Dear Members and Friends of the Desert Southwest Conference,
I greet you in the name and spirit of God who calls us to love one another!
The angry rhetoric and violent conflict of hate groups proclaiming supremacy, denigrating others and resulting in the loss of life and injury are despicable and sinful. Whether in Charlottesville, VA, or any other place where demonstrations by hate groups have or are taking place, I condemn their beliefs and actions as being contrary to God’s vision for humanity. I ask you to lift up your voices and join me in denouncing these hateful individuals and groups.
United Methodists stand against racism and white supremacy. We are also unapologetic in our commitment to non-violence in the face of evil and hatred. In concert with teachings of many religions, we United Methodists stand with other faiths against hate groups and their actions. We believe that God’s intention for humanity is that we live in peace with one another, loving others as Jesus loved us.
In these troubling times, let us remember the vows of our baptismal covenant. We affirm these words at our baptism or whenever we reaffirm our baptism. In these sacred moments, we pledge to
“renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of the world, and repent of our sin: and to accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.”
These powerful words remind us that Jesus calls us to recognize evil and injustice whenever they occur, to speak the truth in unmasking them, and to dedicate ourselves as Christ followers combatting evil, injustice, and oppression. While some are called to engage in counter protest movements, others may choose alternate means of responding in the face of the evil of racism and violence. But in the name of Jesus, we must do something! Here are some ideas to consider.
- Speak or preach from your heart about your understanding of Jesus’ instructions to his followers to be peacekeepers, loving all persons, not just some. Bring the light of truth and name those actions that are hurtful and harmful so that persons will no longer be hurt or harmed.
- Write, email or telephone your representatives in government leadership to express your strong support of legislation or policies that promote acceptance of all and an end to senseless violence.
- Gather in groups at church or in homes to talk about the church’s stand against racism. Invite persons to share their personal experiences and be in dialogue about ways to counter racism and hatred. Use the model of the Holy Huddles we have engaged in as an annual conference as you speak respectfully and prayerfully.
- Pray unceasingly for the strength and will to love others and to work for peace and nonviolence. Pray for transformation in hearts that are hardened, and that hatred will be turned to love.
- Bring together a group of persons to read and discuss Bishop Ruben Job’s book, “Three Simple Rules,” as you rededicate yourself to doing no harm, doing good, and staying in love with God. Ask your group to discuss together what these simple rules mean when we are confronted by the evil of hatred and racism.
These are just a few ideas, the tip of the iceberg. They begin to give us an idea of what it means to be a courageous church: loving like Jesus, acting for justice, united in hope! You have other great ideas, too! Please share them!
I am hopeful that the church can bring about an end to the racism, hatred, and violence that seems to be on the rise. Each of us counts. As always I ask that you hold our nation and our world in prayer.