This past weekend, the United States experienced terrorism at the hands of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK during a rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Lives were lost and people were injured, all in the name of hatred, racism and xenophobia.
I have written a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions. Mr. Sessions leads the Department of Justice – the federal agency charged with protecting the civil rights of all people in the United States. He also happens to be a United Methodist.
I encourage you to read this letter and to send your own letter to the attorney general here. We must call upon our leaders to reject racism and bigotry and to take up the mantle of justice and peace.
While we hold our leaders accountable for their work in the halls of power, we must also look inward at our churches, our communities and ourselves. The United Methodist Church is not without complicity in the evils of white supremacy and racism, as past sins and present challenges remind us.
White Christians have a particular duty to be in conversation with and learn from our neighbors. We must also become allies with communities of color and religious minorities, and show up in the struggle for racial justice. As a white person, I take this to mean standing alongside and taking up the concerns of impacted people as my own.
The Church challenges “individual white persons to confess their participation in the sin of racism and repent for past and current racist practices” (Book of Resolutions, 3376).
This work is not done in isolation. Being an ally means being in solidarity.
I urge all congregations and conferences to stand with the communities closest to them who are threatened by racism. Racism is not only the expression of hate, but it is the perpetuation of economic injustice, enactment of discriminatory housing and education policies, implementation of unjust policing practices, infringements on voting rights and more. The sin of racism is not only a problem in Charlottesville; it is in our own home towns. If you do not know how racism is impacting people on your own block or in your own city, learn about it and take action:
Engage civically at the local, state and federal level by advocating for reforms that will dismantle the systemic racism in U.S. policies. Invest spiritually, economically, and with other personal and public resources in people and communities experiencing racism. Finally, this is not simply a matter of policy; it’s a matter of people. Build and deepen relationships across racial lines. Among white Americans, 91 percent of our social circles are entirely white. We can and must do and be better. The General Commission on Religion and Race has numerous resources for churches and individuals here.
We must continue to pray and learn about white privilege, institutional racism and systemic bigotry. I urge all United Methodists to reaffirm their baptismal vows and recommit to resisting evil.
This hard, but important, work of personal repentance, societal transformation, and fully embracing each other as vital parts of the body of Christ is for United Methodists across the connection. This work is not confined to one annual conference or one jurisdiction. People of faith from Charlottesville to Chicago and Seattle to Savannah share the burden and responsibility to engage. May we create space in our hearts, congregations, and communities for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.
This letter was originally published online at https://www.umcjustice.org/news-and-stories/an-open-letter-to-jeff-sessions-and-all-united-methodists-517.