We need easier access to Social Principles

I would like to respond to a comment in the article “Do we understand how the church works?” in the May 4 issue of the Reporter. In it the Rev. William B. Lawrence of Perkins School of Theology says, “Very few [UM] clergy find ways to teach the existence of the Social Principles, let alone what they say.”

Prior to the 2008 General Conference, I annually ordered the inexpensive Social Principles booklets and placed them as bulletin inserts on Peace with Justice Sunday. (I asked persons who did not need a copy for whatever reason to leave them in the sanctuary, and the extras were placed in the narthex along with other materials.)

But in 2009 these inexpensive Social Principles booklets (which had a separate study guide available if one was needed) were replaced by much more expensive booklets that contained the Social Principles alongside the study guide. These were much too expensive to include as bulletin inserts, so that process that I had used in my ministry for many years had to be stopped.

I contacted the General Board of Church and Society to tell them of this dilemma. Until that time my congregations not only knew of the “existence” of the Social Principles, they actually had a copy in their hands to peruse at their leisure. I always explained from the pulpit that no one was required to agree with everything in the Social Principles; these were simply starting points for our discussions as United Methodists. (And personally if I agree with a stand in the Social Principles I would use it as a quote in a sermon; if I didn’t agree with the stand, I wouldn’t use it.)

Thank you for your excellent periodical, which I first began reading as a local church edition of The Texas Methodist in 1972 when I was a teacher in McAllen.

Rev. J. David Roberts
Maryland Line United Methodist Church
Baltimore-Washington Conference


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