Do you like to experience new things? Are you always up for an adventure, or do you like to play it safe, not wanting to risk or put yourself out there? Have you ever attempted to go to “the other side”? One of my favorite scriptures is Mark 4:35-41 (CEB), where Jesus is spending the day teaching along the shore of the Sea of Galilee. The disciples are there, and people are responding. Later in the day, Jesus says, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” The words are casual, but the meaning is deep. The other side is often where those who are “other” live – those who are not like us. Jesus invites his disciples to let go of the familiar shores of Capernaum, take a risk, and head toward the foreign shores of the Gerasenes.
Other boats follow along, but soon gale winds arise and waves crash against the boat, threatening to capsize it. The disciples are terrified, but Jesus? He takes a nap! Finally, the frantic disciples wake Jesus, saying “Don’t you care about us?” Jesus says to the waters, “Be still!” and immediately the wind settles down. Then he says to his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Don’t you have faith?” And they reply, “Who is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Do you ever travel to the “other side?” Do you ever risk searching for new ways to reach out to others with hope and grace, or would you rather play it safe? One of my favorite quotes is from Andre Gide, a 20th century French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature. “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”
In this story, Jesus has a fruitful ministry at Capernaum on this side of the shore where he teaches parables, casts out demons, and calls Levi, the tax collector. The disciples experience a transformation and give up their old lives. But now Jesus is asking them to leave the familiar shores and go to the other side and advocate in a place where the least, the last, and the lost live.
For many years, the Iowa Annual Conference has had a presence in the Iowa State Capitol during the four months that the legislature meets. Our Advocacy Team uses the Book of Resolutions, 2016; The Iowa Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, Book of Resolutions, 2019; and our United Methodist Social Principles, 2016, as the basis for our advocacy work. The Iowa General Assembly (IGA) is the legislative branch of the government of Iowa. We have a part-time legislature consisting of the Iowa Senate (50 members) and the Iowa House of Representatives (100 members).
The Advocacy Team determines the bills upon which we will focus, with our goal to be a voice for those who have no voice. The word “advocate” comes from the Latin advocare, which means “to add a voice.” An advocate is one who pleads the case of or adds a voice of support to a cause or a person, especially those considered “other.” I am deeply grateful to Brian Carter and all other members of the Advocacy Team who add their voices of support for legislation that aligns with our Book of Resolutions and Social Principles.
Our six legislative priorities for 2021 are the same as for the year 2020, and each one is vitally important. As the Iowa legislators go about their work, we are called to be their conscience by bringing to their attention:
- The degradation of our environment and how we only have one earth for which we are called to care
- Gun safety – balancing the right to bear arms with necessary precautions around that right
- Poverty – especially seen in the light of massive job loss due to COVID-19
- Human Rights – raising awareness around diversity, inclusivity, and equity and responding with advocacy and justice for all who call Iowa home
- Criminal Justice Rights and celebrating that Governor Reynolds signed an executive order last year granting convicted felons the right to vote after they complete their sentences
- Mental Health is especially important right now. Particularly concerning is the cumulative effect of COVID-19 on the mental health of children and adults throughout Iowa.
The process that our Advocates use as they track legislation includes:
- Set priorities in consultation with the Bishop, Assistant to the Bishop, and Director of Connectional Ministries.
- Review Iowa Annual Conference Resolutions, General Conference Resolutions, and our Social Principles.
- Review the list of bills being presented for consideration by legislators.
- Declare either “For” or “Against” on bills presented if there is a clear resolution stating The United Methodist Church position either from the Iowa Annual Conference or the General Conference.
- Issue Action Alerts to ask United Methodists to talk to their legislators about bills we have declared on and share our concerns as the bills move toward passage.
- Attend Iowa Legislative sub-committee and committee meetings in the Senate and the House of Representatives to present our United Methodist view and submit suggestions for changes.
- Review bills that are passed by the sub-committees and committees and make adjustments to the United Methodist Declarations: For, Against, Undecided.
- Thank legislators for their time listening to us.
- Thank United Methodists for contacting their legislators.
- Make a report to the Bishops Office about the results of our advocacy.
I am deeply grateful to our Advocacy Team for their tireless work during legislative sessions:
Brian Carter: Team Lead – email@example.com
Rita Carter – firstname.lastname@example.org
Gary Nims – email@example.com
Bobby Jo Paige – firstname.lastname@example.org
Robert Mulqueen: Consultant – email@example.com
Deb Streff: UMW Liaison – firstname.lastname@example.org
If you would like to sign up to receive Action Alerts, please click here. From the early beginnings of the Wesleyan movement in America, Methodist clergy and laity reached out to all people with the love and grace of Jesus Christ, especially those who were considered “other.” Our Advocacy ministry in the Iowa Annual Conference invites you to travel to the “other side” with us as we continue to advocate for health and wholeness for all, not only here in Iowa but around the world. “One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very long time.”