The Cool Ladies

Featured in April’s Bright Lights, here are the Cool Ladies of Healing Waters United Methodist Community in Hubert, N.C.: Linda Taylor, Nicole Ebsen, Toni Laird, Desireé Morrison, Stephanie Dellinger, Peggy McCausley, Anna Schipper, Rosie Valentin, Jill Bachik, Gloria Hatmaker, Buffy Adamé, Lynn Nesbit, Debby Holland, Sandy Lasko, Cathy Rhoades, Fran Spencer and the FAITH FROG!

Via the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church.

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Supporting Prison Ministry

by Richard Lord

Ecoprisoners, an organization that supports persons accused or convicted of actions taken on behalf of ecojustice, recommends several helpful activities that free citizens can do to support incarcerated individuals.

Editor’s note: These suggestions pertain to exchanges with inmates with whom a relationship has been established. Speak with officials at the facility or others in prison ministry for tips on supporting those on the “inside” from the “outside.” And remember, advocacy and action is a great way to support those imprisoned in a broken system.

Letters
Inmates enjoy hearing about someone’s day-to-day activities and interests. This is often the easiest and most important thing you can do to support people in prison. Check with the institution regarding its mail regulations. Most facilities do not allow torn pages from books, magazine or newspaper clippings. Photocopies, however, are accepted.

Care packages
Send pictures of wild places, ones that are vivid in color and show a lot of detail. Or describe a hike—spend the day outside hiking, take some pictures and then send them to a prisoner with a story about your hike. Photocopy everything: pictures of beautiful paintings, other artwork, large photos, newspaper articles, book pages, magazines, and anything else you can think of and share them with.

Donating
Send cash donations directly to the inmate’s commissary account.

Books
Usually, books must be new, paperback and come directly from the publisher or an online distributor. Remember to keep the topics of books focused away from subjects that could potentially cause problems for prisoners.

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A New Angle on Anti-Death Penalty Advocacy

In the April issue of response is an article by Richard Lord on United Methodists and advocacy against the death penalty. Officially, The United Methodist Church opposes capital punishment: “We oppose the death penalty (capital punishment) and urge its elimination from all criminal codes” (The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church 164G).

In addition to lawmakers, anti-death penalty activists have begun appealing to pharmacies and pharmacists, the providers of the drugs used in lethal injections, to stop supplying the drugs for purposes of lethal injection, stating that such practice against the community’s code of ethics.

Tara Culp-Ressler at ThinkProgress reports:

Almost all major medical associations—the American Medical Association, the American Public Health Association, the American Board of Anesthesiology, and the American Nurses Association—prohibit their members from assisting in executions. These professional associations believe that taking another person’s life against their will is a violation of the Hippocratic Oath and can’t be reconciled with health workers’ ethical obligation to care for their patients. There can be stiff penalties for violating that. The American Board of Anesthesiology, which updated its policy in this area just four years ago, stipulates that members who participate in executions will lose their medical certification.

The drugs used in the lethal cocktail are already in short supply, with more manufacturers and distributors refusing to supply the drugs for use in capital punishment. Death penalty states have started to turn to compounding pharmacies, which are not regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, for alternatives, sometimes with unpredictable results, as was the case for a January 2014 execution in Ohio, during which it took the inmate 24 minutes to die. It was tainted drugs from a compounding pharmacy that caused the meningitis outbreak that killed 64 people in 2012.

On Monday the Supreme Court refused to take a case examining if a death row inmate has a right to know the drugs and methods to be used in his or her execution. The defendants who brought the lawsuit claimed the nondisclosure denies their due process rights

The likelihood of unpredictable execution outcomes increases as states struggle to find lethal drugs and drug mixes. The suppliers of the drugs are becoming increasingly unknown, as death penalty states have begun enacting secrecy laws to protect the suppliers.

Human rights groups have petitioned the American Pharmacists Association asking it to ban its members from participating in executions in any form.

What do you think? Is this a valid route for advocacy? Will you sign the petition?

Further reading:

Lethal Injection, Drug Shortages and Pharmacy Ethics
Compounding Pharmacies and Lethal Injection
“In Opposition to Capital Punishment,” Resolution 5035, The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church

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Life Without Parole

by Richard Lord

Life without parole is the most common alternative to capital punishment. It removes the criminal from society and costs a fraction as much as execution. Some people see it as more humane than killing the convicted. Some see it as less humane.

But the victims’ (survivors or “co-victims”) needs are violated in both punishment techniques.

Execution and life without parole provide vengeance, which is perceived as a victims’ primary need.  But they are “the result of justice denied,” according to Howard Zehr. A professor at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va., Zehr is one of the founding voices of the restorative justice movement.

Parole must exist as an incentive for the convicted, according to Zehr. To give the guilty the opportunity to make amends to the victim. Zehr, who has worked extensively with convicted murderers and the families of their victims, says that the condemned’s desire to make amends increases over time. The possibility of parole can accelerate this, allowing considerable relief.

In traditional criminal justice, the adversarial system prevents offenders from acknowledging their responsibility. A restorative justice option practiced in California allows offenders to meet regularly to listen to victims. They grow to understand their responsibilities and they pursue fund-raising activities to pay symbolic restitution to victim assistance programs.

To learn more about the United Methodist Women perspective on restorative justice, read the spiritual growth study The Journey: Forgiveness, Restorative Justice and Reconciliation.

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From the Editor (April 2014)

responseapril2014cover300Happy Easter! In this jubilant season we rehearse the life and teachings of Jesus the Christ and rejoice in the good news that God is love, and so with God, all things are possible—forgiveness, reconciliation, even resurrection after death.

This season commemorates the high cost of love, for had Jesus not endured the Maundy Thursday betrayals and trials and the Good Friday crucifixion, there would be no Easter morning joy. Jesus paid the price of love for us. And those who would be his disciples must likewise “pick up their cross and follow me,” he said. Love is very costly.

In worship services during the final days of Lent, we sing, “Were you there when they crucified my Lord? … Were you there when they nailed him to the tree?” Or pierced him in the side? Or laid him in the tomb? Were you there? (The United Methodist Hymnal, #288)

The song’s implicit next question is, “If you were there, what did you do?”

April’s issue of response features stories of United Methodist Women members, individually and collectively, seeking to answer that question, not by tuning out the difficulties of their day and time but as witnesses of a God who is love and for whom all things are possible, even forgiveness, reconciliation and resurrection of that which was dead.

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Ready for Easter

Since Easter falls later this month, you may still be in the middle of your Lenten devotions and practices as you receive the April issue of response. How do we prepare for the resurrection? How do we respond to this truly unbelievable news?

In all four Gospels the truth of the resurrection is given first to women. They return to the disciples and declare, “The tomb is empty! I have seen the Lord!” In John’s Gospel the disciples seem to believe the women, but in Mark and Luke they do not. (In Matthew two guards also witnessed the angel and heard the news, so the women’s story was corroborated.) In all Gospels Jesus appears himself to his disciples after the resurrection and confirms, yes, he is risen.

Can you blame the disciples for their doubt, their disbelief? Even after Jesus appeared to them, gave them instructions, breathed in them the Holy Spirit, they still were unsure what it all meant. We still struggle with answering this question today.

Now imagine you are Mary Magdalene that first Easter morning. You have not only lost a friend and teacher but you’ve lost hope. How in despair you must be that this new world Jesus talked about seems lost. Your mind is full of doubts, your heart is broken. Then your friend—whom you’ve seen die and lain in a tomb—appears to you and asks you why you are crying. Can you comprehend the joy, perhaps mixed with confusion, even anger? What a wondrous burden has been placed on you to share this news that Jesus lives!

So what does it mean to be an Easter people? As women, like our foremothers at the empty tomb, we must be prepared to receive a Holy Truth—and to not be believed when we share this truth with others.

Jesus appeared to a woman (or women depending on the Gospel) who was ready to see him, to hear him. Mary Magdalene’s name is mentioned throughout the Gospels, so from this we can assume that she was a follower, a disciple of Jesus and was devoted to learning and practicing what he taught—not unlike the woman next to you at your United Methodist Women meeting, or the woman you greet daily in the mirror. We must not forget that is not our calling just to share the good news but to be ready to receive it. Read. Study. Be in communion. Be alone in prayer. Discern. Listen. Hear.

We are a prophetic organization. It is in our DNA to declare, “We have seen Jesus—and here’s what he had to say.” But we won’t see Jesus if we aren’t ready to see him, mistaking him for the gardener or taking a perpetual walk to Emmaus. In our lives we will miss seeing Jesus. We will ignore truth. We will doubt. But we also know Jesus will show us his hands and we’ll believe. We’ll accept the Holy Spirit and together determine not only how to share this good news but what it means for us in the world today.

Sisters in Christ, it is right to celebrate the empty tomb. But, as were our Easter foremothers, we are tasked with sharing the good news, and may be the first to hear it. As United Methodist Women members the Holy Spirit moves us to reach out, as Jesus did, to the woman and orphan, to those on the margins. We must not only invite them to God’s table of abundance but make sure their path to the table is clear and that they are welcome.

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March Bright Lights

17 groups for girls, women come together for empowering event
United Methodist Women join other women’s group to celebrate International Women’s Day at St. Cloud State University in St. Cloud, Minn.

United Methodist Women in Helena, Ark., host Lent event
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church in Helena, Ark.,  host a series of Lenten Listening programs featuring special words and music at noon each Wednesday from March 5-April 16.

Plano United Methodist Women gives young women the chance to attend senior prom in style
United Methodist Women at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas, offer thousands of dresses at no cost to young women who may otherwise be unable to have a dress to wear to prom.

United Methodist Women member turns 106
Tassie Bradley, longtime United Methodist Women member and oldest member of Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Old Fort, N.C. Ebenezer’s United Methodist Women held a birthday part for Ms. Bradley

United Methodist Women celebrate World Day of Prayer
United Methodist Women in Murray, Iowa, host a World Day of Prayer service March 7 remembering women of Egypt and in support of ecumenical efforts toward justice, peace, healing and wholeness.

United Methodist Women host annual baked potato lunch
United Methodist Women at First United Methodist Church of Stephensville, Texas, host 26th annual baked potato lunch to raise funds for children’s school supplies.

United Methodist Women host 5K
United Methodist Women in Salisbury, N.C., host a chilly 5K race for mission.

Newnan Chapel United Methodist Women sponsor Women’s Day
United Methodist Women of Newnan Chapel United Methodist Church host Women’s Day, with the theme “Making It Happen,” featuring women working in Africa.

United Methodist Women attend legislative training event
United Methodist Women in Jefferson City, Mo., attend the 42nd annual legislative training event learning about the achievement gap in education, bullying, food safety and identity theft.

United Methodist Women host anti-bullying workshop
Detroit Renaissance District United Methodist Women host a panel discussion on ho to stop bullying.

United Methodist Women support United Methodist Children’s Services
Cindy Thompson of United Methodist Children’s Services in Milwaukee, Wisc., knows she can rely on United Methodist Women to support programs for women, children and youth.

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