How to become a JEDI Master
This article was first published in eMessenger in August 2021.
I am a bit of a sci-fi fan and enjoyed the Star Wars films, so I was drawn in by the notion of becoming a JEDI when I found out that this also stands for Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion. These values mirror the values of our Methodist faith, so it is likely that you too are also a JEDI, without even knowing it.
The Methodist Church defines Justice as, “To work for justice for any who are oppressed in Aotearoa New Zealand, keeping in mind the implications of the Treaty of Waitangi. To share resources with the poor and disadvantaged in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond.”
We all therefore have obligations to ensure that we dismantle the barriers to resources and provide opportunities so that all individuals can live a full and dignified life. How do we as Methodists demonstrate this?
What are we as a church doing to share our resources with the people who do not have a home? Many of our Missions have projects that are working with those that experience homelessness. Some parishes have partnered with the Methodist Missions to build housing on parish owned land. The Methodist Alliance suggested the establishment of a social housing fund. Conference 2020 affirmed the statement, and agreed to, in Conference 2015 that 2% of the gross sales of Grafton Downs Limited properties would go to MCNZ for the purposes of social housing.
Aotearoa has a housing crisis which has seen the numbers of households on the housing register double in two years, from just over 11,000 in 2019 to over 24,000 in 2021. And these are households – it includes individuals as well as families, so the real number of people is much higher. In Auckland, there are 8,414 households on the social housing register and this represents 45% of the people nationwide who are experiencing severe housing deprivation. With the huge and increasing need for housing, perhaps the time is now for our Church, as a whole, to respond to the housing crisis as a strategic priority?
Imagine the difference that could be made if our Church mapped all the surplus and/or underutilised land and prioritised this for social housing to address the housing crisis. Our Church resources provide us with the opportunity to work for justice and to provide a basic human right to housing for those that are poor and disadvantaged. What are the barriers that are stopping us doing this?
Would the Board of Administration and MCPC consider pausing the selling of church land? All applications to sell church land are an indication that the land is surplus or underutilised. So perhaps the first step should be for the church to decide whether this land could be used to provide housing. The nearest Methodist Mission could be offered the use of the land to build social or affordable housing for those most in need – those people they are working with and for.
As good stewards of our land and assets we need to consider how we can best use our resources. Is our land and investments prioritising environmental and social good? Are they bringing about positive change, as well as a return on the investment? If not, then what can we do to change this to share resources with the poor and disadvantaged in Aotearoa New Zealand and beyond?
Are we as courageous as a Jedi warrior to make these decisions for justice?
We know there is a vast difference between equality and equity, as illustrated above. Equity is about allocating resources to ensure everyone has access to the same opportunities. Equity recognizes that advantages and barriers, all the ‘isms,’ exist and takes the next step to do something about it. Are we as a Church, ready to take that next step for equity? If not, what is holding us back?
The Methodist Church’s social principles define Inclusiveness as “To operate as a Church in ways that will enable the diversity of people (e.g. all ages, all cultures, male and female) to participate fully in the whole life of the Church, especially decision-making and worship.”
Diversity isn’t just about racial differences, it includes all the differences which shape how we experience advantage, privilege or encounter barriers to opportunities. And inclusion is about fostering a sense of belonging by providing access to opportunities for people who might otherwise be excluded or marginalised.
The Methodist Church has a long history of working with the most marginalised in our communities. This is where our Missions started, grew and continue to work. The Missions report the most common challenge the people they work with are facing is housing – either the lack of housing, or the quality, or insecurity of housing.
If our decision making is to be inclusive, and we are working for justice and equity, we need to ensure that we are using our resources to meet the needs of the marginalised. Another of the Methodist Church’s social principles talks about flexibility and “to release energy for mission rather than to absorb energy for maintenance.” Could this mean we, as a Church, could be brave and bold enough to use our collective energy to address the housing crisis? Are we, as a Church, as courageous as a Jedi warrior to make these decisions for diversity and justice?
I think we are, and Conference also thinks we are too – this is evidence by the decision at Conference in 2020 when it noted the high levels of stress, poor health outcomes, and poverty sustained through the lack of affordable healthy housing and acknowledges the skills and resources Te Hāhi Weteriana has to be a part of the solution.
So let us all take our Methodist faith, JEDI courage, our skills and resources and be part of the solution to the housing crisis.
If you would like more information about how you can work with the Methodist Missions to help address the housing crisis, please feel free to contact them directly or contact me.
Carol Barron, National Coordinator
03 375 0512 | 027 561 9164 | Carol@MethodistAlliance.org.nz
 file:///S:/Communities%20of%20Practice/Housing/2104%20MHUD%20Monthly-update-April-2021.pdf  https://www.hud.govt.nz/assets/Community-and-Public-Housing/Increasing-Public-Housing/Public-Housing-Plan/Public-Housing-Plan-2021-2024-web.pdf