Beth Cossin’s passion for justice substantially increased when she attended a Hands of Hope training at The Wesleyan Church World Headquarters in Fishers, Ind., in September 2009. The event served as both an awareness and training time for ministers and laypersons within the denomination who wanted to be involved in the anti-trafficking initiative.
As a result, seeds were planted in regards to Wesleyans joining the fight against human trafficking. Some individuals, churches, and districts began to organize their own efforts to fight modern day slavery.
Today, the Wesleyan Justice Network (WJN) has been formed as a means to connect justice efforts within the denomination. The formation of WJN is fitting. The Wesleyan Church has a history rich in anti-trafficking efforts, dating back to 1843, when a group of pastors and local churches left the Methodist Episcopal Church and adopted the name of the Wesleyan Methodist Connection (later changed to The Wesleyan Methodist Church in America).
A licensed minister, Beth Cossin is the coordinator of Wesleyan Justice Network (WJN), and she said the ministry is a “behind-the-scenes network, rather than a program.”
“We are trying to be engaged right where people are and not just be prescriptive,” said Cossin, executive pastor at Sandy Lake Wesleyan Church in Sandy Lake, Penn. WJN focuses on the concept of biblical justice, which is more than social justice, a common term used in the context of fighting trafficking.
WJN holds four primary focal points in regards to aspects of biblical justice: orphans and vulnerable children, slavery, ethical consumption, and gender-based violence. Beth believes seeking justice for weakened or silenced voices perfectly reflects God’s heart.
“I think pursuing God is pursuing justice, because that is his heart,” said Beth. “Justice is the gospel, the embodiment of the gospel in a broken world. Jesus becoming righteousness for us is [an example] of justice,” said Beth.
Those behind the formation of the Wesleyan Justice Network simply want to create a good forum for conversation and relationships of Wesleyans who fight for the justice of others.
“The WJN was formed in response to a growing interest on the part of churches and individuals to be involved in issues of justice,” said Andrea Summers, director of the Wesleyan Women’s Movement. “There has been a growing sense that holistic ministry in the world today must include a solid understanding of the theological and biblical origins of God’s heart for justice. When these underpinnings inform our discipleship, evangelism, and stewardship, we are a fuller expression of the Church.”
As Summers has familiarized herself with the women’s ministry of The Wesleyan Church, she noticed two trends.
“Women within the Wesleyan tradition have had a long, rich history of leading the Church into a culture-changing ministry, whether it was women in ministry, women’s rights, prohibition, missions, or care for orphans,” said Summers. She also didn’t know of anyone spearheading the efforts to make energy and resources available needed to take on the challenge of providing justice on behalf of the denomination.
Both Cossin and Summers believe WJN will serve the Church by providing leadership and resources to those fighting for justice.
“There is a lot of good stuff already happening,” said Beth. We are simply trying to build a good forum for conversation and connection between people.”
Beth Cossin is pictured above first, then Andrea Summers.