Methodists Discuss Alcohol and Drugs Crisis

Rev. R. Randy Day delivered a major address on the mission challenges of the alcohol and drug crisis at a conference in Kitwe, Zambia

The head of the international mission agency of the United Methodist Church, delivered a major address on the mission challenges of the alcohol and drug crisis at a conference in Kitwe, Zambia that began July 11 and ends today.

At the conference "Shaping the Future with Hope, Healing and Deliverance," the Rev. R. Randy Day, the general secretary of the General Board of Global Ministries, cited the long history of Methodism in opposing drug and alcohol use and abuse and showed how outreach to drug abusers and their families relates to the goals of mission. The event was attended by representatives of 18 United Methodist geographic conferences in Africa, and was designed to help them address drug and alcohol use issues in the African context.

“We are here to find ways to response to the drug crisis in hope—Christian hope, for we are here as Christians believing that we have the grounds of hope, the possibility of a better future, the promise of healing and deliverance through the love of God in Jesus Christ,” said Day.

During his speech, the general secretary identified four goals at the mission board and spoke of how each addresses and interacts with concern for substance abuse and its related violence.

“First, make disciples,” Day stated. “We as Christians, as United Methodists, believe that God can—and does—change lives. Becoming a disciple, becoming a follower of Jesus Christ, points away from old ways of living toward a new future shaped by hope and the possibility of healing and deliverance. That is our faith.”

Day pointed out that the power for the change comes “not from our own statements or programs” but from God’s love.

“As Christians,” he continued, “we invite people to let God find them and reshape them, and people who have been found by God, who become disciples of Jesus Christ, have the resources of faith to better withstand the lures and false promises of drug use, and here I also mean alcohol and tobacco, which are as addictive because of their drug contents.”

The second goal at the mission board is to develop and strengthen congregations and communities.

“In mission, we seek to build and renew congregations to teach about the dangers of drugs and to deal honestly and compassionately with the reality of substance abuse, including abuse by members and in the community,” Day stated.

Citing from the General Conference resolution, Day said, “Our love of our neighbors obliges us to seek healing, justice, and the alleviation of the social conditions that create alcohol abuse.”

“The same can be said of other drug use,” he added. “We urge individuals and local congregations to demonstrate active concern—hear the word ‘active’—for alcohol and drug abusers and their families.”

The third goal at the mission board is the alleviation of human suffering, which Day said was illustrated through programs of prevention, treatment, and care for the victims of drug-related abuse.

Currently, the General Board of Global Ministries is working with the United Methodist Church of Zimbabwe in a program that will eventually educate some 2,500 children whose parents died of AIDS.

The fourth mission goal at the mission board is the promotion of justice, peace, and freedom, which Day said has a direct bearing on the ministry in response to the drug crisis.

“The church in mission raises its voice as an advocate for social policy and legal structures that discourage drug profiteering, protect the vulnerable, and provide prevention and treatment programs,” Day stated. “It promotes respect for women and children and works for laws that can help to control violence. Such advocacy serves the cause of justice and also builds toward more peaceful communities and greater personal and social freedom.”

In closing, Day said the four goals of mission guide the work of the General Board of Global Ministries in mission around the world.

He concluded, “As we confront the global drug crisis, our hope prepares us for the future, our belief in healing compels us to act, [and] our experience of deliverance makes us bold to expect great results.”