By Linda Eichenbaum
“This is what the Lord Almighty said: Administer true justice; show mercy and compassion to one another.”—Psalm 106:3
Our South Carolina Conference United Methodist Women’s district social action coordinators have chosen mass incarceration/criminal justice reform, quality education, environmental justice and expanded physical and mental health services access as our primary legislative issues for 2021.
Four Legislative Advocacy Days were held in February to help women understand these issues better. The first 90-minute Zoom workshop, titled “Juvenile Justice Reform,” featured Dr. Aleksandra Chauhan Feb. 3. Chauhan, juvenile defender advocate for the South Carolina Commission on Indigent Defense, was an excellent presenter to more than 125 participants and enlightened women about the scope of juvenile prosecution and incarceration, the lack of meaningful resources for rehabilitation and the need to become the constituency that pressures legislators to make substantial changes.
The second workshop, held Feb. 9 on “Elder Abuse,” featured Russell Rich, director of county operations and community relations for adult advocacy at South Carolina Department of Social Services. He focused on explaining the definitions of elder abuse, the reasons the elderly are most vulnerable and the expanded need for both legislative changes and increased funding for service options.
The third workshop, Feb. 18 on “Opioid Epidemic,” featured a “Holding Out the Lifeline: A Mission to Families” presentation by Tori West, opioid education prevention coordinator. Her presentation included a PowerPoint presentation about the various drugs classified as opioids and the physical and psychological effects of misuse, as well as community resources.
The final workshop featured award-winning United Methodist Advocate Editor and author Jessica Brodie in a presentation highlighting “Jesus, Justice and Action and United Methodists.” She was an inspiring speaker and writer who provided a wonderful conclusion to the Legislative Days Program in this amazing and challenging year.
Bishop Jonathan Holston and SCCUMW President Cathy Ford welcomed all to the inaugural Zoom event. The informative programs were hosted by enthusiastic and talented SCCUMW district social action coordinators and closed by eloquent and spiritual UMW prayer warriors. Also ably assisting were registrar Rebecca Eleazer and Zoom “technical guru” Kim Love Quick.
United Methodist Women are 8,000-plus strong in South Carolina. We can make a legislative difference for our most vulnerable citizens. We all have personal perspectives and experiences that guide us as we approach social issues in a range of ways. But, as God’s children who are charged to love one another, we are singular in seeking justice. To do so, we must educate ourselves, critically listen and learn, then take appropriate action. As Christians, we believe that “faith without works is dead” (James 2:14-17), and we are alive in Christ!
Visit the United Methodist Women page on www.umcsc.org for links to recordings of the sessions and updates on legislative activity. Email LVE2551@sccoast.net to be added to the Legislative Alert email list.
Eichenbaum is SCCUMW social action mission coordinator.