Dr. Mark Davies, professor of social and ecological ethics, was named a convener for the process of revising the Social Principles of the United Methodist Church for the Natural World section.
The social principles are revised every four years and serve as basic guidelines for the church.
Davies said the task of revising these principles was given to the General Board of Church and Society by the general conference of the United Methodist Church. Representatives come from all over the world to meet, discuss and vote on the social principles.
The General Board has meetings throughout the year to select people to revise each section of the social principles.
“I had done quite a bit of work with the Board of Church and Society events and programs, I’m the chairperson for the Board for the Oklahoma Conference, and I teach environmental ethics, so they asked for me to be the convener for this team,” Davies said.
Melaina Riley, religion senior, said Davies talked a great deal about environmental issues in her ethics class.
“He is so passionate about it. He is probably the most qualified person to do this position,” Riley said.
Riley said it is really cool that Davies’s team is responsible for setting the groundwork for the ideals and principles of the United Methodist Church.
“It’s a big deal,” Riley said.
Davies said there are nine people on each team.
“We just met this past week in Washington, D.C. and looked at what the social principles are now,” Davies said.
Davies said the team spent nine days reviewing the current principles and deciding how they can be revised to be more up-to-date in relation to contemporary challenges. They will continue to meet online through video conference to prepare a draft to submit Dec. 15, the day when all sections must be completed.
The drafts will then continue to the global stage, where Methodist Church officials from all over the world will review the sections to make sure they convey the intended message.
Riley said the sections don’t change often.
The natural world section of the social principles currently states: “All creation is the Lord’s, and we are responsible for the ways in which we use and abuse it. Water, air, soil, minerals, energy resources, plants, animal life, and space are to be valued and conserved because they are God’s creation and not solely because they are useful to human beings…,” according to www.umc.org.
The social principles came about in the late 1960s and have been updated throughout the years to accommodate new challenges as times change.
“One challenge we face is the issue of climate change. In the early ‘70s, there might have been some scientists that were concerned about that, but it was not something that was really in the public awareness whatsoever,” Davies said.
Davies said climate change has been addressed in the natural world section since the 1960s, but the revision team wanted to make sure they highlighted that as one of the key issues.
“We are making sure that we have the principles that need to be in our section there, that they are up to date with contemporary challenges and that they are going to be helpful for the church in the next 30 years,” Davies said.
Davies said he doesn’t think there will be much critical feedback to the emphasis on climate change because the social principles already state the importance of conservation of resources and protection of the environment.
“We are trying to have principles that are not so general that they don’t speak to any of the contemporary challenges we’re facing, but also that are not so specific that they are just focusing on one issue,” he said.
Between Dec. 15 and March, the General Board of Church and Society will review the section drafts.
“Hopefully, these guidelines will be something that can be used for years to come and will be helpful as we face these really big challenges,” Davies said.