Methodist Federation for Social Action
The Lee and Mae Ball Award
In the 1950s, MFSA came under attack during the days of the Red Scare and McCarthyism. Labeled “Methodism’s Pink Fringe” by an essay in Reader’s Digest, MFSA was also asked to no longer be the Church’s voice for social justice. With no apportionment funds from the general Church and no strong support from the denomination, MFSA was buffered by the work of Lee and Mae Ball. Noting the importance of an independent advocate for social change in the Church, Lee and Mae kept MFSA’s voice alive by knocking on parsonage doors, participating in civil rights protests, corresponding with prison inmates, and publishing the Social Questions Bulletin (now The Progressive Voice). By 1973, when Rev. George McClain became the executive director of MFSA, the foundation laid by Lee and Mae Ball allowed for renewal and revival of a network of justice-seekers in both the Church and world.
Lee and Mae were never content to remain within the walls of a Church building because they knew they could only find Jesus in the company of the poor and oppressed. They engaged those who were “spiritual, but not religious” long before the Church had words to describe such a belief.
Due in great part to the efforts of Lee and Mae Ball, MFSA was there “when we needed it,” and so our highest honor, The Lee and Mae Ball Award, has been given in their memory since 1975 to those whose resilient work is a model of God’s grace and hope for a justice-seeking Church and world.
Recipient: Rev. Chett Guinn
The Methodist Federation for Social Action is proud to present the Lee an Mae Ball Award to Rev. Chett Guinn of Des Moines, Iowa. Thank you, Chett Guinn, for all you do to make the city of Des Moines, the state of Iowa, and The United Methodist Church a place where peace and justice is central to the minds of all people.
Reconciling Ministries Network
Cup of Justice
The Cup of Justice Award is given for taking bold action to bring about systemic change where injustice, oppression, and exclusion exist.
Recipient: Rev. Dr. Pamela LightseyRev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey is a scholar, social justice activist, faculty member at the Boston University School of Theology, ordained elder in the Northern Illinois Conference of The UMC, and chair of the Personnel Committee of the Board of Directors of Reconciling Ministries Network. Dr. Lightsey has been particularly active in social justice advocacy around global peace, LGBTQ civil rights, and anti-racism. As a queer woman of color, Dr. Lightsey continues to embody the great standard-bearing threshold articulated by activist Audre Lorde: “there is no single-issue struggle because we do not live single-issue lives.” Over the past year, her work for RMN and Boston University took her to Ferguson, Missouri to bear witness the voice of faith at the intersections of queer and black identities reminding us all that racial justice is LGBTQ justice. She has given herself for the well-being of Reconciling Ministries Network, The United Methodist Church, and is even now advancing the work of the #blacklivesmatter movement as she is hosting a Conference for Black Church Scholars in Ferguson—on the one year anniversary of the murder of Michael Brown. Pamela takes her place as a scholar, preacher, teacher, and prophet—working at the margins—to amplify the voice of the oppressed for the sake of a just church and world. We proudly aware the Cup of Justice to Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey.
Voices in the Wilderness
The Voice in the Wilderness Award is given for taking risks, despite isolation in a wilderness, to proclaim the rightness of inclusion for all people in the church, and for standing against injustice despite the lack of support.
Recipient: Joy ButlerJoy Butler has been serving as the chair of the Rio TX Reconciling Annual Conference Team since 2012. Since, she has organized the Rio team with such passion, skill, and perseverance that it is one of the strong Reconciling Annual Conference Teams in the country. As an ally, Joy is wholeheartedly dedicated to the work of inclusion and justice for LGBTQ people. She dedicates her talent, countless hours, and her emotional energy to the ministry of inclusion despite the very real challenges of this work in a largely conservative conference. Not only does she commit herself to the work through organizing, running social media, and playing a pivotal role in her church’s Reconciling journey, but she’s also very mindful of remaining open to her own ongoing journey of being an ally, intentionally listening to the voices of LGBTQ people for guidance. She is a gift to the movement and to the many LGBTQ people she works alongside with graciousness, support, and a fierce and faithful loyalty.
Recipient: Rev. David FeltenDavid Felten is the pastor of The Fountains UMC in Fountain Hills, AZ – a Reconciling congregation. David received the Voice in the Wilderness Award for continuing to support LGBT rights while enduring fierce opposition from fellow clergy in and around the Phoenix area. David performed the wedding of the first couple to obtain a same sex license in Arizona. He is the lone theological leader in Fountain Hills speaking for the rights of LGBTQ individuals and for progressive Christianity.
Because of this support, 8 churches in Fountain Hills have joined together to try to discredit progressive Christianity and LGBTQ acceptance. They have taken out large ads in the local paper and have hung banners in front of their churches-aimed specifically at Rev. Felten and his progressive Biblical teaching. Rev. Felten has been gracious and peace-seeking in the face of these attacks.
He stands strong in his faith and his commitment to justice and to his congregation, taking advantage of the publicity surrounding this unfortunate bullying to further promote and educate about progressive theology. He is a founding member of No Longer Silent: Clergy for Justice, an outspoken voice for LGBTQ rights both in the church and in the community at large. He is a ” voice in the wilderness “- or perhaps the desert.
Parents Reconciling Network (PRN)
Parents are sometimes among the most passionate workers for the full inclusion of our lesbian, gay bisexual, transgender, intersex or queer children and the PRN would like to acknowledge one of those special parents. The Hilton award is presented to a parent or parents who have had a significant impact on the understanding of full inclusion of LGBTQ individuals. This award is named for the late Revs. Bruce and Virginia Hilton who were leaders in the formation of the Parents Reconciling Network. In their words, the award shall be made “to persons or groups, preferable United Methodist parents of GLBTQ children, who through outstanding compassionate witness and work, give significant support to other parents and increased hope of a more inclusive denomination.”
Recipient: Rev. Frank SchaeferThe Parents Reconciling Network envisions a world that accepts LGBTQI persons free from any discrimination in their lives and works to change the policies and practices of The United Methodist Church so that all are included. Our Hilton Award is given to a parent or group who has dedicated his/her/their life/lives to ending LGBTQI discrimination in The United Methodist Church.
Many of us know the details of the incredible events that have led us to know and admire Frank Schaefer. What parent could ignore a request of their child to reside at their wedding? Frank Schaefer embodies our mission and models our dream for an inclusive Church. It is with deep gratitude for Frank’s courage and bold witness that we recognize him with the 2015 Hilton Award.
Shepherd of Hope of Award
The Shepherd of Hope Award is presented to a young adult, individual, or organization supporting young adults who live out MoSAIC’s call for justice in the following ways:
- Advocates for full participation of persons of all sexual orientations and gender identities within the life and leadership of The United Methodist Church
- Strengthens communities and relationships through acts of reconciliation and healing in the name of Christ
- Seeks to create change in Church policies and practices which are exclusionary of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender persons, their families, and their allies.
- Lives out Christ’s message of inclusiveness in our churches, schools, and daily lives.
Recipient: Rev. Becca Girrell
MoSAIC is a movement of young adults, students, and seminarians working for the liberation of all God’s people in the United Methodist Church. This year the Shepherd of Hope award was presented on behalf of MoSAIC to an individual whose love, witness, and ministry uphold the mission and vision of this young people’s movement: Becca Girrell.
In John chapter 10, Jesus gives us the image of the good shepherd, who knows the sheep by name, whose voice the sheep can hear, who reaches out even beyond the fold to the sheep who haven’t had the protection of the group. This year’s recipient of the Shepherd of Hope award knows the language of the sheep outside the fold. A so-called “digital native” and an advocate for the use of social media in ministry, Becca has worked consistently over the last quadrennium to use Twitter and other social media outlets to invite deep, intentional, intergenerational, grace-filled conversations on the internet.
During General Conference 2012, many Young Adults – both clergy and lay – were frustrated. We were frustrated that our voices hadn’t been heard, frustrated that clergy people were claiming to speak for and represent all of us, when we were often not included in conversations to begin with, and definitely were not of one mind on the issues at hand. After all, it is a hallmark of the millennial generation to be pluralistic! After one particularly challenging day of plenary discussion, this year’s honoree tweeted at Adam Hamilton: You can’t scare people into Hope.
This tweet and other conversations happening on the ground and in houses and apartments and libraries around the world (via livestream and social media) made it clear that we wanted more: more conversation, more listening, more space for nuance and grace, more relationship, more understanding, more humility. Our Shepherd of Hope, in conversation with a team of young people, realized that there just wasn’t space on the ground at General Conference to talk about what we did want to see our church look like.
She asked, “how do we keep this good conversation going?” And so, as a contrast to the “Plan UMC” restructure proposal, the tweet-up “Dream UMC” was born. A monthly conversation about big issues facing the United Methodist Church, Dream UMC seeks to open the virtual floor to voices seldom heard in spaces of debate and power and institution. “If the General Church won’t have transparent and open conversations, then we will,” said our recipient. “We don’t need their permission to have dialogue and relationship.”
Over the past 4 years, Dream UMC has tackled issues of human sexuality, colonialism, and violence against women, they’ve resourced one another for worship and bible study and church leadership, they held a session attended by members of the Connectional Table for the sake of dialogue and asking questions, and most recently, following the massacre in Charleston, they held a prayer service on Twitter, holding prayers for the victims, for the shooter, for the city and the church, for the deceased and the bereaved, and for confession of our own complicity in the racism that allows such acts to be perpetrated. In a recent conversation, Becca remarked: “I think it’s a place where people can feel heard. For me, a sense of feeling heard reduces the anxiety we feel when we come to the structural conversations [at General Conference].” Perhaps surprisingly, the tenor of these discussions has been more respectful and less “screamy.”
MoSAIC thanks Rev. Becca Girrell and the whole Dream UMC team for their hard work over the last quadrennium!
Rev. Becca Girrell serves as senior pastor at Lebanon UMC, a reconciling congregation in Lebanon, NH. She co-convenes Dream UMC (www.facebook.com/dreamumc), an online gathering for conversation about the United Methodist Church. To learn more about MoSAIC, visit us at www.facebook.com/umcmosaic.