Explore the five Methodist Priorities for Justice

Tackling inequality and poverty: seeking life in all its fullness

This Priority links to the Principles for justice because… God consistently shows a bias to those experiencing poverty and those who are excluded. This radically challenges the way we organise our society. Our value is not based on our (economic or other) contribution but because we are made in the image of God. God wants us not just to survive but to thrive and flourish.

Yet… The current cost of living crisis and its long-term impacts are dragging people deeper into poverty. Inequality and poverty scars the lives of individuals (particularly children) and communities in the UK. Whilst there is much work taking place developing the policy tools to end poverty, there is a lack of will from those in power to prioritise poverty and inequality in their decision-making.

From our past… Methodist concern for the poorest in society goes back to early Methodism. Central Halls prioritised work amongst the urban poor. Today a significant number of churches are active in supporting the poorest in local communities, through foodbanks, pantries, warm spaces, debt advice centres and more. In addition, JPIT has a reputation for detailed research and leading prophetic campaigning.

Groups with first-hand experience said… Poverty has a daily damaging impact. What is needed is a redistribution of wealth and power. People need enough to live on and to flourish. We need to be better connected and people need to be valued for being human. We need a new narrative about the economy which centres people and planet.

In the Justice Conversations… Economic inequality and poverty were mentioned, as was the cost of living crisis and the scandal of hunger in the UK. Groups talked about a just world being a place where people can flourish, thrive and be happy, and where everyone has enough.

Methodism brings… A widely shared understanding that Methodists prioritise tackling poverty. The experience and commitment of local churches which are rooted in communities. The Church at the Margins programme. The expertise and reputation of JPIT as an ecumenical campaign and advocacy group. Connections across grassroots community initiatives challenging poverty throughout the UK, as well as with national voices including political leaders, faith leaders and national charities.

So what is ours to do?

  • Connect – nurture relationships with people experiencing poverty to build new Christian communities and with people in power to foster transformational relationships between them and the people engaged in the struggle with poverty to achieve lasting social change.
  • Campaign – raise awareness of the impact of the cost of living crisis on those in poverty; as well as building a longer term national anti-poverty movement aimed at putting the moral case to end UK poverty at the heart of the political debate in the run up to the next general election.
  • Support – engage with communities to support people dragged into poverty through this crisis.

A starting point might be…

Reflect together on how well we know our local community, and indeed, people within our own congregation. This might involve intentional listening to one another and to neighbours. Walking prayerfully around the local area can be a powerful way of beginning to make connections, to notice things previously unseen, and to identify possible connections.

Enabling a flourishing environment: right relationship between people, planet and God

This links to the Principles for justice because… God desires the flourishing of creation and human community within it. The flourishing of creation describes a situation in which the present and future of human beings and all living things are somehow secured, in ways that respect the delicate balance between creatures and the environment.

Yet… Humanity is living beyond the fragile limits of our planet – of which the climate crisis is just one indicator. Environmental injustice impacts first and hardest on the poorest. Lifestyles of overconsumption and economic models that pursue growth regardless of ecological impacts place people already experiencing poverty in an increasingly worse situation.

From our past… Wesley believed that creation is grounded in God, and as part of God’s creation we have a responsibility to care. A person’s lifestyle should show justice and integrity, requiring people, for example, to pray about the money they spend.

Groups with first-hand experience said… In the run up to the COP26 meeting, a global group of young people collected stories from countries such as Fiji, Zambia, Uruguay, Italy, India and Britain. They told stories of communities displaced by rising sea levels, crops that were failing because of drought, the impact on fishing of the warming of oceans, as well as the work that is happening to try and mitigate the impact of the climate crisis.

In the Justice Conversations… Groups highlighted the importance of a healthy and flourishing environment – and how much humanity benefits from connection with creation. Others talked about the need to live more simply, reducing consumerism and excessive consumption.

Methodism brings… A clear theological statement, Hope in God’s Future, on climate change. A Conference commitment to net zero and a plan for churches to engage with it. Connections with Partner Churches and communities around the globe. Campaigns with global and local focuses.

So what is ours to do?

  • Campaign – raise awareness of the impact of the climate crisis and the need to make restitution through the Loss and Damage scheme.
  • Action for Hope – move our churches towards net zero.
  • Challenge – resist economic models which harm people and planet.

A starting point might be…

Take next steps with Action for Hope towards net zero. See methodist.org.uk/ActionForHope

Seeking justice for refugees: one people, one world

This links to the Principles for justice because… All humans are made in the image of God and are worthy of equal value and dignity. The denial, hindering or waste of God’s gifts is not only sin against God but represents an injustice against others. The Bible presents challenges to structural injustice.

Yet… The United Nations estimates the number of people forcibly displaced is now 89.3 million, with over 27.1 million refugees. Conflicts, poverty, and the climate crisis as well as the narrower definitions described in the Refugee Convention are behind this movement. In the UK, there is an anti-refugee narrative, with legislation increasingly limiting people’s chances of exercising their right to claim asylum.

From our past… All We Can traces its roots back to the 1930s with the Methodist Refugee Fund responding to the crisis facing refugees in Europe. Over the past 90 years Methodist people have supported All We Can in working alongside communities around the world experiencing war, disaster and poverty. Local Churches and communities in Britain have offered a welcome and support to people arriving as refugees and asylum seekers, and Methodists have campaigned in support of people seeking sanctuary.

Groups with first-hand experience said… Asylum seekers spoke about the stress and uncertainty they faced, being unable to work, struggling to contact the Home Office, having little money and having difficulty accessing healthcare. Some praised the welcome and support they had received from a local Methodist Church of which they were now part.

In the Justice Conversations… A third of churches that responded to the Justice Conversations offer some support to refugees or asylum seekers. Many called for a more generous response to people seeking sanctuary in Britain. Many also highlighted some of the drivers behind people seeking refuge, including global inequality, the climate crisis and conflict.

Methodism brings… Links with Partner Churches in countries that send and receive refugees and migrants. Part of a broad coalition supporting refugees in Britain. A moral voice rooted in long-standing commitment and a willingness to challenge populist anti-immigration narratives.

So what is ours to do?

  • Campaign – challenge moves to further restrict rights to claim asylum in Britain and support alternatives such as humanitarian visas.
  • Support – offer practical support for people seeking refuge, from participating in Government schemes to hosting destitute asylum seekers or becoming a Church of Sanctuary.
  • Stories – seek to shift the narrative about refugees and asylum seekers, for example through supporting people seeking refuge in telling their stories and helping communities share stories about countries that send and receive refugees around the world.

A starting point might be…

Talk with your local authority, Refugees Welcome group or local refugee organised group to find out how refugees and asylum seekers are housed in your area. Explore what they need and how you might help to affirm their well-being, agency and dignity. Consider what it means to become a Church of Sanctuary.

Opposing discrimination: all are made in the image of God

This links to the Principles for justice because… All humans are made in the image of God and are worthy of equal value and dignity. We must not only refrain from injustice, but actively seek peace and pursue it, in all our encounters, in our attitudes, and in our participation in the proclamation and enactment of the kingdom. We, too, are called to live in ways that upend the accepted values of the world.

Yet… There are many examples of how people experience discrimination. There is significant income inequality between ethnic groups, due largely to lower wages, higher housing costs and the impact of the benefit cap. Disabled people are more likely to be living in poverty, unemployed and without further qualifications. The pandemic had a disproportionate impact on people from certain already disadvantaged groups. People who experience more than one form of disadvantage or discrimination (intersectionality) are hit even harder.

From our past… Wesley recognised that the structures of society impact the individual – for example the influence of rising grain prices on people experiencing poverty or the violent effects of colonialism – and took a personal stand. He spoke out strongly against the slave trade and was deeply affected by writing of Olaudah Equiano, a former slave. There has been a slow but growing recognition of the need to change our Church’s structures and culture, embodied in the recent Conference commitment to the Justice, Dignity and Solidarity Strategy.

Groups with first-hand experience said… People spoke about how they had experienced discrimination including in church contexts. Young people at 3Generate spoke about experiences of racism, fears of violence, and discrimination.

In the Justice Conversations… Equality and inclusion were significant themes, with many referring to the need to end discrimination and prejudice. Racism, gender inequality and the barriers faced by disabled people were mentioned most frequently, with people also making links between discrimination and access to housing, employment or other services.

Methodism brings… A Methodist theology underpinning the inclusion work. An active JDS strategy with a strand focused on transformation. Existing commitments to campaigning on injustices which can be linked together. A growing willingness to face up to our past.

So what is ours to do?

  • Intersectionality – use the idea of multiple disadvantage as a key way of understanding injustice, and seek ways of engaging with it.
  • Solidarity – seek opportunities for churches to stand alongside communities opposing discrimination, complementing the JDS strategy.
  • Prioritise – support young people experiencing discrimination in society.

A starting point might be…

Screen the film After the Flood: The Church, Slavery and Reconciliation at your church and host a conversation about the implications of it.

Pursuing peace: seeking justice and reconciliation

This links to the Principles for justice because… Peace and justice are tightly woven together. Peace cannot exist without justice. In order to create peace in the world we need to know peace within our own relationships and communities too.

Yet… Global conflicts kill, injure and displace millions every year. Violence and conflict are interwoven with poverty, homelessness, environmental degradation and historic injustices. Nations and industry promote a narrative that security can only be achieved through increased military expenditure, which restricts resources put into reconciliation and peace-building. The possession of nuclear weapons implies the possibility of their use and yet any use of nuclear weapons would be immoral and catastrophic.

From our past… Methodist Central Hall Westminster hosted the inaugural meeting of the United Nations General Assembly in 1946. There has been a significant strand of Conscientious Objection particularly amongst some in the Primitive Methodist Church, co-existing with chaplaincy in the armed forces, with the current Army Chaplain General and Deputy Chaplain General both being Methodist ministers. Methodist Conference supported the signing of the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in 2017.

Groups with first-hand experience said… People spoke of the need for those who have not experienced conflict to be aware of the complexity of conflict. Even when things look peaceful, tension and the potential for violence can often lurk beneath the surface. Unless the injustices which nurture conflict are addressed (economic and social marginalisation and discrimination, misuse of power, corruption) both the legacy of conflicts long past and the psychological impact of living through or escaping conflict can continue to choke the potential for individuals and communities to flourish.

In the Justice Conversations… The need for peace was mentioned by a large number of people, either in general or in relation to specific conflicts, eg Ukraine, Yemen, Afghanistan, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.

Methodism brings… Scriptures which are replete with a vision of God’s kingdom where justice and peace “kiss each other” (Psalm 85:10). Congregations and Partner Churches with first-hand experience of conflict and violence. Campaigning experience around peace and weapons.

So what is ours to do?

  • Communicate – speak more confidently about peace and non-violence – theologically and politically – whilst recognising our disagreements.
  • Stories – share experiences of violence and conflict.
  • Campaign – advocate for a just peace, for example though campaigns to fund post-conflict reconciliation and alternatives to conflict.

A starting point might be…

Find out whether your bank or pension scheme is investing in nuclear weapons through #InvestingInChange (investinginchange.uk) supported by the Methodist Church, and write to ask them about their policies. Use resources reflecting on peace on Peace Sunday or Remembrance Sunday.