MFSA HISTORY                        

1907    Methodist Episcopal Church leaders Herbert Welch, Harry F. Ward, Worth    Tippy, Elbert Robb Zaring and Frank Mason North call a meeting in Washington's Ebbit House to found a “Methodist League for Social Service,” patterned after the Wesleyan Methodist Union for Social Service in England. 

On December 3, twenty-five persons found the Methodist Federation for Social     Service (MFSS), electing Herbert Welch as president.  Two program priorities are established: to begin a series of pamphlet publications and to make plans to influence the forthcoming General Conference at Baltimore in 1908. The next day, the group is received by President Theodore Roosevelt in the White House.  

1908    Harry F. Ward drafts a Social Creed that will be adopted by the 1908 General Conference and later, in expanded form with revisions by Frank Mason North and others, by the Federal Council of the Churches of Christ in America and several leading denominations.

1908    MFSS attains formal recognition at General Conference and over 1,000 persons attend an information meeting.

1910    MFSS publishes a small pamphlet called, “Suggestions for Individual Service” for members, pastors and district superintendents. The pamphlet notes that “The assumption of these duties by the preacher means not the loss of his prophetic function, but its increase.”

1911    Harry F. Ward begins his first of 34 years as unpaid Federation executive and launches the Social Service Bulletin.

1912    The Federation is recognized at General Conference “as the executive agency to rally the forces of the Church in support of (social reform),” with the stipulation that three bishops be designated each quadrennium to sit on the Federation's General Council.  

1912    Bishop Francis J. McConnell is chosen MFSS president and serves for the next 32 years. The Federation launches a drive to encourage churches to perform community service.

1913    Ward speaks at 347 meetings and leads 36 workshops in seventeen different states on performing community services in their communities. This proves so successful that by 1916 this is turned over to the Board of Home Missions with the blessings of General Conference.

1913    Grace Scribner, an assistant in the office of the Methodist Board of Sunday Schools in Chicago and an editorial assistant on the Epworth Herald, comes to work for MFSS as office secretary and later becomes assistant secretary and joint editor of the Social Service Bulletin with Harry Ward.

1916    MFSS seeks to “Christianize the social order,” championing above all the cause of working people and organized labor.  The Social Service Bulletin urges women of the Church to link hands with organized working women and together demand that the 8-hour work day law include women.

1918    During the World War, the Federation vigorously defends the rights of conscientious objectors and political dissenters. As the political repression continues after the war, commitment to civil liberties and opposition to political oppression becomes a central theme of MFSS life.

1919    MFSS documents a continuing pattern of violence and violation of rights aimed at International Workers of the World, union activists and socialists. The Bulletin highlights the negative impact of Federal espionage and immigration acts on freedoms of opinion, assembly and expression and compares them to 18th century Alien and Sedition laws.

1919    Federation leaders join with others to co-found the American Civil Liberties Union.

1919    McConnell serves on a committee investigating the great steel strike. Their report mobilizes pubic opinion against the prevailing 68-hour work week in steel, as SSB article giving cautious support to the Russian Revolution becomes a cause celebre. The Sunday School Journal drops the regular column by MFSS staffer Grace Scribner. Ward is accused by a New York State investigating committee of “teaching Bolshevism.”

1922    MFSS sponsors a national conference on “Christianity and the Economic Order,” the first of its kind in the U. S. Grace Scribner is killed by a hit-and-run driver and her friend Winifred Chappel, also a Methodist deaconess, becomes co-editor of the SSB. Over the next decade, Chappell, Ward, George Coe, and Bishop McConnell make MFSS the leading force for social gospel radicalism among the U. S. churches.

1926    National MFSS conference on “The Preacher and the Economic Order” urges equalized clergy salaries.  The group deals with questions such as: Is the present economic order, like war, so sinful that we must reject it? Can we arrive at as clear a moral judgment concerning the present economic system, as the church has reached concerning the war system?

1929    MFSS sees the stock market crash and deepening recession as evidence of capitalism having undemocratic control, enormous waste, a concentration of wealth and workers having to bear the biggest brunt of the economic distress.

1930    The third Evanston conference is on the theme of “The Layman and the Economic Order.” Honored at a special dinner are three women: Mary McDowell, a pioneer social worker and charter MFSS member, a textile “mill girl”; and a labor organizer among the textile workers.

1932    The Federation's critique of the Depression riddled social order gains broad receptivity. The 1932 M. E. General Conference declares, “The present industrial order is unchristian, unethical, and anti-social.”

1933    Bulletin name is changed to Social Questions Bulletin and MFSA membership declares it “seeks to abolish the profit system and to develop a classless society based on the obligation of mutual service.”

1934    After two years of conversations MFSS and the Christian Social Action Movement (a group of younger social-minded Methodists) join in a plan of “Cooperation for Social Action.” Each group agreed to supply material for five research and analysis issues for alternate month publications of the Bulletin.

1935    As part of the prevailing McCarthy-type red-baiting, reactionary attacks are launched at MFSS from various quarters, including the Hearst press.

1936    A series of conferences across the country are called by MFSS during the winter of 1935-36 that endeavor to discover the duty of Methodists in relation to the social crisis of millions on relief resulting in malnutrition and diseases, an increase in child labor, provision for education becoming progressively less and at the same time Congress authorizing the largest peace time budget for war preparations in history. Following a national meeting in Columbus, Ohio MFSS publishes a pamphlet for the churches called “Outline of A Christian Program for Social Change.”

1936    Winifred Chappell leaves the Federation staff without due recognition of the great contributions she has made. The new field secretary Charles C. Webber begins successful efforts to organize MFSS chapters.

1936    Harry Ward invites representatives from nine denominations to form the United Christian Council for Democracy, the first religious united front organization. Charles Webber, Field Secretary for MFSS simultaneously works as an organizer for UCCD.  Jeanne

1939    Charles Webber, self described Circuit Rider in the Twentieth Century, spends two years preaching on the “Parable of the Day of Judgment” before ministerial groups across the country stressing that we can abolish poverty and establish an economy of abundance in the United States.

1939    In fighting anti-Semitism, Webber urges pressure on government to forbid exports, loans and credits to Germany and increase quotas for refugee children under 14, secures affidavits for men and women to leave Germany and abhors lies disseminated by anti-Semitic organizations in US.

1939    MFSS plays the leading role in creating a radical religious united front, the United Christian Council for Democracy. George

1939    The House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) begins to investigate united front organizations for Communist infiltration. As many progressive organizations repudiate Communists in their midst and move to more central political positions , MFSS continues to call for a restructuring of society, an end to economic competition, the right to unionize and full civil rights for communists and Blacks.

1939    The Methodist Episcopal Church and Methodist Episcopal Church, South, divided since 1844, unite with the Methodist Protestant Church to form The Methodist Church. The reunion of churches that had split over racial issues in 1844 creates a racially segregated Jurisdictional system that is vehemently opposed by MFSS. The Federation begins an intense campaign for ecclesiastical and social racial integration.

1940    Mary McLeod Bethune begins a 4-year tenure on the MFSS Executive Committee and joins Bishop Edgar Love and others to continue MFSS' emphasis on combating racism in the UM churches and agencies.

1944    With the departure of Webber, the retirement of McConnell and Ward, and a serious financial crisis, MFSS reaches out for a new leadership including Bishop Lewis Hartman as president and Thelma Stevens as secretary.

1945    Jack McMichael from the southern branch of the newly-reunited Methodist Church  is chosen as executive secretary. A young white southerner, passionately committed to racial integration, he leads MFSS' period of greatest expansion, with some 40 chapters and 5,000 members to be reached within three years.

1945    The Federation requires all chapters to organize regionally, ignoring jurisdictional separations. This action integrates Federation chapters in annual conferences even though the Methodist Church is not yet integrated.

1945    MFSS issues a statement in response to the unleashing of atomic bombs proposing that the bomb and its manufacturing processes be transferred to the UN and that consideration be given to the constructive possibilities of atomic powers.

1948    Federation membership more than doubles from 2400 to 5000. In response, some conservative Methodists organize the Circuit Riders, an unofficial Methodist organization with the single purpose of driving the Federation out of Methodism.

1947    Reactionary attacks on MFSS begin with a series of misleading, distorted articles in the N. Y. World-World Telegram.

1948    Vice-president Walter Muelder publishes a vigorous defense of the Federation. The name is changed to Methodist Federation for Social Action. Bishop Robert N. Brooks of the Central (all-black) Jurisdiction is elected MFSA president.

1950    Reader's Digest attacks MFSA as “Methodism's Pink Fringe” in the classic style of McCarthyism. During the 1940's and 1950's FBI surveillance of MFSA is recorded in 5,000 pages of FBI files.

1952    Although some publications by affiliates of the Circuit Riders make it clear that the Federation's integrationist policies motivated the opposition, the public charge is that the Federation is Communist. Aided by a national media campaign, the Circuit Riders influences the General Conference to censure MFSA and ask that “Methodist” be removed from the name.

1952    A Board of Social and Economic Relations (now the Board of Church and Society) is organized as a formal part of the Methodist church and former officers and executive committee members of MFSA are asked to serve on this official Board.

1952    A disagreement arises among members of MFSA as to whether the creation of an official board makes the unofficial Federation unnecessary. The New York office of MFSA is closed and a small group of dedicated volunteers continued to publish the Bulletin, collect the finances, administer the organization and carry out the Federation's business and policies.

1952    The U. S. House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC) collects and republishes previous attacks on MFSA. Circuit Rides, Inc. and other critics within The Methodist Church capitalize on the prevailing McCarthyite hysteria to secure General Conference repudiation of MFSA.

1953    MFSA is nearly destroyed as an organization. After resigning as Federation executive, Jack McMichael is summoned to testify before HUAC. Mark Chamberlin begins to administer the MFSA voluntarily out of his Oregon home for seven years. Only two chapters will continue to function.

1960     Lee H. Ball begins 13-year term as paid Federation executive and pursues vigorous critique of U. S. role intervention in Southeast Asia. He crisscrosses the country frequently to reintroduce MFSA to the church. Mae Ball promotes MFSA through voluminous correspondence.

1974    George D. McClain becomes executive director. MFSA begins again to organize     aggressively within the denomination as field staff Kathy and David Munson-    Young provide on-site support for striking non-professionals at the United     Methodist Hospital in Pikeville, Kentucky.

1975    Rev. Robert Forrester receives the first “Ball Award” for work on supporting the striking hospital workers at Pikeville Methodist Hospital in Kentucky.

1976    After two decades, MFSA once again lobbies actively at General Conference. Inaugurates a Daily SQB for General Conference distribution; urges deletion of discriminatory Social Principles language on homosexuality.

1977    George McClain and seven other MFSA constituents spend ten days in Cuba in a trip organized by Dr. Herman Will, the first group of United Methodists from the US to visit the Cuban Methodist Church since the travel ban is imposed by the US.

1977    MFSA begins to promote boycotts of J. P. Stevens and Nestle products across the church.

1980    Federation garners General Conference support for the Stevens boycott and the addition of a new section on work in the Social Principles, beginning with the affirmation that “persons come before profits.”

1982    MFSA celebrates its 75th Jubilee in Washington, D. C. Six new chapters join, making a total of 17. MFSA launches an Emergency Peace Project, staffed by mission intern Jim Winkler. Joins ecumenical grouping in developing economic study, Must We Choose Sides?

1984    MFSA sponsors “Gospel Train” in antique cars at General Conference. Witnesses steadfastly against exclusion of gays and lesbians from UM ministry.

1986    MFSA leads an intense struggle with the denominational pension board over     economic sanctions against apartheid in South Africa. 38 arrested during non-    violent MFSA protest at pension board offices. Cherie Emery serves as MFSA     intern.

1988    MFSA publishes Journey Toward Justice in celebration of the 80th anniversary of     the Methodist Social Creed. Rev. Jesse Jackson addresses Iowa MFSA event.     Annual Mexican Retreat inaugurated. Pension board finally begins to change its     policy on South African investments. MFSA promotes Reconciling Ministry     Pledge.

1989    MFSA “adopts” Israeli soldier jailed for refusing to serve in Palestinian     territories. Cheryl Blankenship serves as MFSA mission intern. MFSAers arrested     protesting bank loans to South Africa.

1990    MFSA “adopts” jailed Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists and protests     Israeli denial of visas to UM missionaries Alex and Brenda Awad. Urges     negotiation as Gulf Was threatens.

1991    Diane Large replaces Jean Brown as MFSA Office Manager.

1992    MFSA addresses 120 legislative items at General Conference. Joins “The Stones    Will Cry Out” protest on General Conference floor when homosexuality panel    recommendations are defeated. Secures UM boycott of General Electric because    of nuclear weapons manufacturing.

1992    George McClain begins work with MFSA in    connecting social action and spiritual
    practice. MFSA intern Jane Eesley organizes the Middle East Network of United
    Methodists (MENUM) as Federation affiliate.

1994    MFSA backs Heather Murray Elkins and other UM women attacked over Re-    Imagining Conference: urges support for reviving labor movement.

1995    MFSA promotes “God's Covenant with America.” Posts a warning label on     “Promise Keepers” regarding sexism, racism, and far-right ties.

1996    MFSA backs UM Episcopal Initiative on Children and Poverty. Celebrates     witness of the “Denver 15” bishops urging end to official UM bias against     lesbians and gay men. Dianne Roe commissioned by MENUM for West Bank     peace witness.

1997    “In All Things Charity” statement promoted by MFSA. George Baldwin     commissioned to help close the U. S. Army “School of Assassins.” 90th     anniversary celebrated at Washington D. C. site of the Federation's founding.

1998    The Rev. Kathryn Johnson is appointed as the first woman Executive Director of MFSA as McClain retires after 25 years of leading the organization.

2000    MFSA and other progressive groups form AMAR coalition to work on a broad range of justice issues at General Conference. Most MFSA priorities are supported by GC with exception of MFSA opposition to changes in language related to war and the church's stance on homosexuality.  Fifty persons move onto the floor of GC to protest church stance on homosexuality and 25 are arrested when they refuse to move.

2001    Rev. Amy Stapleton, a native of North Carolina and a recent graduate of Iliff School of Theology, is hired as Field Organizer for MFSA.

2001    MFSA responds to 9/11 attacks with a call to stop the spiral of violence that results when violence is met with more violence.  MFSA calls on the US government to work through judicial processes, police work and a broad international antiterrorist coalition, in concert with the United Nations, to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.  

2002    MFSA publishes a series of pamphlets, “What's At Stake for Women?” for International Clergywoman's Consultation, pointing to the potential consequences of not stopping implementation of the agenda of the Institute on Religion and Democracy and it's UM allies.

2003    MFSA publishes a statement opposing pending U.S. military action against Iraq and executive Kathryn Johnson participates in meetings with officials at the State Department, a prayer vigil at the State Department and an interfaith service at Riverside Church in New York City.

2003    MFSA holds first “Voices of Faith” conference in Atlanta bringing together progressive United Methodists to celebrate and to plan for the future of an ongoing progressive witness in the church.

2003    MFSA works closely with the United Methodist Information Project and author Leon Howell to produce and distribute the book, United Methodism @ RISK.  An in-depth look at the goals and action agenda of the Institute on Religion and Democracy, the IRD's UM Action Committee and the Evangelical Renewal organizations with the United Methodist Church (e.g. Good News, RENEW and the Confessing Movement) nearly 20,000 copies of the book are distributed.

2004    MFSA once again joins in coalition with other progressive groups to form the Common Witness Coalition at General Conference.  MFSA sponsors a highly successful speaker series drawing hundreds at lunch each day to hear Bishop Leontine Kelly, Michael McCurry,  and Dr. James Forbes among others.  In response to the church's refusal once again to repent of it's unjust policies related to homosexuality, an ongoing prayer vigil is held along the walkway leading into the convention center filling the space with the haunting melody and words of the hymn, “What does the lord require of me?”

2004    MFSA calls on the General Board of Pensions of the UMC to explore selective divestment of companies that are benefiting from the occupation of Palestine.

2005    MFSA adopts the program “Creating a Culture of Peace” and staff and members train to provide “Creating a Culture of Peace” workshops for MFSA chapters and others.  

2006    A second national “Voices of Faith” conference is held in Los Angeles with the “Theme Swords into Plowshares.”

2005    MFSA continues to focus on promoting active nonviolence and staff members Kathryn Johnson and Amy Stapleton are arrested in an interfaith witness at the White House opposing the ongoing war in Iraq.  MFSA members across the country participate in similar demonstrations, several committing civil disobedience as well.

2006    MFSA responds quickly and forcefully to Decision 1032 by the UM Judicial Council which let's stand a pastor's decision to refuse church membership to a gay parishioner.  Johnson provides key leadership in bringing groups together to release a joint statement, “Here We Stand” and gathers signatures and comments from thousands of United Methodists opposed to the Judicial Council decision.

2007    MFSA participates in planning and implementation of Christian Peace Witness for Iraq which brings nearly 4,000 Christians together in Washington, DC to worship at the National Cathedral, process to the White House where a prayer vigil and civil disobedience take place.

2007    MFSA celebrates its 100th anniversary with a conference in Washington DC and ends with a worship celebration and call for justice in front of the White House.



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