From the Worldwide Faith News archives

MFSA honors five at Ball awards banquet

Date 26 Feb 2001 17:43:09

Feb. 26, 2001 News media contact: Linda Bloom·(212)870-3803·New York

By Chuck Myer*

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (UMNS) -- Five United Methodists from the
California-Nevada Annual (regional) Conference received the Lee and Mae Ball
Award from the Methodist Federation for Social Action (MFSA) at a Feb. 24

The award came near the close of MFSA's Feb. 21-25 national board meeting,
which drew representatives from 37 chapters to St. Mark's United Methodist
Church in Sacramento. MFSA is an unofficial organization of United
Methodists devoted to social justice issues.
The honorees for the 2001 Ball awards were Jean and Jim Strathdee, the Rev.
Phillip Lawson, and the Revs. Virginia and Bruce Hilton. The awards
typically go to deserving people in the host conference each year.

"These five have advanced prophetic ministries and courageous witness for
justice," said the Rev. John Auer, chairman of the California-Nevada MFSA

Specifically, the honorees were recognized for their work to advance
equality for gays and lesbians in the United Methodist Church, including
their involvement in the "holy union" of Ellie Charlton and Jeanne Barnett
in January 1999. The three clergy members participated as co-officiants in
that ceremony, while the Strathdees composed and performed a special song.
Other common threads among the five were the love of music and service in
Delta ministries in Mississippi in the 1960s.  
Auer joked with the crowd of 100 that all five were "working" the night of
their awards ceremony. Lawson had to leave immediately to attend a political
meeting for his campaign in the Hercules, Calif., city council race, and
Virginia Hilton served on the awards committee sponsoring the dinner. The
other three served as musicians: the Strathdees sang two original songs on
the program; and the evening closed with a performance of the Joyful Noise
Jazz Band, founded by Bruce Hilton, a tuba player, in 1980.
Lawson, a native of Massillon, Ohio, was deputy administrator to the
Berkeley city manager before re-entering the ministry in the Cal-Nevada
Conference in 1980. Since 1992, he has been pastor of Easter Hill United
Methodist Church in Richmond. He and his brother, the Rev. James Lawson,
were among those arrested last May during protests of the denomination's
anti-homosexuality policies at the 2000 General Conference in Cleveland, and
they are both signers of the Statement of United Methodists of Color for a
Fully Inclusive Church.

The Strathdees, directors of music at St. Mark's church in Sacramento, have
written more than 400 songs, hymns and anthems sung by faith communities on
five continents. In 1976, they formed their own recording and publishing
companies, Caliche Records and Desert Flower Music. Their music features
piano, guitar, mandolin, harmonica and African drums. The new United
Methodist hymnal supplement, The Faith We Sing, includes five pieces
composed or partially written by Jim Strathdee.

A graduate of United Seminary in Dayton, Bruce Hilton has served as director
of the National Center for Bioethics and is a consultant and syndicated
columnist in that field.  A journalist for more than 50 years, he has
authored several books, including, "First Do No Harm" and "Can Homophobia be

Before her ordination, Virginia Hilton was a nurse, and she served in that
capacity in the Delta Ministry in Mississippi, where Bruce Hilton was an
organizer. She attended the Pacific School of Religion in the 1970s. She
transferred from the North New Jersey Conference to Cal-Nevada in 1978, and
served churches in El Sobrante, Albany and Sacramento before retiring in
1996. Both Hiltons were organizers of the Parents Reconciling Network at the
2000 General Conference.
# # #

*Myer is a columnist for the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee newspaper and a
lifelong United Methodist.

United Methodist News Service
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