The Social Principles
2 Oklahomans give leadership to revising sections in Book of DisciplineOKLAHOMA CITY — Clergymen Mark Davies and Stan Basler serve on two of the global teams of theologians and experts assigned by the 2016 General Conference to revise the Social Principles sections in United Methodism’s Book of Discipline.
This is the first comprehensive revision work since the Social Principles were adopted in 1970. The revision proposals will be presented to the 2020 General Conference.
Here, the two Oklahomans tell about the work. This article is compiled from a profile on Rev. Dr. Davies, by Neil Christie of the General Board of Church & Society, published in December, and Rev. Dr. Basler’s email responses to the same questions for Contact.
Question: What team did you serve on for the Social Principles revision work?
Answer: Davies chaired the group working on The Natural World section. Basler served on the team studying The Political Community section.
Question: In addition to this role, what are you engaged in now?
Davies: I am the Wimberly Professor of Social and Ecological Ethics and director of the World House Institute for Social and Ecological Responsibility at Oklahoma City University. I consult with the General Board of Higher Education and Ministry to help lead initiatives and projects related to social and ecological responsibility in United Methodist higher education. I am an ordained elder and appointed to teach at OCU, working in both teaching and administration there for 21 years. (He also chairs the Oklahoma Conference Board of Church & Society.)
Basler: I went from clergy retirement to a faculty position with Saint Paul School of Theology as professor-in-residence, Restorative Justice and Prison Ministry. I preach at OKC-Penn Avenue Redemption UMC and chair the IMPACT Committee of the Oklahoma Conference of Churches. I teach restorative justice at Oklahoma City University’s Law School as adjunct faculty. I am a Whiz Kids tutor at OKC-Wesley UMC.
Question: What do you hope your team contributed?
Basler: I believe we clarified some areas and eliminated some overlap. We considered how global church dynamics should influence our statements. We focused on theological underpinnings and concrete calls to action...
As a retired person, I felt honored to be included in this task and to be able to specifically address issues of criminal/restorative justice and the death penalty
Davies: I hope our team will be able to contribute to a revision that will help the church address the global nature of our ecological challenges.
Question: Where in the part of the Social Principles that your team reviewed do you see our greatest strength as a Church?
Basler: The greatest strength is that our church is serious about understanding the political realm as intertwined with Christian theology and biblical principles of justice, not as a subject separate from the Christian witness.
Davies: Our strength is in our connection. The church has an opportunity to model global and intercultural cooperation for the flourishing of the entire human and ecological community.
This will be important in addressing climate justice and the preservation of biodiversity.
Question: What difference do the Social Principles make in the life of a congregation or an annual conference?
Davies: The Social Principles lift up what we aspire to be as a church in relation to each other and in relation to the community of God’s creation.
We are part of a global church that is working together to discern ways to live more fully into God’s beloved community here on earth.
Basler: I am proud that the Church and Society committee has actively distributed copies and held education events. I use them in Confirmation Classes.
Question: Where do you see the greatest challenge to revising the section of the Social Principles that your team handled?
Basler: Probably the greatest challenge is the propensity of persons to concede biblical interpretation to civil religion. Secondly, understandings of acceptable political systems are not uniform.
Davies: Unfortunately, there is significant polarization in some societies about our understanding of our ecological challenges... I think the greatest challenge will be to find ways to convey the urgency of our ecological challenges in a manner that will inspire cooperative action.
Question: Tell me the three greatest systemic oppressions or injustices facing society where you live today.
Davies: 1) An economic system that has not yet found a way to operate within the carrying capacity of our planet.
2) Racism and xenophobia that exacerbate inequality of economic opportunity and hinder full inclusion of all persons within society.
3) The influence of economic power on political processes in a way that suppresses a more just and participatory society.
Basler: 1) A willingness to subordinate measures to preserve creation over the long term for short-term goals and gratification.
2) A failure to prioritize the needs of the poor and alien among us.
3) A punitive spirit and retributive approach to criminal justice and corrections.
The Social Principles are on pages 105-146 in the Book of Discipline.
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