04.20.21 | Advocacy and Action, Racial Justice
A Call to Action by the Baltimore-Washington Conference, Black Methodists for Church Renewal, and United Methodist Women
Since the earliest times, the vows of Christian baptism have consisted first of the renunciation of all that is evil and then the profession of faith and loyalty to Christ. Hence, as faithful followers of Christ it is imperative that we continue to renounce the sin of racism, all forms of evil and amplify a call for the church (all people) to do the necessary work to rid herself of biases, prejudices, bigotry, and preferences that lead to criminalization, violence, traumatization, or killings of any persons or people.
Ten months ago, Bishop Easterling, members of the Baltimore-Washington Conference, and members of the ecumenical community gathered on the steps of Asbury United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. (a day after gathering in Baltimore at Lovely Lane and St. Matthews-New Life) to renounce the sin of racism and demand for systemic change in and beyond the church. See her statement.
A year later, we know that the work of ending racism, violence, and killings particularly impacting Black and Brown people is unfinished. This is life work that includes calling the church to renounce all that is evil, work for justice, and accountability for those victimized. We remember the lives of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd. And we pray for the family of Daunte Wright, a 20-yr old black man shot and killed during a routine traffic stop; and the family of the Latinx 13-year-old boy, Adam Toledo. These are not the only lives claimed by some act of violence; hence, we pause to acknowledge all who mourn their loved ones and are traumatized by acts of violence that tear apart the human family. As people of faith, we ask: What actions and hard conversations are necessary for the Church to demonstrate a love of all God’s human creation and to engage in acts of justice that build and sustain the vision claimed in our Baptism?
Police brutality continues with impunity. Black and Brown people are pulled over by the police at disproportionate rates with deadly consequences. In 2020, more than 121 people were killed by police officers during routine traffic stops. Killings have occurred in churches during Bible Study, when people have been sleeping in their homes, standing on their porches in daylight, walking to a local convenience store, or jogging through a neighborhood. Harassment happens while praying, driving, working, shopping, talking, and staying quiet.
Hence, what actions can we take as people of faith?
We call on United Methodists in the Baltimore-Washington Conference to:
- Attend to the General Rules of the Church. Do no harm. Do good. Remain in love with God. This includes remaining rooted in the Word of God and praying for one another, especially as we work together to build the Beloved Community. Join us in prayer on the first and third Wednesdays of the month. Connect in prayer.
- Sign the commitment and do the work to be an antiracist church.
- Research the history and treatment of Black and Brown people in America. (See bwcumc.org/justicenow resources.)
- Lift up and practice The Social Principles and Resolutions on Racism.
- Share the United Methodist Women’s Statement, United Methodist Women Reiterates the "Call to Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States." (NOTE: At the time this article was published, the UMW website was down. Please check back later.)
- Work for comprehensive police reform at the state and national level. The 2021 Maryland General Assembly passed new laws that criminalize the excessive use of police force, mandate body cameras, restrict the use of no-knock warrants, and allow for civilians and independent investigations into police-involved fatalities. These policy changes seek to fix a broken system.
- Study and discuss UM Resolution 3379: "Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the US," and Resolution 5031: "Humanizing Criminal Justice," which includes a call to make the enforcement and protection of international human rights law central to criminal justice and immigration policy; requires police departments to publicly establish standards of police conduct and policies for promotion that incorporate training in peacekeeping, life-protecting, other service roles, and law enforcement. We encourage churches to coordinate events with these agencies to allow for open dialogue with the community and to safely air grievances and concerns to authorities in order to ensure a culture of trust and transparency.
- Take the implicit bias association test to understand our unspoken biases and prejudices. Implicit biases support systems of personal and collective harm. Visit the bwcumc.org/justicenow page and read through the exhaustive list of resources provided and then make a plan for your next faithful step.
As baptized believers, we are a covenant people. Let us acknowledge each person’s dignity, sacred worth, and pain. Let us work to end hate, biases, prejudices, hierarchies of human value, white supremacy, police brutality, and other forms of violence; and, let us use our power to interrupt and dismantle implicit bias, hate crimes, racist actions, and public policies in the moment. We must refuse to stay silent.
We close with a Prayer from a Book of Uncommon Prayer by Kenji Kuramitsu.
Jesus Christ, Son of God, who promised in his first sermon,
to break the chains of the oppressed and set the prisoners free:
Break apart our wrecked and ruined (in)justice system.
Do not let profits strangle your prophets any longer,
but be with us and teach us not to tolerate these practices, from this day forward.
Additional Resources can be found at bwcumc.org/justicenow. There you will find more information about our Racial Justice Team, Mapping a Path to Racial Justice, Equity 2.0, how your congregation can get started and go deeper in this work, educational opportunities, worship resources, other calls to action, conference statements and more.
- United Methodist Women Reiterates the "Call to Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States" (NOTE: At the time this article was published, the UMW website was down.)
- 2016 UM Social Principles and Resolutions on Racism
- 10 things we know about race and policing in the U.S.
- Legal Barriers to Challenging Excessive Force by Police—Equal Justice Initiative
- Pathways to Police Reform Community Mobilization Toolkit--NAACP
- Religious Responsibilities in Confronting Police Brutality webinar recording
- Dr. Fauci responds to uptick in gun violence in the US: 'How can you say that's not a public health issue?'
- CDC declares racism a public health threat. Researchers weigh in on why