I express my profound sadness and anger in the murder of Ahmaud Arbery. His life mattered and matters. Our annual conference has affirmed this, we have written statements about profiling and responded to Trayvon's death and held vigils and leaned into difficult conversations. Yet the legacy of slavery and supremacy lives on. To my African-American friends in the Florida Conference, some of whom I have spoken to today, I don't live your story and cannot know what this means each time, to you and your family. My faith in Jesus put me on a journey long ago of seeing us as equal in the sight of God, but we are/I am not there yet. Today I will make a gift to the Equal Justice Initiative. And I will listen and pray. There really are no words.
I am grateful to my colleague Bruce Ough for these words. I claim them as my own, which is to say a conviction that God is far from finished with me and us when it comes to the toxic brew of privilege, supremacy, racism and violence and my claim to be a follower of Jesus.
“We begin by acknowledging that racism is sin and antithetical to the gospel. We confess and denounce our own complicity. We take a stand against any and all expressions of racism and white supremacy, beginning with the racial, cultural, and class disparities in our state and country that are highlighted by the coronavirus pandemic. We sound the clarion call for the eradication of racism. We challenge governmental leaders who fan the flames of racial division for political gain. We examine our own attitudes and actions; all change begins with transformed hearts continually yielding to the righteousness and love of God.
“Let us not turn away or ignore the disease that has been tearing our country apart and destroying lives for centuries. This disease—the sin of racism and white supremacy—denies the teachings of Jesus and our common, created humanity. Let us renew our efforts to eradicate the disease that truly threatens our ideals and the lives, livelihoods, and dignity of so many of our neighbors.
“I urge you to join me in continuing to pray for the Floyd family as well as the many families whose lives were tragically altered or whose fears have been heightened as a result of this inexcusable tragedy. May God’s grace, peace, justice, and vision of the Beloved Community overpower the forces of evil and death.”
Bishop, Minnesota Conference
The United Methodist Church
New every morning is your love, great God of light, and all day long you are working for good in the world.
Today God is working for good through movements to dismantle racism.
Today God is working for good as scientists seek a vaccine.
Today God is working for good as ordinary people wear masks.
Today God is working for good through intercessory prayer.
Today God is working for good through faithful labor in all forms.
Today God is working for good in civil conversations across difference.
All day long, O God, you are working for good in the world. Let us see this, let us be encouraged in this, and give us the courage to be a part of your work in this world today.
Let this day be our offering to you.
And let this day contribute to your vision, in the words Jesus taught us to pray:
Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
A Letter to My White Friends
I cannot think of a single person with whom I do not want to be in friendship. Life has taught me that I have much to learn. In this life I have known some suffering but this pales alongside the privileges and benefits I’ve had.
What you do need to know about me is that I have seen #racism in its visceral forms and in its sophisticated forms. I’ve been complicit in racism over my life.
What I’ve often felt but seldom said, is this:
It is a miracle that black people, brought as slaves to America by their Christian owners, it is a miracle that blacks did not turn in a wholesale way against Christianity.
That black people accepted the gospel can only be for one reason: that Jesus is real. It is supernatural grace. That blacks accepted the gospel is a miracle.
They have much to teach me (us). This has always been true.
But black people don’t exist to be my teachers. They exist as creatures in God’s image, and in Charleston, Brunswick, Minneapolis, Sanford, Long Island, Flint, and wherever we live, they want and deserve and dream about a full life of security and opportunity and flourishing.
Racism is antithetical to the gospel. Racism is heresy. Racism is sin.
Racism is going to be purged from us, in this life or the life to come.
I confess my sin, in the things I have done and the things I have left undone.
I am grateful for the African-American leaders in the United Methodist Church who have been and are a part of my life.
This evening I pray for a church that sees you, hears you and clearly lives in such a way that people say, “Oh, the Methodists, or oh, the Christians, they are the people who helped to end all of the ugly racism”.
Not, they passed by, on the other side of the road.
None of this is worked out into a neat package. But right now, for Christians in the United States, this is the burning bush.
You’ll notice I used a lot of language about “me” and not much about “you”. I have my own work to do. This is a way of being honest about that. And it has to become a part of our friendship.
If I did not care, I would not be honest about all of this.
The Peace of the Lord,
Resident Bishop, Florida Conference
The United Methodist Church