Social-justice agency board approves $120,000 in grants

church_and_society_ZB3GPNQMCHEVY CHASE, Md. — During its recent spring meeting, the Board of Directors of the United Methodist General Board of Church & Society (GBCS) approved nearly $120,000 in grants to ministries around the world, and heard the agency’s chief executive identify five challenges the denomination faces.

The spring meeting included education on Native American issues, sexual- and gender-based violence, the history of the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill, and a report on the six Social Principles consultations convened in Africa, the Philippines, Europe and the United States in the fall of 2014 and the winter of 2015.

The bulk of the board meeting was spent in work groups reviewing, rewriting and developing petitions to be submitted to the 2016 General Conference.


The grants went to Ethnic/Minority Local Church ministries, and programs related to the denomination’s Special Sundays for Human Relations Day and Peace with Justice.

Seven programs split $53,280 for ethnic local-church grants. These included a youth development workshop by the United Methodist Hispanic caucus MARCHA and Ebola-stigma fighting in Liberia.

Human Relations Day grants totaling $46,193 were divided among seven programs. These included ministries in Nigeria, Mozambique, Congo and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference.

Peace with Justice grants amounting to $20,000 were awarded to four programs in the United States. These are located in places as far apart as Alaska and Alabama, and California and the District of Columbia.

Keeping the vision

“Keeping the vision of justice and kindness, reconciliation and peace-building around the world is critically important,” said the Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, GBCS general secretary, in her report to the board. “As Christians we are invited to live as citizens of the reign of God with all people in all places and as neighbors.”

Henry-Crowe pointed out that the Methodist commitment to social holiness is stated in the denomination’s 1908 Social Creed. That creed, among other things, addressed equal rights and complete justice for all, abolition of child labor, protection of workers, a living wage, and “recognition of the Golden rule and the mind of Christ as the supreme law of society and the sure remedy for all social ills.”

“From this creed to the Social Principles as they evolved in 1968 and beyond, the work of the General Conference [the denomination’s highest policy-setting body] through the Board of Church & Society is speaking to issues of many of the societal ills and injustices around the globe,” Henry-Crowe said.

5 challenges

Henry-Crowe identified five challenges facing the denomination:

  1. Creating culture(s) of trust, respect, connection and engagement within and among the churches, across communities, societies and cultures, the halls of governments, and annual conferences and boards.
  2. Maintaining the United Methodist connectional identity by articulating theological grounding and Methodist identity, missional coherence, cultivating appreciation, and building trust at all levels.
  3. Communicating ethically and effectively in a social-media age.
  4. Accomplishing ministry and mission for the transmission of the Christian faith and Methodist identity in caring for the institution itself.
  5. Speaking forthrightly with a religious voice in a broken and hurting world.

“It is our job to live our principles,” Henry-Crowe said, “to advocate for justice, educate about the importance of living good and principled lives in the world, and always to organize for God’s justice.”

Journey to repentance

Meeting at the National 4H Youth Conference Center, the board members continued their journey toward an act of repentance and reconciliation with Native Americans, an emphasis of the denomination. The board participated in a learning experience at the National Museum of the American Indian on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. The board also allotted plenary time for members to share reflections on the visit.

The next board meeting, in the Desert Southwest Conference, Sept. 16-20, is expected to include an act of repentance and reconciliation planned with Native American leaders from that area.

Social Principles consultations

The Social Principles consultations provided insight into how the denomination understands the significance of these denominational statements on social concerns. The consultations identified ways theology, history, moral and ethical teaching are understood or need to be enhanced as the denomination supports ministry in local contexts around the world. A seventh consultation is scheduled for this month in Nigeria.

GBCS promotes the ministry of United Methodism by advocating, educating and organizing around the issues that face the Church and the world contained in General Conference social-justice policies in the Book of Discipline, Book of Resolutions and other documents.

The board of directors approved preparing a report to the 2016 General Conference to propose steps to create a more globally inclusive and relevant Social Principles.

United Methodist Building

The Rev. Alfred Day III, general secretary of the General Commission on Archives & History, related history of the United Methodist Building on Capitol Hill. He said it is a surprise to him that the United Methodist Building, which in Washington, D.C., “houses one of the real-life, practical divinity centers of our historic tradition,” has not already been so designated as a Historic Site and Heritage Landmark.

Kathy Griffith, a grant officer for global health at the General Board of Global Ministries (GBGM), presented on Sexual- & Gender-based Violence. She said there is “dreadful brokenness,” and an “inability to be whole.”

“When stigma cuts you off, you are no longer alive,” Griffith said of women and girls subjected to violence. She added that HIV “now has a woman’s face, and it’s an adolescent girl.”


Petitions to General Conference

Overall, the board considered more than 100 petitions, mostly related to existing Social Principles and resolutions. The board members evaluated whether to let them expire, delete or rewrite them, and whether new subjects need to be addressed.

At the conclusion of this spring’s meeting, they had reduced the total number of petitions related to GBCS by 40%, which indicates a clear focus on streamlining and strengthening the Book of Resolutions.

In other business, the board voted to formally join and endorse the USAgainstAlzheimers coalition, which is committed to ending the affliction by 2020 through effective leadership, collaborative advocacy and strategic investments.

The hunger offering of $1,573 is designated to recipients: Asuncion Perez Memorial Center, the social service arm of The United Methodist Church in the Philippines; and the Washington Youth Garden, which provides a year-round environmental science and food education program for D.C. youths and their families.

The funds comprise two sources, an offering taken among the board and staff members at a “humble dinner of soup and salad,” supplemented by the difference in cost of catering the meal at the United Methodist Building versus eating at the conference center.

The board approved designating its fall meeting offering to the Justa Center, a homeless resource center in Phoenix, and Church to Church, a ministry of the Desert Southwest Conference in partnership with the Methodist Church in Mexico.

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.

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15 Comments on "Social-justice agency board approves $120,000 in grants"

The United Methodist Reporter wants to encourage lively conversation about The United Methodist Church and our articles in the belief that Christian conversation (what Wesley would call conferencing) is a means of grace. While we support passionate debate, we cannot allow language that demeans or demonizes others, and we reserve the right to delete any comment we believe to be harmful or inappropriate. We encourage all to remember that we are all broken and in need of Christ's grace, and that we all see through the glass darkly until that time we when reach full perfection in love. May your speech here be tempered with love, and reflection of the fruits of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. After all, "There is no law against things like this." (Galatians 5:22-23)
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Looks like GBCS has another challenge. Establishing some measure of credibility. Might want to start with that one Ms. Henry-Crowe.

George Nixon Shuler

they have plenty of credibility among people not mired in extremist ideology.

Wes Andrews

Ms. Henry-Crowe is doing what a lot of D.S.s do. It’s pretty common for a the local conference college to offer them a “doctorate” that they have no real abiity to confer. The real issue is that the GBOCS really has only been about proclaiming the progressive agenda with the tithes of people they tend to disrespect. The Five Challenges are just smoke and mirrors.

George Nixon Shuler
Honorary doctorates are nothing new – they’ve been around as long as universities have. I don’t think that they have “been about proclaiming the progressive agenda with the tithes of people they tend to disrespect” because nobody has a problem with the progressive agenda except the right-wing satrapy in the UMC, who are not persons deserving of any more than the most basic respect. Their movement is based entirely upon all the jingoisms and bigotries of the last two hundred years and has been proven time and time again to be just a vehicle for those seeking power and control.

Challenges 2 and 3 might be tough to achieve;
building trust at all levels.- If there is an agency within The UMC that has a lower level of trust than GBCS please tell me what it is.
Communicating ethically – sandwiches anyone?
“board considered more than 100 petitions” – Also known as the self licking ice cream cone. GBCS writes these petitions about themselves which are passed at GC and then quotes GC when they go off and do whatever they choose.

George Nixon Shuler

Not as much as #1 due to the fact the right-wing caucus is being dragged kicking and screaming into the future.

Paul W.

I don’t disagree with you Kevin, but I think we do have to give Dr. Henry-Crowe credit here for her recognition that trust and respect are issues for GBCS. Listing this as the #1 challenge should be viewed as a positive. Whether anything changes remains to be seen, but listing it at least shows awareness of the problem.


Paul, I appreciate the sentiment but, as a long time observer of the GBCS, I will have to side with Kevin. The GBCS, via these resolutions, sometimes fronted by other people, has been writing its own job description for years.

And “Dr.” Henry-Crowe? Well, she doesn’t have an earned doctorate degree; this is an honorary title, like “Dr. J.” How’s that for transparency and honesty?


She did not earn a doctorate? According to her bio “Recipient of a Master of Divinity degree from Candler School of Theology at Emory University, Henry-Crowe also holds a Doctor of Divinity from LaGrange College. ”
Then I pulled up LaGrange website and I do not see PhD’s offered. I guess I can be “Doctor” too.


Exactly. I am very familiar with Emory and LaGrange College. This is par for folks at GBCS. They lack transparency and have absolutely no credibility among thinking people. They remain a blight on this denomination and the reason many people left it.

Paul W.
A quick Google search confirmed your claim about the Rev. Henry-Crowe’s honorary Doctor of Divinity degree. (She also has a 2014 honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Wofford.) In the scientific and engineering disciplines, claiming a degree you did not earn (including honorary degrees) is a definite no-no (and is dealt with quite harshly). Another quick Google search showed that it is not quite as cut-n-dried within the theological community though where many pastors choose to (incorrectly) use their honorary title. The official rule (even within the discipline of theology) appears to be that the “recipients of… Read more »
Paul W.

According to several websites, it turns out that honorary degrees have different names than earned degrees, so if someone lists the letters, it is possible to tell the difference.

Earned degrees: Ed.D. (Doctor of Education), Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy), D.Min. (Doctor of Ministry), Th.D. (Doctor of Theology).
Honorary degrees: D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), Litt.D or Lit.D.(Doctor of Letters or Doctor of Literature), LHD (Doctor of Human Letters), L.L.D or LL.D. (Doctor of Laws).


Ms. Henry-Crowe has several citations stating she has a doctorate degree from LaGrange College. Since LaGrange College does not offer doctorate degrees such a claim is untrue.

Using the title “Dr.” in an academic or professional environment, when one does not, in fact, have an earned doctorate, is, in my opinion, unethical, particularly when done by a church leader.


Paul, I think you are going to great lengths to give Ms. Crowe the benefit of the doubt. While I admire your approach, I think it is fairly clear–based on extensive familiarity with their history–that Ms. Crowe, as well as the GBCS, are using the title to grab unearned credibility and gravitas.

George Nixon Shuler

That’s another thing where YMMV applies. If she had a doctorate from, say, Liberty University, she would never have made it through the discernment process, and quite rightfully so.

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