UMC: We need you again

September 21, 2016

A young woman holds a sign at a protest march in Washington DC to bring attention to the recent shooting deaths of several unarmed black men by police. Source: iStockPhoto.

Dear Church:

Just in case no one has ever told you, allow me to be the one. We need you more than our egos, pride, and “church-hurt” inflected mindsets and experiences will allow us to admit.

I’m sure that by this point you’ve heard #TerenceCrutcher, who I intentionally inserted into this piece as a hashtag because that’s the age we’re living in. We’re in the age where the goal is to survive the epidemic of becoming another hashtag, and the fact that you’re reading this means that so far you have survived….so far.

Here’s the thing. As resourceful, revolutionary, brilliant, engaged, saved, supported, educated, and Methodist as one may be, our blackness still poses an actual threat to society. It’s a real thing. This is where find ourselves, and this is where we need you. We don’t need much, but maybe these few things will suffice.

1. We need you to stop invalidating our struggle by redirecting it to another struggle that isn’t relevant. Black lives don’t matter enough to be safe or protected in any space we know of. Police brutality, is a REAL issue. When we are hurting from this, this is not the time to bring up “STD-awareness,” or the interracial-conflict known as “Black-On-Black” crime. Black-on-black crime shouldn’t even be a term in your vocabulary. No one declares “White-On-White” crime to be a term. It’s called murder, and that’s what happening to our black brothers and sisters every day.

This is not your time to talk about all of the “good” police officers either. If the ratio of bad to good is still heavily outweighed, then the good ones cannot compensate or eradicate the amount of corrupted ones we have. Police brutality is an issue. It’s a real thing. It isn’t something we are making up. As we saw in with #TerenceCrutcher, it cannot be cured by “appropriate behavior.” It’s a real thing.

Look at it like this. One of the issues the UMC has been trying to proactively address is global warming. Why would one do such a thing? Well, on planet Earth, where we currently reside, it’s an issue. We want to have a planet where our loved ones can breathe and not suffocate to death by simple not having enough oxygen.

Someone says, “but don’t all planets matter?” I’m sure you are looking at them foolishly because Earth is the one we’re on and it’s the one that’s experiencing this epidemic at deadly cost. Are you with me now? Good. Let’s move on.

2. We need you to actively preach, teach, and advocate on behalf of the God of justice, peace, and love, whether you are black or not. In true Wesleyan spirit and “table-flipping” Jesus fashion, some of the greatest comfort and conviction one can receive is knowing when they’re not alone. Silence on these issues makes one feel alone. We’re not asking for you to have the answer or the solution. We just need you to not be okay with this, and when you don’t say anything and remain silent, the assumption is that you’re okay with this.


If you rub some tithe-paying members the wrong way, is that not conviction? If you upset some authority figures in the process, is that not conviction? One cannot be selective of what’s important to talk about and not to talk about based on their congregational context.

If the funds are that important to you, or being liked is that important to you, then I guess we have to understand. However, if you want to be prophetic, as John Wesley was, and as Jesus was and calls us to be, then I need you to put on your big-girl/big-boy boots, stand tall and boldly on the word of God, and SAY SOMETHING.

3. We need you not to tell us how to feel. We have to figure out a way that hope can be offered, without being force-fed. We dare not compare ourselves to the likes of our forefathers and foremothers, who have survived WWII, the Civil War, slavery, the Great Depression, early onsets of the Civil Rights movement, the War on Drugs, or the likes.

However, as millennials, we have survived 9-11, gentrification, the War on Black Institutions, the public verbal persecution of our Nations’ president, #TamirRice, #PhilandoCastile, #SandraBland, #AltonSterling, #MikeEvans, #TravonMartin, #TerenceCrutcher, and many others.

PTSD is real. Anxiety and fear is real. Depression is real. These are not things we are making up. There are those of us who have yet to watch some of these videos because we are not mentally and emotionally stable enough, and we are hurting.

Let us hurt. Let us experience how we feel.

You OFFER joy, peace, hope, peace and the like. However, it is God’s job to give it.

We need the space to feel EVERYTHING we’re feeling, safely. And suppressing it is not the same as it being healed. Don’t force us to sweep these dangerous feelings under the rug of “hope,” leaving our heartache buried and collecting dust that accidentally spills over into every other part of our life, when we could’ve just openly laid our feelings on the altar and been honest about our heart so that we may truly experience the one who heals. Truth is, we see in the biblical witness that God does amazing work with folks who are honest about their hurt.

4. We need you to care longer than three news cycles. Here’s the thing. We ride and thrive on the climax of life’s stories, but when the climax has passed and gone, when the hashtags have stopped being shared, when photo-ops and protest are done, when the big-name preachers have stopped outing it on the Word Network, when it is no longer relevant to the mainstream media, we’ll still need you to care. There will still be another black body dead and gone. There will still be anxiety every time a police officer is seen. There will still be hurting and confused individuals in need of hope. There will still need to be a gospel that needs to be preached, and who better than a Methodist to do it?! Who better than a technologically advanced, loving, grace-filled, Wesleyan tradition of prophetic -oriented voices, Jesus loving group of people, should be the ones to speak to this matter?!?! One could venture to say that the UMC have been called for such a time as this, and we don’t disagree.

We need you. We need the space to wrestle and disagree. We need the space to discern and figure out what God wants us to do and how to respond. We need the light in the darkness, the life in dead spaces, and the calmness upon the stormy see to be represented at the table. We can’t always articulate what we need to say.

As millennials, we do have a VERY different understanding of the role of the church than our parents do, but we’re honest. We tell the truth, and the truth is we can’t make it, and won’t make it, without you. We are family. We are kindred. We are Sankofa. We are The United Methodist Church. Let’s journey together, onward and upward, toward a better day where our children and generations to come will be able to say, “Look what the Lord has done in our lives, because of the vessel that is the UMC.”

Thank you for always being there when we needed you before. Let’s continue to be there even now, because we need you again.

Signed by Valerie, a black UMC millennial who fears becoming the next hashtag

Anonymous Sep 21, 2016 2:48pm

Well, said. I am with you. I hope and pray this brings conviction to those that truly need to hear it.

Anissa Johnson Sep 21, 2016 5:20pm

Hello, I am praying and trusting God on this! Yes, it's time to confront the issues and have Holy Spirit power to eradicate this evil!

Dr. Vanessa Stephens Lee Sep 21, 2016 6:03pm

You are right on point and this UM pastor does and will continue to cry loud.

Antonio T. Smith, Jr. Sep 21, 2016 7:41pm

This is more than well-written, it is both conscience and accurate. As a millennial pastor, I share many of these views. This is by no way offensive, and should be both respected and heard. I applaud this writer. I applaud this program.

Vince Homan Sep 28, 2016 5:07pm

This is indeed a nice article, well written, and I couldn't agree more that we need to work for justice in our land. Everyone has a right to feel as the need to feel. We are not all the same; yet, by grace, linked through the cross. I only ask that in the process of working for justice, we don't overlook the calling to care for, support, and respect our valiant police officers. They work and train very hard. Their lives are likewise on the line. Their families fear for their safety every day. The are out in all hours and all kinds of weather. They are often disrespected and abused by the very people they are trying to protect. And they serve us with honor. Are they all perfect? Of course not, but our society would crumble without them. Our churches have introduced a safety net prayer ministry for all police officers and are trying to teach respect for those in authority (Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God. Therefore whoever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed, and those who resist will incur judgment. For rulers are not a terror to good conduct, but to bad. Would you have no fear of the one who is in authority? Then do what is good, and you will receive his approval, for he is God's servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God's wrath on the wrongdoer. Therefore one must be in subjection, not only to avoid God's wrath but also for the sake of conscience. ...--Romans 13:1-7).
With all due respect for the spirit and calling of your article, I too long for a healing of our land. I just don't want to lose sight of one goal in order to reach another. Peace.

Sabrina Sanaa Oct 26, 2016 7:56pm

@Vince Homan, refer to point number one