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AC2013 passes resolutions on education, poverty, Medicaid expansion, mother-child health

By Jessica Connor

FLORENCE—South Carolina United Methodists said yes  to five resolutions dealing with poverty, Medicaid expansion, education and more, but no  to a resolution prohibiting guns at church-sponsored events.

  Passed June 12 during Annual Conference, three of the six resolutions passed with little to no debate, while the three others involved passionate discussion, and sentiment on the gun resolution was so divided it required a written ballot vote, ultimately failing 628-540.

  Resolution on Minimally Adequate Education
The body passed with no debate this resolution authorizing the Annual Conference to call for passage of an amendment to the state constitution that would mandate South Carolina to offer a high quality education  to all children to replace the current standard of minimally adequate education,  and further urge the General Assembly to fully fund existing education formulas regarding financial support for all public schools. It was submitted by the Advocacy Ministry Area of the S.C. Conference.

  Resolution to Support Affordable Care Act and Medicaid Expansion
The body also passed this resolution to encourage legislators to declare that participation in Medicaid expansion is necessary to the state s economic growth and welfare and to the health, wellbeing and livelihood of hundreds of thousands of South Carolinians. Under the resolution, S.C. UMCs will accept responsibility for becoming actively involved at all levels in the development of support systems for health care in the community; educate and motivate members to follow a healthy lifestyle reflecting our affirmation of life as God s gift; become health advocates; and continue support and provision of direct-health services where needed.

  Several people spoke for and against the resolution on the floor.

  I am totally against supporting this,  said Louise Geddings. I don t trust the IRS or the federal government. Do you remember when the federal government wanted to give everyone a house? ¦ We had a recession. If we implement this health care, we will have a Great Depression. 

  John Kelly suggested the S.C. Conference support an alternative to the Affordable Care Act: the many free community health clinics scattered across the state.

  But Patsy Patterson asked, Who is looking at this matter from a poor person s view? The poor need a voice. What is going to happen if we did not have Medicaid? 

  And Dot Scott noted, There are people who are already in a recession and a Depression, and we need to support expansion of this Medicaid (for them). 

  The Rev. Amiri Hooker, convener for the Advocacy Ministry Area, which sponsored the resolution, said his group believes the resolution sends a statement that our Annual Conference believes in the least of these: the very poor, the very unfortunate, those person listed by Medicaid expansion in S.C. 

  Resolution to Prohibit Guns at Church-Sponsored Activities
By a vote so close Bishop Jonathan Holston had to call for a written ballot, the body struck down by 628-540 a resolution to prohibit the presence and possession of guns at church-sponsored activities both on and off church property.

  The Rev. Karen Jones, representing the conference Board of Church and Society, said her group sponsored the resolution to extend the already-established United Methodist policy of churches being weapon-free zones to offsite activities.

  The primary concern was for chaperones for church and youth events off church property; the concern was that these churches wanted chaperones to be armed to take the youth to bowling alleys and movie theaters,  Jones told the body. The church s safety can be guaranteed in other ways that are nonlethal and nonviolent. 

  Brad Parham was one of the people who spoke for the resolution, noting he appreciates the way this resolution strikes a balance between on one hand, ensuring safety at church-sponsored functions, and at same time recognizing certain legal requirements. 

  Others spoke against it, including the Rev. Rodney Powell, of First UMC, Easley, who urged people to consider this resolution with fact and no emotion.

  The Pew Research Center released data this year said national rates of gun homicide are strikingly lower now than in their peak in the 1990s,  Powell said. Concealed weapons training and permits have risen exponentially, and violent crime has declined. 

  Jerry Burns said he objects because many people host church events at their homes, where they might possess a gun for defense or livestock.

  According to this resolution, Burns said, a person with a gun for that reason cannot host a church function now because he has a gun at his house. 

  Holston called for a vote by hand, but it was too close to determine a majority. Then he asked people to stand, but that also was too close. After a paper vote, the resolution failed.

  Resoluti
on to Support Global Maternal and Child Health through the Healthy Families, Healthy Planet Project

The body passed this resolution endorsing the Healthy Families, Healthy Planets  initiative, a project of the UMC s General Board of Church and Society to educate and mobilize United Methodists on maternal health and the importance of international family planning.

  It also calls for the conference United Methodist Women and other relevant boards to work together in awareness, education and advocacy.

  Resolution Eradicating Poverty in South Carolina
With no discussion, the body passed this resolution to help release the million-plus South Carolinians locked in generational poverty. Per the resolution, the conference will work on seven major goals to achieve improvements and healing for the poor in this state: increase by 2 percent service to the poor in the conference through the Advance Ministry mission institutions; train an advocate for the poor in the conference; work with international partners to reduce by 66 percent malaria-related deaths of children under the age of 5; develop opportunities for more in the annual conferences to become involved with advocacy for health issues such as access to health care, disease and infant mortality; find people on the edge of society not currently being addressed in UMCs; provide short-term mission experiences for young people to explore and reflect on professional Christian service; and build a network of prophetic pastors and lay members around the conference and provide them with opportunities to work for advocacy and social justice.

 Resolution Responding to the Proposed Changes to High School Equivalency Testing: A Rallying Cry for Action in S.C.
The body supported referring to Connectional Ministries this resolution from Greenville District Connectional Ministries, which calls for the conference to advocate through Conference Connectional Ministries and its 12 DCMs for a more affordable and non-computer-based high school equivalency test, and create a conference-wide task force that will develop a plan for local churches to become high school equivalency test centers, plus offer preparation.

  Several spoke for and against the resolution, which easily passed after debate. Steve Mann said that while his church operates a successful volunteer GED program, it is time-consuming and difficult, so he is against the resolution because not all churches can handle such an undertaking: We need to be very careful we don t vote for something we may not be able to do. 

  Cindy Sailor also spoke against the resolution, saying she did not like that the resolution enables churches to help people take the GED through paper and pencil: It is sending our state backwards. Paper and pencil tests are a lot more expensive, take a longer time to grade and have a longer turnaround, but most importantly, if this is an equivalence to a high school diploma, today s students must exhibit some equivalency (by being able to use a computer). 

  Others strongly disagreed, stating that many who take the GED are older adults who do not have the skills necessary to take a computer-based text.

  Greg Riley, who also spoke for the resolution, said the conference should do all it can to help people in this matter, including financial assistance.

  Let s do everything we can to make the GED accessible to all the people in South Carolina who need that high school diploma to be successful. 

For full text of the resolutions, visit www.umcsc.org .

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