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UMC Clergywoman to Head Pro-Homosexual Methodist Federation for Social Action

UM Clergy member Kathryn Johnson to lead MFSA

By United Methodist News Service May 13, 1998

The Rev. Kathryn J. Johnson* has been named executive director of the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA), effective Oct. 1.

Her election took place when the board of directors of the independent network of United Methodists met May 7-10 in Binghamton, N.Y.

The MFSA board also authorized the preparation of a brief to the denomination's supreme court, the Judicial Council, regarding same-sex covenant services, and it addressed such issues as the international treaty to ban landmines, the School of the Americas training facility, global warming, the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty for nuclear weapons and the unrest in Chiapas, Mexico.

Johnson will succeed the Rev. George McClain, who is resigning after 25 years as MFSA's executive director. During his tenure, the organization has grown from two to 31 chapters. At a special evening program honoring McClain for his service, present and past MFSA presidents launched a campaign to raise $25,000 for an endowment fund in his honor to underwrite "spiritually grounded action for justice." 

McClain called Johnson "uniquely qualified to lead the Methodist Federation into the next millennium," adding that her knowledge of Asia will be useful "in this era of heightened importance of that region."

The 44-year-old clergy member of the New England Annual (regional) Conference will be the sixth executive and first woman to lead the 91-year-old network. She currently is program director of the Asia Pacific Center for Justice and Peace in Washington, D.C. She was a former staff executive with the Church Coalition for Human Rights in the Philippines and served as a mission intern in the Philippines through the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries.

In action related to the recent trial of the Rev. Jimmy Creech, who performed a same-sex covenant ceremony at his Omaha, Neb., church, the MFSA board commended the United Methodist Council of Bishops for resisting calls to convene a special General Conference on the issue. The board will prepare a brief for the Judicial Council arguing that statements in the denomination's Social Principles on same-sex ceremonies or anything else cannot be the basis for "chargeable offenses." 

MFSA directors also praised the Council of Bishops for urging that the School of the Americas, a U.S. Army training school at Fort Benning, Ga., be closed. The school has been called the "School of the Assassins" by critics who charge its graduates have been involved in many politically motivated killings of civilians throughout Latin America.

A special tribute was sent to Carol Richardson, a United Methodist serving a six-month federal prison term for her nonviolent protest at the School of the Americas. MFSA also honored George Baldwin, who led an 800-mile "awareness walk" from Washington, D.C., to the protest rally at Fort Benning last fall.

In other business, the MFSA board:

  • called upon President Clinton not to repeal the one-year U.S. moratorium on landmines but rather sign an international treaty banning landmines;
  • asked the Council of Bishops to oppose global warming because of its detrimental health effects, particularly on children;
  • protested the Mexican government's expulsion of peacekeepers from Chiapas;
  • urged Congress to pass the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty; and
  • presented the Lee and Mae Ball Award for outstanding social action to Bishop Susan Morrison of Albany, N.Y., Leland and Ginger Keemer of Jersey Shore, Pa., Jean and Oran Brown of Staten Island, N.Y., and Phil Stanton of Binghamton.

The Rev. Sheila McCurdy of Mt. Airy, Md., was elected co-president, effective in 1999. The Rev. Ulises Torres, Fitchburg, Mass., will continue as the other co-president, and the Rev. Jan Munsey of Denver was re-elected secretary. The next MFSA national board meeting will be Jan. 27-30, 1999, in Charleston, W. Va.

*Rev. Kathryn J. Johnson is a member of the Reconciling Congregations Program

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