- Our Work
- Get Connected
History of UMC Legacy
Early on, Methodist men and women recognized that alcoholism is a disease that creates brokenness and eventually leads to the destruction of the fabric of families. At the turn of the 20th century, Methodists were leading figures of the Temperance movement, especially Methodist women, to curb the excessive use of alcohol and alcohol advertising.
Ridding society of alcohol was a high priority for early Methodists. Methodist men and women joined leading movements in great numbers, including the Women's Christian Temperance Union and the Anti-Saloon League. Methodists’ legislative advocacy supported tough pay-day laws after witnessing that workers spent their paychecks on alcoholic beverages at saloons, often leaving their families without basic needs.
In 1916, Methodists played an active role in launching a national campaign to enact the U.S. Constitution’s 18th Amendment prohibiting alcohol. Their strident advocacy led to the Methodist Church prominently positioning itself with a permanent building on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. to continue to push for strict alcohol regulation. Methodist Bishop William F. McDowell proclaimed that The Methodist Building, completed in 1923, was built to “make our church visible and multiply its power at this world's center." This historic building now houses the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society (GBCS), the denomination’s international public policy and social action agency.
Public policy for fair and just laws on alcohol and other drugs are legislative priorities for GBCS. The Church’s advocacy on alcohol and other drugs presses for U.S. and global policies that focus on a holistic approach, instead of punishment.
Building upon the rich legacy and leadership of GBCS and its predecessor agency in responding to alcohol and other drug issues, the Church initiated a general church ministry, the Special Program on Substance Abuse and Related Violence (SPSARV) in 1992. SPSARV, housed and administered by the General Board of Global Ministries, works through United Methodist agencies and boards to take a holistic response to alcohol and other drugs. SPSARV’s special partnership with GBCS continues the denomination’s four centuries-long witness and advocacy on alcohol and other drug concerns.