Women challenged on immigration issues at annual meeting

e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service

Women challenged on immigration issues at annual meeting

Dec. 4, 2007  News media contact: Tita Parham*
tparham@flumc.org  Orlando {0770}

An e-Review Feature
By Erik J. Alsgaard**

LAKELAND — More than 400 United Methodist women gathered on the campus of Florida Southern College in Lakeland Nov. 10 to celebrate the accomplishments of the previous year and to be inspired.

E. Judith Siaba, vice president of the General Board of Global Ministries’ Women’s Division and chairwoman of the division’s Christian Social Responsibility section, challenged women attending the Florida Conference United Methodist Women’s annual meeting to fight injustice and welcome immigrants. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #07-0710.

They were also challenged to be “Vessels of Mission” in the world.

The theme of the Florida Conference United Methodist Women’s annual meeting was taken from 2 Corinthians 4:6-7, in which Paul writes “we have this treasure in jars of clay.”

“We are all clay vessels in the hands of the Potter,” wrote Paulette Monroe, president of the group, in the program book for the meeting. “We are vessels claimed by the Potter as His own … many colors, shapes, sizes and texture all called by God to serve His purpose.”

E. Judith Siaba, vice president of the General Board of Global Ministries’ Women’s Division and chairwoman of the division’s Christian Social Responsibility section, challenged members to be God’s vessels, specifically on immigration issues, in her keynote speech.

“Unless you’re Native American, we’ve all come from somewhere else,” she said.

Siaba invited members to share in small groups about where they came from, how they got to the United States and why their family of origin immigrated.

“I was born in Mexico City and moved to Chicago at age 7,” Siaba said. “I learned very fast about how neighbors can be afraid of new people moving in.”

However prevalent that attitude may be today, she said, the New Testament reminds us there is neither Greek nor Jew in the body of Christ. “How have you been treating the body of Christ lately?” she asked.

Siaba offered a brief history lesson on the immigration laws of the United States, noting the eras of quotas, detainments and reductions in visas and how the Alien Registration Act of 1940 was the precursor of today’s Green Card.

Highlighting education as one of the benefits of belonging to United Methodist Women, Siaba said members “need to be an informed people.”

Children from various churches in Lakeland, including St. Mark’s and College Heights United Methodist churches, and Tampa lift up issues affecting children and the need to address them. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #07-0711.

“There’s a lot of injustice in the world,” she said. “United Methodist Women … we know. We read newspapers; we read Response magazine; we are women of action.”

Siaba said 19,726 people were detained by the United States in 2006 for violations of immigration laws. As of Oct. 21 she said that number was 30,255.

“Families are being split apart” because of some of our laws, Siaba said. “Members are being sent to detention centers. Deportations are up.”

Siaba encouraged United Methodist women to write their legislators in Washington, seeking more just treatment for immigrants by reforming the current laws. She also challenged the women to “go home, ask your pastor for a copy of the United Methodist Book of Resolution and study numbers 265 and 266. Learn what the church says about immigration.”

The 2008 General Conference, Siaba said, will again wrestle with the issues of how the church addresses immigration. She said it is easy to think immigration is all about Mexicans trying to come to the United States.

“That’s not true,” she said, “especially in Florida. You have Cubans and Haitians and others moving here all the time. Who’s moving into your neighborhood? Do you know?”

The women discussed that question in small groups and how the church can reach out to their new neighbors.

“Jesus embodied the love of God in the world,” Siaba said. “In the Good Samaritan story we see the love of God embodied in a stranger. Are you ready for the challenge of expressing your love for everyone? Join me.”

Ruth Levins (left) from the Gulf Central District and Judith Pierre-Okerson from the South East District complete pledge cards to missions. Photo by Erik Alsgaard. Photo #07-0712.

The women also celebrated a number of accomplishments:

  • 2006 mission giving totaled more than $630,000;
  • 2006 designated giving totaled more than $47,000;
  • Mission giving as of the meeting date was more than $364,000;
  • Designated giving as of the meeting date was more than $36,000;
  • The Charter for Racial Justice Policies is being implemented in each district, with a committee in each district;
  • United Methodist Women were strongly represented at the 2007 Children’s Week in Tallahassee March 25-April 1;
  • Bishop Timothy Whitaker spoke at the recent Education Summit;
  • More than 500 people attended the 2007 School of Christian Mission at Bethune-Cookman University last July; and
  • The group is continuing its membership campaign.

In the business portion of the meeting a budget of $836,823 was adopted, which includes a pledge to missions of $550,000. New officers were also elected for 2008. Monroe, a member of Stewart Memorial United Methodist Church in Daytona Beach, will continue as president. The group’s vice president is Helen Sweatt of St. Luke’s United Methodist Church in St. Petersburg, secretary is Gertrude Stewart of Miami Lakes United Methodist Church and treasurer is Aggie Reed of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Miami.


This article relates to Florida Conference United Methodist Women/Missions.

*Parham is managing editor of e-Review Florida United Methodist News Service.
**Alsgaard is director of communications for the Florida Conference.

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