Petition 80565

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A Call to Action on Alcohol (80565-C2-R86)

Amend Resolution 86  
The Scriptures provide many dimensions to understanding the issue of alcohol. For example, Proverbs 23:20-21 and 29-32 (NRSV) illustrates the cautious ns attitude of Scripture with respect to alcohol: “Do not be among winebibbers, or among gluttonous eaters of meat; for the drunkard and the glutton will come to poverty, and drowsiness will clothe them in rags...Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who linger late over wine, those who keep trying mixed wines. Do not look at wine when it is red, when is sparkles in the cup and goes down smoothly. At the last it bites like a serpent, and stings like an adder”. On the other hand, Jesus affirmed the use of alcohol at the wedding in Cana (John 2:1-10, NRSV): “When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’...Jesus said to them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ And they filled them up to the brim...the steward tasted the water that had become wine...and said to him, have kept the good wine until now.” WHEREAS, Tthe Scriptures, when viewed in their entirety, are clear on the intoxicating and harmful effects of alcoholic beverages, but do in fact approach the use of alcohol with a stance of cautious moderation, within certain limits; and
WHEREAS, the Scriptures provide warrant for alcohol consumption with careful attention to use, as distinguished from high-risk use, abuse, and addiction, while applying the principles of discernment which we are called to exercise on other life issues; and WHEREAS, The United Methodist Church is challenged to apply the ethical guidelines  
of Scripture to a contemporary culture in which alcoholic beverages play a prominent  
role, for which we pay a heavy price in both human and economic terms. Further, ; and
WHEREAS, there is substantial evidence that patterns of casual alcohol use, problematic use, dependence and addiction are prevalent within our fellowship, and may be as prevalent among members of The United Methodist Church as they are in society at large.
John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, was vividly aware of the effects of drunkenness on individuals and families, including members of his own extended family, but was charitable to those individuals affected by alcohol in his culture. Christian discipleship, stewardship and justice demand that we attend to the human and economic damage caused by high-risk consumption, recognizing the needs of our addicted brothers and sisters, whether they are within our fellowship or outside of it; and fostering understanding and good will among people who are not addicted or in recovery and choose abstinence or scripture-led judicious use of alcohol. Our Social Principle 162J and several of the resolutions within the Book of Resolutions further explain our position on a variety of matters as it relates to alcohol.
; and WHEREAS, t The Social Principles place emphasis solely on abstinence as "a faithful  
witness," and allow for persons to exercise reasonable discernment regarding “judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint, with Scripture as a guide”;  
while at the same time encouraging us to "assist those who have become dependent, and their families," Often, there is a thereby leaving an attention gap divide in understanding on a continuum with between abstinence at one end and dependence on the other end, between prohibition and judicious use. Sole concentration on prohibition or abstinence may invite judgmental attitudes, driving troubled people even deeper into despair and secretive behavior, discriminating against people who need healing, and inviting e hypocrisy while closing off opportunities to witness to God's love and grace. Conversely, judicious use awakens concern and fear among advocates for abstinence abstinent people that the Church is encouraging and even inviting abuse or addiction to alcohol, especially among young people. The void between these two approaches often prevents meaningful dialogue and education and creates divisions among faithful Christians thereby cutting off any real hope of transformative change within the Church. ; and
WHEREAS, the The Social Principles encourage us to assist dependent people "in finding freedom through Jesus Christ and in finding good opportunities for treatment, for ongoing counseling, and for reintegration into society , ". but we find that the few r Resources dedicated to prevention, treatment and rehabilitation stand in stark contrast to the great needs that exist ; and, which can lend considerable support to creating and fostering understanding, education and dialogue on effective prevention and recovery methods and toward being a faithful witness as it relates to abstinence and prevention. However, we acknowledge that there are not substantive resources for individuals and local churches which explicate and interpret our position for “judicious use with deliberate and intentional restraint, with Scripture as a guide” and foster dialogue between the two approaches to alcohol, abstinence and judicious use.

WHEREAS, John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Movement, was extremely aware of the effects of drunkenness on individuals and families, including members of his own extended family, but was charitable to those individuals affected by alcohol in his culture; and
WHEREAS, John Wesley reserved his strongest language for the economic aspects of business enterprises that promoted indiscriminate alcohol consumption in a famous sermon, in which he urged his listeners to "gain all you can," but not at the expense of another person's property, health, and spiritual well-being; and  
WHEREAS, our Doctrinal Standards and General Rules states that "We believe it is the duty of Christian citizens to give moral strength and purpose to their respective governments . . . ;" and the Social Principles exhort us to "continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are unjust;" and

WHEREAS, concepts of Christian discipleship, stewardship and justice demand that we attend to the human and economic damage caused by high-risk consumption, while recognizing the needs of our addicted brothers and sisters, whether they are within our fellowship or outside of it; and
WHEREAS, The Book of Resolutions (2000) presents several other sources of alcohol-related concerns, including industry promotion and advertising (72, now 82); a comprehensive view of the problem as "a social, economic, spiritual and health problem," and commitment to "a holistic approach which emphasizes prevention, intervention, treatment, community organization, and abstinence," and improvement of interagency coordination in this area (73, now 83); keeping children free of alcohol, including legislation and public programs (74, now 84); and concerns about drinking on campus (75, now 85); and
WHEREAS, reason and experience inform us that sole concentration on abstinence all too often breeds judgmental attitudes, drives troubled people even deeper into despair and secretive behavior, discriminates against people who need healing, invites hypocrisy and closes off opportunities to witness to God's love and grace; and
WHEREAS, t The legacy of the Temperance Movement of an earlier century has been transformed by new social forces and scientific findings into a vigorous public health movement, with emphasis on pro-health alcohol policies and education that place individual responsibility in the context of social norms and practices ; and .    
WHEREAS, M m ore than three decades of research have shown that alcohol abuse, dependence and addiction have widespread effects on persons, families, communities, and institutions, and have documented not only the extent of the physical and social consequences but also the economic effects on health care, medical services, workforce productivity, crime and violence, child welfare, corrections, public safety, social services, education, and mental health. ; and
WHEREAS, r Recent research has shown that underage drinkers account for almost 20 percent of all alcohol consumed and adults who drink excessively are responsible for more than 30 percent of the alcohol consumed in the U.S., and industry profits are derived from those consumers. ; and
WHEREAS, m Marketing research has shown that youth we are 60 times more likely to see alcoholic beverage commercials than "responsibility ads" created by the industry, and that for every drinking and driving prevention ad, alcohol companies aired 172 product promotion ads. ; and
We acknowledge that a global health policy on alcohol lags far behind those of some countries and that there are also many countries in which alcohol policy is not fully developed, is inadequate, and under funded. WHEREAS, l Levels of low-risk, acceptable consumption and guidelines for responsible use have been issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services which can be used as guidelines for enacting a global policy on alcohol. T , t hese
policies call for limit ing ing consumption to one standard drink per day for women and two standard drinks per day for men, but abstinence for (a) persons under the age of 21,  
(b) persons who are in recovery from alcohol dependence or alcoholism, (c) persons whose parents or other family members have experienced alcohol-related problems, (d) women who are trying to conceive or are pregnant, (e) persons who plan to drive or engage in activities that require attention or skill, and persons using prescription or overthe-counter medications; (f) persons who may put self or others at risk in other ways as a result of consumption.
; and
We acknowledge that WHEREAS, we understand that " m moderation" and “judicious use” are is in itself a problematic and can be ambiguous concepts, given the psychoactive properties of ethyl alcohol, which challenges our judgment and awareness, so that slogans such as "know when to say when" or "just say no" make little sense to a person who is in the grip of addiction. Furthermore ; and
WHEREAS, , the alcohol industry has shown in many ways that it is far more interested in profits than in the health, safety and welfare of the people, more interested in expanding its customer base to i ensure its economic viability, blaming its customers for alcohol-related problems, and refusing steadfastly to define what it means by "responsible drinking," to the point that even their "responsibility" messages serve its their own self-interests, attempting thereby to absolve themselves itself of corporate  
responsibility. ; and
WHEREAS, t Those who profit from the production, distribution, promotion and sale of alcoholic beverages have been allowed to assume a privileged position in the formation of public policy and legislation at local, state, regional state and national levels, a degree of power and influence which has succeeded in dissuading the public, including the faith community, from taking appropriate action as citizens. ; and
F  f unding for prevention and for treatment of addicted people continues to be woefully inadequate, considering the magnitude of the problem, leaving millions of Americans without needed services, and the social costs of alcohol-related problems continue to rob our economies y of resources needed to deal with poverty and disease, while the alcohol industry opposes every effort to offset these costs by increases in alcohol excise taxes. ; and
WHEREAS, p Prevention research strongly recommends a comprehensive community-wide approach, which acknowledges that individual behavior is powerfully shaped by one's environment, the rules and regulations of social institutions, community norms, mass media messages, and accessibility of alcohol. ; and WHEREAS, a A community, state, and nation which allows a product with high potential for misuse and abuse to be produced, promoted, distributed and valued for routine consumption is ethically obligated to care about those who succumb to the risks and adverse consequences, especially when those risks and consequences are incompletely understood by the consumer. ; and
WHEREAS, the concerned citizens of our nation cal
The call for faith community leadership on this issue, leadership that transcends special economic interests and considers the public interest, leadership that pursues action rather than continued pronouncements; able and willing to challenge industry practices, when others have a defeatist attitude and consider the industry invincible in matters of social policy is a critical need. ;
Therefore, be it resolved, that the members of The United Methodist Church take a firm stand to reduce alcohol-related problems, not only as a personal matter, but as a concern for congregation, community, regions, states and nations, and communicate that stand actively and effectively, rather than passively, through action to change the social norms; and  
Be it further resolved that, the gap between abstinence and addiction be closed, using the entire Bible as our ethical guide, and that The United Methodist Church promote an ethic that is consistent with personal, spiritual and societal concern for health, safety and wellbeing; that such ethic be one that (a) accepts abstinence in all situations; (b) accepts judicious consumption, with deliberate and intentional restraint, in low-risk situations; (c)  
actively discourages consumption for those under the age of 21; (d) actively  discourages consumption in high-risk situations; and (d) actively discourages heavy
consumption in all situations; and  
Be it further resolved that, guidelines for moderate consumption, as issued by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (U.S. Dietary Guidelines) and the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services, as stated above, be encouraged in educational efforts; and utilized as a tool to persuade the World Health Organization to adopt a global alcohol policy that is effective and active throughout the world.
Be it further resolved that, The United Methodist Church pursue a course of action that reflects the ethical imperative, that prevention of alcohol-related problems and treatment and rehabilitation of those who become addicted should be available and accessible to all those in need, as well as their families, neighbors, fellow church members, employers, and others whose lives are directly affected; and  
Be it further resolved that, the members of The United Methodist Church take action to reduce the domination of industry agenda on state and local levels and encourage our legislators to place the health and safety concerns ahead of profitability; and Be it further resolved that, The United Methodist Church support public policy proposals that would increase the rates of fees and excise taxes paid by the industry to the various states for the privilege of selling beer, wine and spirits, with proceeds earmarked for the development of prevention, treatment and other measures to reduce alcohol-related problems; and  
Be it further resolved that the General Board of Church and Society provide resources and materials to foster action, education, understanding and dialogue regarding, abstinence, judicious use, and addiction during the 2005-2008 quadrennial study this issue and make recommendations to the 2008 General Conference with a comprehensive statement that addresses the critical global emphasis; and
Be it finally resolved that, The United Methodist Church increase its efforts to provide guidance to its annual conferences and , to work toward wholeness, compassion, reconciliation and healing, community, alternatives to incarceration and restorative justice, to give help and hope to those who feel helpless and hopeless, and to advise congregations on ways in which members can advocate for pro-health alcohol policies at local, state, regional and national levels.