Mercury-Poisoning Event Draws United Methodists from Across United States
by BARBARA WHEELER*
Women, including members of United Methodist Women, from across the United States participated in "The Truth is Coming to Light" event, an educational conference on mercury-containing vaccines and drugs.
A majority of the 55 participants were women from United Methodist churches in Georgia, Kansas, New York, New Jersey and Virginia.
Women’s Division Director Dorothy Edmunds attended at “The Truth is Coming to Light” event in early June.
"Any expectations I had for the event have been surpassed," said the Rev. Lisa Sykes, an clergywoman in Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church and the parent of a mercury-poisoned son. Ms. Sykes who worked with the Women's Division to organize the event.
Participants heard from presenters including scientists, physicians, parents and an attorney who advocate for the removal of mercury compounds, including the mercury-preservative Thimerosal, from vaccines and drugs.
"The Truth is Coming to Light" was sponsored by the Women's Division, whose board of directors spoke out on mercury-containing drugs in 2006 by calling for:
- Prioritizing availability of mercury-free stocks of vaccines and other pharmaceutical products for pregnant women, newborns and children;
- Providing informed consent for individuals about mercury exposure through vaccines and drugs; and
- Banning mercury compounds in pharmaceutical products, including vaccines, prescribed or over-the-counter unless the presence of mercury compound has been proven clinically to have no adverse effects.
Georgia Garrison of West End United Methodist Church in Portsmouth, Va., attended the event because of her passion for issues related to children. She is the mission coordinator for social action United Methodist Women for Virginia Conference's Portsmouth District.
Ms. Garrison said she has no one in her family with mercury poisoning, but a family with
The Rev. Dorothy McNeer O’Quinn, a clergywoman in Virginia Conference of the United Methodist Church and mother of two mercury-poisoned children, attended “The Truth is Coming to Light ” event in early June.
autistic children were interested in becoming members of her church. She wanted one of the parents to come to the event, but neither could because they couldn't find child care - a common issue in the autistic community.
The Rev. Dorothy McNeer O'Quinn, a clergywoman in Virginia Conference, is the mother of two mercury-poisoned children. United Methodist efforts to become informed on this issue are evidence of the grace of God, Ms. McNeer O'Quinn said.
"To have the church say, 'This is wrong, it is a justice issue, and we need to work to eliminate the injustice,' is heartwarming," she said.
Her children's developmental disorders impact her family's life. They cannot go to restaurants or movies and can't go into some stores, she said.
"You can't go to stores; you can't go to church," she said. "You are very isolated."
One gift local churches can give families with children with mercury-induced developmental disorders such as autism and asperger's syndrome is support, Ms. McNeer O'Quinn said.
Leslie Davidson attended “The Truth is Coming to Light” event in early June. She attends First United Methodist Church in Oneonta, N.Y.
She was encouraged by the "aha" moments she noticed among participants at the event. She wants people to see what they can do to make a difference in their communities and states and on the federal level.
Leslie Davidson, who attends First United Methodist Church in Oneonta, N.Y., is a medical researcher and grandparent of a child who was mercury-poisoned. She started an educational and awareness-raising group, which resources parents of children who have been mercury-poisoned. The group meets at her church. Ms. Davidson attended the United Methodist Women event with three women who are members of the group.
"We have to inspire the grandparents to get on board," she said. "These are issues that impact us personally."
Women's Division Director Dorothy Edmunds of Atlanta moderated a question-answer session for presenters and participants.
*Barbara Wheeler is an executive secretary for communications for the Women's Division of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries.