By Will Jones*
“The United Methodist Church proclaims the value of each person as a unique child of God and commits itself to the healing and wholeness of all persons. The United Methodist Church recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history. Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places.” - Article V of the United Methodist Constitution
The United Methodist Church from its beginning has toiled in its struggle to overcome racism. From the desegregation of the newly formed United Methodist Church in 1968 to today’s challenges, the people of The United Methodist Church have consistently stood against racism and racist policies in our world. Our baptismal vows challenge us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves. Today, we are confronted with the recent killings of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. We see the tension in our world as protests have erupted across the United States. You may be feeling profound sadness, anger, hurt, guilt, or any range of emotions as you process the events that unfolded over the last couple of weeks.
We as Christians are called to believe God's love for the world is an active and engaged love, a love seeking justice and liberty. We cannot just be observers. So, we care enough about people's lives to risk interpreting God's love, to take a stand, to call each of us into a response, no matter how controversial or complex. The church helps us think and act out a faith perspective. Such involvement is an expression of the personal change we experience in our baptism and conversion.
The United Methodist Church took a stand in 2016 in adopting Resolution #3379: Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States. In it, we affirm the call from our Social Principles for United Methodists to practice restorative justice, seeking alternatives to retribution and restoration of right relationships among all of God’s people. This leads us to emphatically declare: Stop criminalizing communities of color!
As we respond as United Methodist Christians these Wesleyan Questions designed by the East Ohio Conference Board of Church & Society can help you or your congregation engage in conversation as you seek to learn about how you can resist racism in your setting:
1) Who have you talked to/shared this information with?
2) How have you stepped out of your "comfort zone" to hear from and learn from the affected demographic?
3) What have you read or learned to increase your knowledge of the subject? What does the bible say?
4) How have you invested (time and money) in addressing this issue/topic?
5) Have you identified policy (in the UMC and in government) that needs to change and considered impact and history?
6) What do you need to repent of?
These questions can help guide personal reflection or group conversation as you consider any justice issue. The General Board of Church & Society and General Commission on Religion & Race both have resources that can help you plan worship, lead bible studies, and engage in vital conversations around racism. The East Ohio Conference office of Multicultural Vitality is also a resource available to help support your ministry in the Conference.
*Will Jones in director of Multicultural Vitality for the East Ohio Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Rev. Dan Hawk
Chairperson, Native American Awareness Committee
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