Update from Action Task Force:
During the 2015 Annual Conference of the North Georgia United Methodist Conference in Athens, delegates considered several resolutions but one in particular moved from words on paper to action in the North Georgia Conference: Resolution in Support of Co-ordinated Action on Behalf of Undocumented Neighbors. Heralded by members of Oconee Street UMC in Athens, the resolution included many action steps to bring education and awareness to United Methodists as well as identify and offer assistance to our much-maligned neighbors in need.
Beginning in 2013, Oconee Street’s mission grew from a group which found similarity in Dr. King’s “Letter from Birmingham” and the Freedom U among other undocumented families the church supported. To bring action to their faith, the group wrote a letter printed in several publications. As time passed, the need for support, assistance, and understanding from communities intensified. The church asked for action from the annual conference.
Following the adoption of the resolution, the Peace with Justice Committee assigned a Task Force to include coordinator Dr. Robert Foster, lay member-Oconee Street United Methodist who is a lecturer at UGA on Religion and New Testament, the Rev. Dr. Gary Whetstone, District Superintendent of the Athens-Elberton District, Rev. Rodrigo Cruz, pastor of the Nett UMC, Rev. Juan Quintanilla, Associate Director of Congregational Development – Latino Ministries, and Ms. Nancee Tomlinson, lay member-Young Harris Memorial UMC who practices criminal law in Athens. Initially, the Task Force delineated steps to accomplish the lofty goals of the resolution, and has met monthly to further the accomplishment of those goals.
As of April 2016, Rev. Rodrigo Cruz completed a five week education course for 12 United Methodist church members. Dr. Foster has undertaken writing a United Methodist based five-week curriculum to provide a scriptural based education plan to bring awareness and understanding of the individual experience of our undocumented neighbors. Rev. Quintanilla and Ms. Tomlinson met with Dr. Sondra Jones and Ms. Suzanne Clegg to learn how Buford First United Methodist Church connects with and supports their undocumented neighbors through providing meals and other seasonally appropriate missions. The Rev. Dr. Whetstone is providing leadership, needed networking connections, and communication with annual conference leadership.
At the 150th North Georgia Annual Conference in June 2016, the Task Force will display support materials and volunteers will provide information about options available for churches to obtain curriculum, teachers, and community outreach ideas. The Task Force looks forward to sending trained volunteers to minister directly to churches with an interest in education and outreach through sermons and Sunday morning lessons.
The Task Force has completed only a portion of the action list provided in the resolution. Look for more news and opportunities for service as the Task Force brings Action: Love Your Neighbor to a United Methodist church near you.