June 3, 2020
Dear Siblings in the Way of Jesus,
In the last two weeks, we have experienced anew the remarkable arc of harm in the already horrid story of anti-Blackness in the United States. The murder of George Floyd, while in the custody of the Minneapolis Police Department, is the most recent marker in the 400-year history of racist violence, oppression, and death. As your PNW Conference Board of Church and Society, we honor the life stolen from our midst, call ourselves personally and collectively to account for our participation in the systems of racism and bias that are baked into the bones of this country and invite you as a part of the PNW Conference to both repent and to seek justice and hope.
Mr. Floyd’s murder — following on centuries of explicit and implicit racist violence — has reignited the hurt, anger, and confusion that is a product of our cultural anti-Blackness. We feel deeply for those experiencing property loss, personal fear, and confusion in this time — but we also affirm the need to center the love of God for those who are marginalized and minoritized by dominant white, Christian society. We reject violence as an option for us but recognize that it is not our place to silence or police the ways responses to generations of violence against Black and Brown siblings may erupt in our communities. We particularly reject the work of external organizations across the political spectrum to make use of Mr. Floyd’s death to disrupt and fracture our imperfect attempts to share a sense of community and identity.
These are not simply our individual considerations. These are challenges that emerge from our understanding of our United Methodist Social Principles, a part of the Discipline that our Board is charged to highlight and affirm. We remember:
- The strength of a political system depends upon the full and willing participation of its citizens. The church should continually exert a strong ethical influence upon the state, supporting policies and programs deemed to be just and opposing policies and programs that are (¶164.B, p. 138, 2016 Book of Discipline)
- Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over the other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. Personal racism is manifested through the individual expressions, attitudes, and/or behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and that maintain the benefits of this system. Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racist value system. Racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, in as much as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. In many cultures, white persons are granted unearned privileges and benefits that are denied to persons of color… We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative modes that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access. (¶162.A, p. 120, 2016 Book of Discipline)
- We hold governments responsible for the protection of the rights of the people to free and fair elections and to the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, communications media, and petition for redress of grievances without fear of reprisal; to the right to privacy; and to the guarantee of the rights to adequate food, clothing, shelter, education, and health care. (¶164.A, p. 138, 2016 Book of Discipline)
As we close, we invite our siblings across the Pacific Northwest Conference — and beyond — to join with us in considering ways that we may actively, faithfully resist the powers of evil and hate that give form to racism and anti-Blackness in United States society:
Engage this in our churches and ministries. Have the hard conversations about race, privilege, and justice. Study our social principles. Reflect on the ways we can resist racism in our own communities.
Show up. Not everyone is at home in a protest. If that’s you, think about what you share on social media. Consider letters to newspapers and local politicians. Challenge your pastor if they aren’t speaking to racial injustice on Sundays. In whatever ways work for you, participate in anti-racist efforts. Pray for justice, and act where you can.
George Floyd will be put to rest — by current accounts — next Tuesday, June 9. Take some time on that day to light a candle, say a prayer, set up an online vigil to be with others as we try to face the lethal cost of bias in this nation.
Share your ideas. Use our FB page, email friends, have a conversation … but engage your creativity to think about how — in your town, your church, your family — you can be part of the transformation of self and world that is a critical part of the Gospel.
Take care. Be well. Raise your voices in prayer, in anger, in love this Sunday as our connection observes Peace with Justice Sunday. And join us — and other beloved friends across our connection and throughout the blessed range of faith and cultural traditions that have arisen in the rich diversity of God’s creation — in committing to move toward a faithful life that rejects racism and offers the path of inclusion to a hurting world.
In this time of anti-Black violence and in light of the legacy of 400 years of slavery, reconstruction, Jim Crow, of the Central Jurisdiction and the ways we as Methodists have too often participated in the sin of racism, we end by affirming:
Black. Lives. Matter.
God’s grace and liberation,
Board of Church & Society, the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Methodist Church
Ann Mayer, Chair
Rev. Dave Wright, Peace with Justice Coordinator
Rev. Cindy Roberts
Rev. Jim Davis, Vice Chair
Reuben R. Roque
Rev. Lee Carney Hartman
Rev. Janelle Kurtz
Ja net’ W. Crouse