communities of color – lines, ability to get transportation
2.         Polling Place Changes & late openings – lack of notification & access inhibits working people from getting to the correct place.
3          Poll Workers & voter assistance – we need workers that are pro-voter, sufficiently trained and compassionate. Also need oversight of polling places & access to provisional ballots.
4.         Voter Apathy
5.         Voter Intimidation
6.         Felony Disenfranchisement laws

Addressing the Problem:
1.         HR-1 – For the People Act – to secure a democracy that is reflexive, responsible & accountable. also includes campaign finance & financial ethics
a.         This is not a partisan issue
2.         HR-4 – Voting Rights Advancement Act
a.         Not partisan, it is in support of democracy
3.         Election Protection Hotline (866/OUR-VOTE) to confirm voting registrations, polling and rights.

Laura Strawmyer – Alliance for Peacebuilding
Global Fragility Act– the idea that a state’s level of fragility relates to its inability to recover from “shocks” (violence, disaster, famine) i.e., a breakdown in the social contract. Does not necessarily translate to economics. Includes global poverty but not exclusive.
1.         Why – There has been no comprehensive policy developed since the Rwandan genocide. Larger programs focus solely on economics as opposed to including national security, natural and man-made disaster.
b.         most migration is caused by flight from violence.
c.         responses are targeted toward immediate humanitarian issues and rarely include conflict resolution programs or address root causes of violent conflicts.
d.         Advancing the values of human dignity.
2.         How:
a.         Establish the Agency
b.         Pilot Programs to mitigate and prevent foreign conflict.
1. Understand root causes & prevention. Change the narrative from (terrorism, gang violence to isolation, marginalization)
c.         Reporting
d.         Authorizing Funds already earmarked. Make sure this program is tied to them.
1.         Prevention is more cost effective.
3.         Misc:
a.         Bi-Partisan support. Have 11 sponsors in Senate and 6 in the House.
b.         Passed the House last session. Hopefully for markup on Tuesday.

There was a lot of controversy surrounding this issue. I spoke to some people that saw it as merely US intervention again, where it’s not needed. On the other hand, I spoke with someone whose Guatemalan wife is wholeheartedly in favor of the program for a wide variety of reasons. Because I was not knowledgeable on the subject and because of the amount of controversy surrounding the issue, I chose not to address this with my legislators.

WORKSHOP 3 – DISMANTLING THE PRISON INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX*** This session left me most unsettled. First because it was clear, even before she admitted it, that she was mining the group for information as opposed to actually teaching us or offering information. Second, she was clearly a prison abolitionist but was more focused on what a future system would look like as opposed to the theme of the workshop which was dismantling what we already had.
The human rights issue of our time AND it is a spiritual issue. 1994 Crime Bill added to/solidified our history. US is 5% of the world population but 25% of incarcerations.

Angela Davis – reforming the system itself exacerbates the problem. There are plenty of prison abolitionists.

Prison Policy Initiative: Mass Incarceration “The Whole Pie”,

Spiritual Advocacy:
We need to pull away from revenge as justice and look at the root problems causing crime. We need to address issues of racism & class.

Until We Reckon, Danielle Sered

German prisons are apparently significantly more humane than ours.

African-American victims also have resentment against the State acting in loco parentus (i.e., criminal cases are brought by the state – the state has been harmed.) There is no trust that state actually has the best interests of African Americans in mind.


IMG_1578A small but mighty army of women descended on The Ohio State University in Columbus and Wendy’s National Headquarters in Dublin, Ohio on Thursday, November 15, 2018. At issue was Wendy’s unfair wage and labor practices and Ohio State’s complicity in the problem. United Methodist Women from our National Office, and our New York, East Ohio and West Ohio Conferences were joined by representatives from the National Farm Worker Ministry, The Coalition of Immokalee Workers, the Fair Food Program and OSU’s Farmworker Alliance. I was there representing the East Ohio Conference Board of Church & Society and Bishop Tracy Malone.


Our first stop was to OSU’s monthly Board of Trustees Meeting. Back in August, OSU signed a contract with Wendy’s for an on-campus restaurant and food services. Despite student’s fasting and protesting at the time, OSU signed the contract stating that if “more students came forward to object” the contract would be reconsidered.

Unfortunately, many of the student leaders graduated, leaving only a handful of young women to move the cause forward. Those few students organized UMW, CIW and FFP to help them with Thursday’s action event. The students gave flyers to attending trustees while UMW held a prayer vigil outside the building.

Next, it was on to Dublin for a protest and rally in front of Wendy’s headquarters. Wendy’s is the only major fast food or grocery chain that has not signed on to The Fair Food Program. The program is a farmworker and consumer driven initiative consisting of wage increases supported by a price premium paid by corporate purchases of tomatoes, and a human rights-based Code of Conduct throughout the tomato industry. Initially developed for Florida tomato growers and workers in Immokalee, the Program is being expanded to include farm workers throughout the country.

Initially, a meeting with Chairman Todd Penegor was requested by UMW to deliver over 5,000 postcards, signed by UMW members asking Wendy’s to sign on to the Fair Food Program. The campaign was a part of UMW’s Economic Inequality initiative. Denied the ability to meet with staff or present a letter to Penegor, UMW had the postcards delivered by mail and a giant replica postcard became part of the march. The letter was read aloud publicly by both UMW Ohio Conference Presidents.

Through our Social Principles and Resolutions, United Methodists are called to support the rights of all workers and especially farm workers. I feel honored to have been able to participate in this direct action in support of our farm workers with the bold and courageous women of UMW, CIW, FFP, OSU and NFWM.


United Methodist Women Assembly
Columbus, OH

May 18-20, 2018



Over 5,000 women gathered for the quadrennial United Methodist Women Assembly in Columbus to find strength, courage and communion. The theme, “The Power of Bold” was lifted over 3 days with messages about our call to be bold, to have bold dreams, to recognize the cost of being bold and to finally, commit to bold action. We were motivated to action on behalf of women, children and youth around the world, to create change for justice, to recognize the power of our sisterhood and to be fearless motivators for that change. United Methodist Women are courageously challenging systems around Climate Justice, Income Inequality, Maternal and Child Health and Racial Justice.

Our keynote speakers were extraordinary women with solemn yet encouraging words of wisdom and inspiration. On Friday evening Leymah Gebowee, Nobel Peace Prize winner for her work in ending the Liberian Civil War in 2003, held us captive with the story of her life as a child in a war-torn country, her struggle to find direction as a young woman and her rise to activism. The message I heard from her was that no matter what your beginnings, no matter what your path we all have strength and possibility within us and we can achieve great things together. Ms. Gebowee encouraged us to have bold dreams.

Our gathering on Saturday morning was a highlight for me. While many around the world were glued to their televisions and enamored with the Royal Wedding, I was in the convention auditorium listening to two of my idols, rock stars in my world of advocacy and change. Marian Wright Edelman (founder and President of The Children’s Defense Fund) and Michelle Alexander (Professor and author of “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness”) spoke to us about the school to prison pipeline, its devastation in communities of color and the power of commitment, engagement and advocacy. I was star struck and inspired. I was fueled to advocate against the criminalization of persons of color and to particularly interrupt the school to prison pipeline in our country.

We also heard from young rock stars about the power and costs of being bold. The Reverend Hannah Bonner, recognized as one of the “16 Faith Leaders to Watch in 2016,” talked of sacrifice, fear and bold action as she became the catalyst for the “Say Her Name” movement when she stood as a faithful ally for a voiceless victim. For 80 days Rev. Bonner got up from her Houston apartment and drove an hour southwest of Houston to Hempstead, Texas. There she held daily vigils in front of the Waller County jail for Sandra Bland, a twenty-eight-year-old black woman found hanging by a trash bag in a cell July 10, 2015, just three days after being stopped for failing to signal when changing lanes.

Tamika Mallory, one of the 4 co-chairs of the 2017 Women’s March and a nationally recognized activist in the new civil rights movement talked about the intersection of civil rights, social justice and feminism. She told vivid and heartbreaking stories of the costs, both personal and professional, of being bold and gave us old-timers some insight as to how to bring young leaders into the fold of United Methodist Women.

At Assembly I attended two town hall style meetings that enlightened me with several viewpoints on important topics.

Climate Justice Town Hall

Katharine Hayhoe, Professor of Public Administration and Director of the Climate Science Center at Texas. Tech. University, spoke about Christians, Climate and our Culture. Ms. Hayhoe, internationally acclaimed scientist known for bridging the gap between scientists and Christians, tied science to faith with the premise that God’s 2nd greatest gift is our planet and creation care is indicative of a respect for that gift. We are called to care for this amazing planet and we have not only dominion over it, we have a responsibility for vigilant stewardship for the health our planet.

She described how exponential population growth in the 19th and 20th centuries are due to the benefits of the industrial revolution. She implored us to recognize, acknowledge and be grateful for the benefits we have received yet be acutely aware of the costs of these developments (i.e., mountaintop removal, oil spills, poisoned water, air pollution, soil pollution, etc.…).

Ms. Hayhoe explained our current problem of “Global Energy Poverty” where millions of people are without electricity and access to energy sources and how the most vulnerable have done the least to affect the climate. This poverty is predominantly seen in Africa and southeast Asia. First world countries are keeping these areas in poverty and debt by extracting fossil fuels and offering those resources back as energy for sale, maintaining a vicious cycle impoverishment.

Of great value was her discussion of how to challenge climate change deniers. Scientists have been studying natural cycles beyond just earths current temperatures and have resoundingly concluded that we are seeing an exponential rise in global average temperatures. Beyond actual temperature there are approximately 26,500 indicators of a warming planet. They include bloom times, storm intensity, melting glaciers, tree rings, etc.

Scientists today study natural cycles more than human behavior and according to those studies, as temperatures increase, we should get more energy from the sun. But currently the opposite is true, we are actually seeing less solar energy. And according to our natural calendar the next natural cycle should be an ice age, not a warming like the one we are having.

Ms. Hayhoe explained how climate change is a threat multiplier because it exacerbates so many of the risks we have already today, creating climate disasters. Climate Change makes heat waves more frequent & severe, it causes increased precipitation and hotter and dryer conditions.  Climate change makes hurricanes more intense. In fact, the chance of a hurricane such as Harvey (in 2017) was once 1 in 800, now it is 1 in 100.

Ms. Hayhoe concluded by telling us the most important thing we can do is talk about climate change at every opportunity. Here is her list of some of the most powerful actions we can take:

  • Acknowledge climate change as a real problem
    • We must talk about real people, their stories and our missions,
  • Be aware of our own impact
    • Use a carbon calculator
  • Sign up for – a Christian community committed to action on climate change
  • Talk about what churches are doing
  • Talk about what cities are doing – green roofs, solar fields among wildflower farms
  • Talk about what corporations are doing
  • Talk about what the world is doing
  • Work to end energy poverty
    • Install solar in Africa
  • Be hopeful
  • Unite in Resistance, and
  • Stop financing of fossil fuels

Jacqui Patterson, Director of Environmental & Climate Justice Policy at the NAACP discussed the fact that there is a disproportionate response to disaster in communities of color and poor neighborhoods. Destruction and mass displacement does not happen in industrialized, white communities. For example, in New Orleans, the Army Corp of Engineers determines where levees will be placed based in part on where the largest economic impact will be (i.e., nicer neighborhoods get levees.) She advocated that change must be systemic. However, there are things that we can do individually and directed us to the NAACP site that promotes activism and advocacy for change. It can be found here:

Sarah Augustine, Executive Director of Dispute Resolution, Ctr. Of Yakima & Kittitas Counties, WA and Co-Founder of Suriname Indigenous Health Fund talked about the impact of climate change on indigenous peoples.

Her main theme was that the conversation is always about who holds power and where power lies. Indigenous peoples, those at great risk from exploitation by foreign governments, multi-national corporations and colonialized power, are among the first to face the impact of climate change with immediate threats to clean water, food security and massive risk of internal displacement.

We learned about how UMW is responding from Cecelia Williams, the UMW Northeast Jurisdictional Guide for the Be Just. Be Green. Program. The 13 Steps to Sustainability can be found at:

Maternal Mortality Town Hall

Dr. Cynthia Shelhaas, Dir. Of OB GYN, The Ohio State/Wexler Medical Center defined the issues involved with “maternal mortality” in the United States as pregnancy associated mortality whereby a woman dies during a pregnancy or any time during the first year post birth. Associated issues involve “severe maternal morbidity” which are pregnancy related illnesses which render a woman close to death, but actually survive.

In the early 20th century there was a dramatic drop in Maternal Mortality in the US, predominantly due to improvements in medical procedures. However, since 1987 there has been a consistent rise in death rates. There are many causes for the change, including: better record keeping, a change in definition of maternal mortality to include one-year post birth, dramatic rise in obesity rates, a significant rise in cesarean-section surgeries and an increase in older women getting pregnant. In addition, severe maternal morbidity rates have increased 75% in the US of the past decade.

Statistics are startlingly clear: higher educated black women have a higher mortality rate than any other demographic. Stress related cardiomyopathy, artery disease and hypertension are distinct causes.

Dr. Shelhaas went on to discuss “Maternal Mortality Review Committees” which United Methodist Women are advocating are the best tool we have to research and address the rising rates of mortality and morbidity. Used in the early 20th century the number of committees declined as mortality rates were reduced. Now that rates are on a rapidly rising, there are only 35 review boards in the entire 50 states and most of those have been created in the last 35 years. More data means better informed action, learn more about these committees and how you can help at Review to Action at

In 2010, Ohio re-established a maternal mortality review board as mortality rates began creeping up even higher than the national average. The graph below shows initial findings of that review.


Jessica Roach, Founder & CEO Restoring Our own Through Transformation (ROOTT – in Columbus expanded on the rapid rise of mortality and morbidity rates among women of color. Statistically, white women have a mortality rate of 12.7 deaths per 100,000 births, whereas the rate for black women is 43.4 per 100,000 for black women (she pointed out that the same appalling disparity is found in infant mortality rates.

Ms. Roach identified structural and social determinants of health. Structural racism placing an impenetrable barrier to access and adequate care which leads to a web of causation of social determinants in the rates of maternal mortality. She explained that our most important actions are to address the structural determinants in order to eventually get to addressing social determinants and thereby shift the rising tide of mortality and morbidity rates.

Erica Clarke Jones, Celebrate One, Franklin County, discussed advocacy and action. Sadly, Ohio ranks 40th in the nation in infant mortality and most mortality issues happen in redlined neighborhoods.

Ms. Jones implored us to turn our privilege into action through four concrete actions for effectiveness. First, we must be intentional. We can create community partner teams with specific and focused reports and recommendations. We must lead with data. The data exists from review boards and we must use it. Then we can build awareness. If we know our audiences, we can identify media related partners and involve trusted messengers in design. Finally, we must build trust which will allow us to take a coalition approach to guiding and influencing the narrative and actions.

I also attended two in-depth workshops over the weekend:

What do Race & Class Have to Do with Climate Change?

In this workshop, led by Jacqui Patterson (noted above), we explored the proposition that Human and Civil Rights are directly linked to access to the commons (i.e., air, water, land, food, shelter, clothing, energy, education, work, health, safety and culture) and how rampant extraction and exploitation of human and natural resources sacrifices communities and.

We dove into specific impacts on communities of color such as mercury poisoning and dust irritants from coal fired plants, predominantly located in low income, urban neighborhoods. We discussed how sea level rise has disproportionately affected indigenous peoples in Louisiana as tribes are rapidly being displaced. Shifts in agricultural yields are compounding food insecure communities and weather disasters are impacting communities with little ability to evacuate and little right to return or ability to recover.

Ms. Patterson shared the NAACP outline of what is required of us to change the course for climate justice:

  1. Conscientious & educated voting
  2. Reforming utility shut-off policies as if human rights matter –
  3. Shift in power and decision making during disasters
  4. Change racist characterizations in publications, media, and conversation
  5. Urge representatives to remove exemptions for fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act.
  6. Call out climate change deniers
  7. Allow frontline communities to lead the decision making

Ms. Patterson shared a funny video which shows a possible new way to name extreme storms after climate denier politicians. What a perfectly poetic way to call out those fools. Produced by it can be found here:

Ms. Patterson closed with a poem read at the 2014 United National Climate Summit Dear Matefele Peinam by Kathy Jetnil-Kijiner, which can be found here:

The Doctrine of Discovery, the Acts of Repentance Working Group (ACRWG) & the Four Priority Issues

The other workshop I attended was led by Sarah Augustine (mentioned above). She described the Doctrine of Discovery as a body of law and policy based on Christian doctrine which legalizes and codifies theft of land, labor and resources from indigenous peoples. It originated with the early Christian church and was based on scripture – covenantal people being justified in taking possession of the land as described in Exodus.

There are two foundational premises ascribed to the Doctrine of Discovery. First, the notion of “Empty Land”, i.e., the idea that discovered lands are devoid of human beings if the original peoples, defined as heathens, pagans and infidels, were not ruled by Christian power. And second, the presumption of “Manifest Destiny”: the presumption that a covenantal people are given a divine mandate to pursue the Great Commission.

The Doctrine of Discovery has been used historically to start wars and to colonize and evict indigenous peoples. The Doctrine was established in the United States in 1823 by Justice John Marshall in Johnson v. M’Intosh and has been the basis of land rights in the US since.

The most recent legal sighting of the doctrine was in 2005 in an opinion authored by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg in City of Sherrill v. Oneida Indian Nation of New York ( In this opinion, the Supreme Court held that the repurchase of traditional tribal lands did not restore tribal sovereignty to that land.

The Doctrine of Discovery has had a disastrous impact on indigenous peoples, particularly in the four priority areas being addressed by United Methodist Women. Infant mortality rates are lowest among indigenous Americans who have the least access to prenatal care. Reservations are on the worst land in the country and are as far away as possible from urban areas, making good health care inaccessible.

The Indian Relocation Act of 1956 has led to mass incarceration of indigenous Americans. Its purpose was to move people off the reservation into urban areas for the governmental purposes of recapturing land, discouraging tribal enrollment, and to avoid providing mandated services to tribes. As a result, tribal homelessness, substance abuse and dislocation have led to large rates of incarceration.

Economic inequality has had an adverse impact indigenous peoples basic human needs and rights.  Food insecurity is rampant as arable, productive land has been taken from communities. In relocation, tribes have lost rights to farm.

Indigenous people are heavily impacted by erosion in the arctic, desertification in Africa, and deforestation in the Amazon, making them most vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

Good policy is possible as written in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples ( Adopted by the UN in 2007, there were four votes against its approval: Australia, Canada, New Zealand and The United States). Since then, those four countries have since reversed their position and support the Declaration. I wonder what Justice Ginsberg’s opinion would be today in light of international law.


Led by President Shannon Priddy and Chief Executive Officer Harriet Jane Olson, UMW Assembly was a thought provoking, intellectually stimulating, powerfully creative, transformative event for me. I feel challenged, motivated and committed to turning faith hope and love into action. I feel honored to have attended the event.

N.B. – We were told that a large number of our sisters from around the world were not granted visas to attend Assembly because of our current immigration policies. That was heartbreaking news