2016 Social Principles and Resolutions on Racism


Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons

Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over 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, inasmuch 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 oppose the creation of a racial hierarchy in any culture. Racism breeds racial discrimination. We define racial discrimination as the disparate treatment and lack of full access and equity in resources, opportunities, and participation in the Church and in society based on race or ethnicity.

Therefore, we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.

We commend and encourage the self-awareness of all racial and ethnic groups and oppressed people that leads them to demand their just and equal rights as members of society. We assert the obligation of society and people within the society to implement compensatory programs that redress long-standing, systemic social deprivation of racial and ethnic persons. We further assert the right of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic persons to equal and equitable opportunities in employment and promotion; to education and training of the highest quality; to nondiscrimination in voting, access to public accommodations, and housing purchase or rental; to credit, financial loans, venture capital, and insurance policies; to positions of leadership and power in all elements of our life together; and to full participation in the Church and society. We support affirmative action as one method of addressing the inequalities and discriminatory practices within the Church and society.


Criminal Justice and Restorative Justice

To protect all persons from encroachment upon their personal and property rights, governments have established mechanisms of law enforcement and courts. A wide array of sentencing options serves to express community outrage, incapacitate dangerous offenders, deter crime, and offer opportunities for rehabilitation. We support governmental measures designed to reduce and eliminate crime that are consistent with respect for the basic freedom of persons.

We reject all misuse of these mechanisms, including their use for the purpose of revenge or for persecuting or intimidating those whose race, appearance, lifestyle, economic condition, or beliefs differ from those in authority. We reject all careless, callous, or discriminatory enforcement of law that withholds justice from persons with disabilities and all those who do not speak the language of the country in which they are in contact with the law enforcement. We further support measures designed to remove the social conditions that lead to crime, and we encourage continued positive interaction between law enforcement officials and members of the community at large.

In the love of Christ, who came to save those who are lost and vulnerable, we urge the creation of a genuinely new system for the care and restoration of victims, offenders, criminal justice officials, and the community as a whole. Restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self, and community. When such relationships are violated or broken through crime, opportunities are created to make things right.

Most criminal justice systems around the world are retributive. These retributive justice systems profess to hold the offender accountable to the state and use punishment as the equalizing tool for accountability. In contrast, restorative justice seeks to hold the offender accountable to the victimized person, and to the disrupted community. Through God’s transforming power, restorative justice seeks to repair the damage, right the wrong, and bring healing to all involved, including the victim, the offender, the families, and the community. The Church is transformed when it responds to the claims of discipleship by becoming an agent of healing and systemic change. 

2016 Resolutions relating to Racism--Book of Resolutions
  1. Environmental Racism in the US  p. 55
  2. A Charter for Racial Justice in an Interdependent Global Community p. 348
  3. Affirmative Action p. 352
  4. Annual Conferences’, Districts’, and Local Congregations’ Responsibilities for Eradication of Racism p. 356
  5. White Privilege in the United States  p. 358
  6. Opposition to Racial Profiling in the US p. 360
  7. Racism and Economic Injustice Against People of Color in the US p. 361
  8. Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States p. 365
  9. Humanizing Criminal Justice  p. 490
  10. Caring for Victims of Crime p. 499
  11. Global Racism and Xenophobia: Impact on Women, Children, and Youth p. 524


  1. Environmental Racism in the US 

Theological Background

“If you do away with the yoke of oppression, / with the pointing finger and malicious talk / and if you spend yourselves on behalf of the hungry / and satisfy the needs of the oppressed, then your light will rise in the darkness, / and your night will become like the noonday.”

—Isaiah 58:9-10 NIV 

We are further called both in Leviticus and by our Lord Jesus Christ to love our neighbors as ourselves. When we turn from this divine will, we as a broken people promote systems that are unjust and inequitable. One manifestation of these injustices is the persistent problem of environmental racism, defined as the disproportionate toxic and industrial contamination in neighbor- hoods where people of color live, work, worship, and play.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) is committed to under- standing and eliminating environmental racism. In the United States, the extraction, production, storage, treatment, and disposal processes of hazardous materials and wastes are too often zoned within close proximity to where people of color live. Yet, African American, Hispanic-Latino North Americans, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and non-citizens in the US are usually the least able—politically and economically—to affect the political institutions that make the decisions that allow this to happen. People of color also disproportionately suffer from the lack of public health protections in the current economy. From the founding of the United States, people of color were seen as less entitled to healthy work and environment than those of European descent. Euro- pean culture, with its domesticated animals, exploitative resource extraction, mono-cropping, and mass production, was perceived as the only way America could advance. And the rich tradition of Native Americans’ stewardship of their environment was demolished in the quest for land ownership.

US cities grew during a time of extreme racial inequity; zoning policies were put into place where waste dumps, rail yards, industrial centers, ports, and sewer systems developed out of pro- portion around communities of color. 

The birth of the environmental justice movement can be traced to the 1982 historic protest in Warren County, North Carolina. More than 500 people were arrested for blocking a shipment of toxic waste (PCBs) to a landfill located in the predominantly African American county. This action was followed in 1987 by the United Church of Christ, Commission for Racial Justice’s land- mark report, Toxic Wastes and Race in the United States. This report- established that race—rather than poverty, land value, or home ownership—is the most reliable predictor of proximity to hazardous waste sites in the United States. In 1992, the National Law Journal published “Unequal Protection,” a study that uncovered racial disparities in the enforcement of environmental protection laws. It highlighted a “racial divide in the way the US government cleans up toxic waste sites and punishes polluters.” According to the report, “white communities see faster action, better results and stiffer penalties than communities where blacks, Hispanics and other minorities live. This unequal protection often occurs whether the community is wealthy or poor.” 

In 2007, Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007 was published by the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries. This report recognized that significant racial and socioeconomic disparities persisted in the distribution of the nation’s commercial hazardous waste facilities. In fact, people of color are found to be more concentrated around hazardous waste facilities than previ- ously shown in the 1987 report. 

Here are some of the 2007 report’s statistics:

  • “20.2 percent of those living within one kilometer of a hazardous waste facility are African American while only 11.5 percent of those who live beyond five kilometers (3.1 miles) of a hazardous waste facility are African American.“
  • “23.1 percent of those who live within one kilometer of a hazardous waste facility are Latino; yet, only 7.8 per- cent of those who live beyond those five kilometers are Hispanic.”
  • “When facilities are clustered together, as in urban areas, African Americans comprise 29 percent of the surrounding population, and 16 percent of the population when there is a single facility.”
  • “Hispanics make up 33 percent of the population where there are multiple hazardous waste facilities and 25 per- cent of the population where there is a single facility.”
  • “Host neighborhoods of commercial hazardous waste facilities are 56 percent people of color whereas non-host areas are 30 percent people of color. Percentages of African Americans, Hispanics/Latinos and Asians/Pacific Islanders in host neighborhoods (vs. non-host areas) are 1.7, 2.3, and 1.8 times greater. Poverty rates in the

host neighborhoods are 1.5 times greater than non-host areas. (Statistics are from Toxic Wastes and Race at Twenty: 1987-2007. Toxic Race and Waste at 20, 1987-2007 can be found at:

http://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/united churchofchrist/legacy_url/491/toxic-wastes-and-race


Since then, more reports have come to emphasize that race matters when it comes to a community’s environmental health.

People of color and persons of low socioeconomic status are still disproportionately impacted and are particularly concentrated in neighborhoods and communities with the greatest num- ber of toxic and hazardous facilities. A growing body of research suggests that maternal exposure to environmental toxicants poses a risk not only to the mother’s health but to fetal and child health and development, too. These same persons often have substandard healthcare. Without adequate healthcare, communities of color are at even more risk.

Not only are people of color differentially impacted by toxic wastes and contamination, they can expect different responses from the government when it comes to building resilience after an environmental disaster or remediation. This can be clearly seen during and after Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, and in the toxic waste remediation efforts in Dickson County, Tennessee. People of color and communities of color receive sluggish attention to their concerns. It appears that neither existing environ- mental, health, and civil rights laws, nor local land use controls have been adequately applied or adapted toward the reduction of health risks or the mitigation of various adverse impacts to fami- lies living in or near toxic “hot spots,” which disproportionately house people of color.

Despite the clear evidence and growing awareness of the con- sequence to everyone’s health from toxic dumping, our society’s attitude toward the production and disposal of hazardous products is one of “out of sight, out of mind.” But “out of sight, out of mind” is most often where the poor and those rendered powerless live and work. These communities have thus become toxic “sacrifice zones.” In short, environmental protection systems are bro- ken, extraordinarily slow to respond and/or fail to provide equal protection to people of color and low-income communities.

While the focus here is on communities of color in the United States, we are aware that environmental racism is a global phenomenon. The displacement of native peoples—be it in Canada, Peru, or Ecuador—in the drive for oil and minerals has destroyed their land, water, and livelihoods; it also threatens to undermine their culture. Communities, regions and entire nations are all impacted by climate changes that have led to typhoons, hurri- canes, drought, or rising waters. Nations of the Global South are already more impacted and less prepared to respond to these cli- mate changes. One positive development is an expanding climate justice movement that links the concerns of US communities of color with leaders of international communities of color in resistance to environmental racism.


We urge The UMC to make sure that those who have historically experienced environmental racism are at the center of decision making and employment for a just, sustainable, healthy prosperity, and we request that: 

  • The Council of Bishops and all boards and agencies, conferences, local churches, and United Methodist (UM) faith communities address environmental racism as a key dimension when addressing either racism or environ- mental concerns.
  • The General Board of Pension and Health Benefits increase their shareholder activism to hold companies accountable for environmental abuse and unsustain- able production practices particularly in those instances where people of color are disproportionately impacted.
  • Annual conferences, districts, local churches, UM faith communities, and general agencies to become more involved with community groups working to end environmental racism, particularly those organizations led by and for those who are directly impacted by the injustices. We urge UM faith communities to increase their sup- port of actions and social movements led by those most impacted by pollutants.
  • The UMC through its Act of Repentance in Annual Conferences and in the Church with native peoples develop respectful, honoring relationships with native peoples and ask the Church to repent of the ways its well-intentioned followers devalued and disrespected native peoples’ deep spirituality and care for the land that sustains us all. It was this deep disrespect that justified the genocide of hundreds of thousands of native peoples in the name of Christianity. We ask that when native peoples’ lands are hurt today by power plants, mining (including coal, gold, copper, coltan, uranium), and garbage dumps (including nuclear waste) or access to clean water that the Church diligently work to reverse the damage and work to ensure that the right of indigenous populations to free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) are transparently honored.
  • The UMC to create sustainable practices throughout all boards, agency offices, and events in order to minimize waste and energy use as a response to injustice in neighborhoods which are in close proximity to incineration plants, garbage dumps, toxic chemical plants, industrial manufacturing, and power plants.
  • The UMC to advocate for jobs in low income areas that are good for the environment and that help eliminate pollutants, toxins, untested chemicals, and greenhouse gasses. Jobs should also maximize energy efficiency and renewable forms of energy. We call on the UMC to ensure that communities currently suffering from economic deprivation be among the first that are hired and trained for these jobs.
  • The GBCS, GBOD, GBGM, and UMW to develop educational resource programs that help annual conferences, districts and local churches respond to these concerns.

We urge the people called United Methodists to

  • Advocate comprehensive legislation that remedies these injustices and adequately protects all citizens and the environment.
  • Stand in solidarity with environmental justice movements led by people of color and native peoples who have been adversely impacted by environmental toxins in their neighborhoods.
  • Develop a program of sustainability such as United Methodist Women’s “13 Steps to Sustainability” which measures our adherence to both social justice and environmental justice principles; and
  • Urge the US government to further develop and close loopholes on mandatory industry-wide standards for environmental accounting and auditing procedures that are publicly shared. Urge governments to hold industry officials responsible—legally, criminally, and financially— for toxic disasters when they erupt from negligence.

AMENDED AND READOPTED 2004, 2008, 2016

See Social Principles, ¶ 160, Book of Discipline; Resolution 1023, “Environmental Justice for a Sustainable Future” (2012 Book of Resolutions); and Resolution 3371, “A Charter for Racial Justice Policies in an Interdependent Global Community.”

  1. A Charter for Racial Justice
    in an Interdependent Global Community

Racism is a system of inequality based on race prejudice and the belief that one race is innately superior to all other races. In the United States, systemic race-based prejudice and misuse of power have justified the conquest, enslavement, and evangelizing of non-Europeans. During the early history of this country, Europeans used legal documents such as the Christian Doctrine


of Discovery of 1823 to justify the notion that their civilization and religion were innately superior to those of both the original inhabitants of the United States and the Africans who were forcibly brought to these shores as slaves. The concepts of race and racism were created explicitly to ensure the subjugation of peoples the Europeans believed to be inferior. The myth of European superiority persisted—and persists—in every institution in American life. Other people who came, and those who are still coming to the United States—either by choice or by  force—encountered and continue to encounter racism. Some of these people are the Chinese who built the country’s railroads as indentured workers; the Mexicans whose lands were annexed; the Puerto Ricans, the Cubans, the Hawaiians, and the Eskimos who were colonized; and the Filipinos, the Jamaicans, and the Haitians who lived on starvation wages as farm workers.

In principle, the United States has outlawed racial discrimination; but in practice, little has changed. Social, economic, and political institutions still discriminate, although some institutions have amended their behavior by eliminating obvious discriminatory practices and choosing their language carefully. Adding to this reality, the success of some prominent people of color has contributed to the erroneous but widespread belief that America is in many ways a “post-racial” society where race is seldom a factor in the opportunities and outcomes in people’s lives. The institutional church, despite sporadic attempts to the contrary, also still discriminates on the basis of race. 

The damage from years of systemic race-based exploitation has not been erased and by all measurable indicators, a color-blind society is many years in the future. A system designed to meet the needs of one segment of the population cannot be the means to the development of a just society for all. The racist system in the United States today perpetuates the power and control of those who are of European ancestry. It is often called “white supremacy.” The fruits of racism are prejudice, bigotry, discrimination, and dehumanization. Consistently, African Americans, Hispanics, Latinos, Asians, Native Americans, and Pacific Islanders have been humiliated by being given jobs, housing, education, medical services, transportation, and public accommodations that are all inferior. With hopes deferred and rights still denied, the deprived and oppressed fall prey to a colonial mentality that can acquiesce to the inequities.

Racist presuppositions have been implicit in US attitudes and policies toward Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and Latin America. And the fact that racism is not explicitly expressed in these policies leads many to believe that race-based prejudice in public pol- icy is a thing of the past. While proclaiming democracy, freedom, and independence, the United States, however, has been an ally and an accomplice to perpetuating racial inequality and colonial- ism throughout the world. The history of The United Methodist Church and the history of the United States are intertwined. The “mission enterprise” of the churches in the United States went hand in hand with “Westernization,” thus sustaining a belief in and the institutionalization of this nation’s superiority. Through policies that were hyper expansionist and inherently racist, such as Manifest Destiny.

We are conscious that “we have sinned as our ancestors did; we have been wicked and evil” (Psalm 106:6 GNT). We call for a renewed commitment to the elimination of institutional racism. We affirm the 1976 General Conference Statement on The United Methodist Church and Race that states unequivocally: “By biblical and theological precept, by the law of the church, by General Conference pronouncement, and by Episcopal expression, the matter is clear. With respect to race, the aim of The United Methodist Church is nothing less than an inclusive church in an inclusive society. The United Methodist Church, therefore, calls upon all its people to perform those faithful deeds of love and justice in both the church and community that will bring this aim into reality.” 

Because we believe:

  1. That God is the Creator of all people and all are God’s children in one family;
  2. That racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ;
  3. That racism denies the redemption and reconciliation of Jesus Christ;
  4. That racism robs all human beings of their wholeness and is used as a justification for social, economic, environmental, and political exploitation;
  5. That we must declare before God and before one another that we have sinned against our sisters and brothers of other races in thought, in word, and in deed;
  6. That in our common humanity in creation all women and men are made in God’s image and all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God;
  7. That our strength lies in our racial and cultural diversity and that we must work toward a world in which each person’s value is respected and nurtured;
  8. That our struggle for justice must be based on new attitudes, new understandings, and new relationships and must be reflected in the laws, policies, structures, and practices of both church and state.

We commit ourselves as individuals and as a community to follow Jesus Christ in word and in deed and to struggle for the rights and the self-determination of every person and group of persons.

Therefore, as United Methodists in every place across the land, we will unite our efforts within the Church to take the following actions:

  1. Eliminate all forms of institutional racism in the total ministry of the Church, giving special attention to those institutions that we support, beginning with their employment policies, purchasing practices, environmental policies, and availability of ser- vices and facilities;
  2. Create opportunities in local churches to deal honestly with the existing racist attitudes and social distance between members, deepening the Christian commitment to be the church where all racial groups and economic classes come together;
  3. Increase efforts to recruit people of all races into the membership of The United Methodist Church and provide leadership- development opportunities without discrimination;
  4. Establish workshops and seminars in local churches to study, understand, and appreciate the historical and cultural contributions of each race to the church and community;
  5. Raise local churches’ awareness of the continuing needs for equal education, housing, employment, medical care, and environmental justice for all members of the community and to create opportunities to work for these things across racial lines;
  6. Work for the development and implementation of national and international policies to protect the civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all people such as through support for the ratification of United Nations covenants on human rights;
  7. Support and participate in the worldwide struggle for liberation in church and community;
  8. Facilitate nomination and election processes that include all racial groups by employing a system that prioritizes leadership opportunities of people from communities that are disproportionately impacted by the ongoing legacy of racial injustice. Use measures to align our vision for racial justice with actions that accelerate racial equity.

READOPTED 2000, 2008, 2016

 See Social Principles, ¶ 162A. 

3373. Affirmative Action

The United Methodist Church has long been committed to the principle of social inclusiveness. That is, in keeping with the spirit of the gospel, we affirm that all persons—whatever their racial or ethnic identity, whatever their gender or national origin, whatever their physical state or condition—are full-fledged members of the human community with every one of the rights and privileges that such membership entails. The implementation of “affirmative action” reflects a shared understanding that diversity is a positive outcome of social inclusion that yields benefits for the entire community. 

In light of that commitment, the church has, in years past, adopted a strong stand supportive of the concept of “affirmative action.” Recently, this concept has been subjected to intense opposition. While some of the particular policies adopted under that rubric may be in need of revision—given developments that have occurred over the course of time—we would, at this moment, reconfirm our support for the basic concept. Inclusionary efforts that lead to diversity yield enriched environments for our daily living and learning. 

The Declaration of the United Nations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance (Durban, South Africa, 31 August to 8 September 2001) contains the following affirmations:

  • recognition of the need for special measures or positive actions for the victims of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance in order to promote their full integration into society;
  • recognition that such measures should aim at correcting the conditions that impair the enjoyment of rights;
  • recognition of the need to encourage equal participation of all racial and cultural, linguistic and religious groups in all sectors of society; and,
  • recognition of the need for measures to achieve appropriate representation in educational institutions, housing, political parties, legislative bodies, employment, especially in the judiciary, police, army and other civil services.

The concept of affirmative action emerged in response to the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s as one of a set of public policies designed to overcome a tragic history of racist and sexist practices throughout this nation and to create a more equitable social system in keeping with the spirit of the gospel and in keeping with the proclaimed democratic ideals of the American people.

Affirmative action is not intended to enable class privilege for the wealthy, such as using family legacies or donor contributions to gain personal advantages. The specific intent of affirmative action, given its origins, was to bring the prestige and power of government to bear on economic and educational institutions, requiring them to put into effect carefully conceived plans to admit qualified persons who traditionally had been excluded from participating in them—women, ethnic and racial persons, and, at a later time, persons with disabilities. 

Over the past three decades, programs of affirmative action have had a significant effect in the employment patterns of corporations and public agencies and in the character of the professional staff and student bodies of educational institutions, private and public. Proportionately, more women, racial and ethnic minori- ties, and people with disabilities have found their talents and training recognized than before such programs were instituted.

At the same time, however, many women, racial and ethnic per- sons, and persons with disabilities, though fully competent, have confronted obstacles in these settings, stifling their advancement in education and in employment. Unemployment of racial and ethnic persons remains appreciably higher than the national average. Women workers continue to earn less than male workers in the same or similar positions, and they continue to confront limitations in promotion to a more prestigious and responsible level of jobs. Persons with disabilities are bypassed regardless of their motivations.

Despite these persistent inequities, the concept of affirmative action is currently under severe attack. In some locations, it has been abolished as a public policy on several (somewhat different and not altogether compatible) grounds:

  • that it promotes the hiring (in business) or admission (to institutions of higher education) of unqualified persons;
  • that it discriminates unduly against white males;
  • that it has a negative impact on the self-esteem of affirmative action candidates; and
  • that its goals have been at this time fully realized and therefore it is no longer necessary.

In light of the evidence, however (except in those cases where policies of affirmative action have been badly or improperly administered), all of these alleged grounds seem specious. The implementation of affirmative action has resulted in concrete gains for people of color and women in higher education and the corporate world. However persuasive they seem on the surface, they tend to slough off or  to  ignore  the  persistence  of  significance and  widespread inequalities of opportunity affecting women, ethnic and racial persons, and persons with disabilities throughout our social system. From the perspective represented by The United Methodist Church, the most fundamental premise underlying the concept of affirmative action is both moral and spiritual. Concern for the disadvantaged and the oppressed is a major feature of the message of the Hebraic prophets and of Jesus. According to biblical teaching, we are mandated, in the face of inhumane discrimination—whether that discrimination is intended or unintended—to do what we can to redress legitimate grievances and to create society in which the lives of each and all will flourish.

For this fundamental reason, we reconfirm our commitment to the concept of affirmative action. The use of numerical goals and timetables is a legitimate and necessary tool of effective affirmative action programs. This concept retains its pertinence as a means of attaining a more inclusive society in our educational systems, in our businesses and industries, and in religious and other institutions. No persons—whatever their gender, their ethnic or racial heritage, their physical condition—should be deprived of pursuing their educational or employment aspirations to the full extent of their talents and abilities. 

Fairness is the rule for affirmative action, guaranteeing more opportunities for all to compete for jobs. Indeed, the purpose of affirmative action has always been to create an environment where merit can prevail.

Rather than curtail or abolish programs in affirmative action, we should instead move toward the reallocation of the resources of our society to ensure the fullest opportunities in the fulfillment of life.

At the same time, given the tenacity of many forms of racism, sexism, and ableism—both blatant and subtle—the concept of affirmative action retains its relevance as part of an overall effort to create a more just and equitable social system.

Therefore, be it resolved, that the 2016 General Conference of The United Methodist Church calls upon all its members to:

  1. affirm our Judeo-Christian heritage of justice and inclusive- ness as a foundation for the concept of affirmative action;
  2. constitute a model for others in society by practicing and strengthening our own affirmative action policies, whatever our station in life;
  3. declare our support of efforts throughout the society to sus- tain and, where needed, strengthen affirmative action legislation and programs;
  4. collaborate with movements and initiatives seeking to ensure effective participation of ethnic and racial persons, women, and persons with disabilities in all sectors of our society; and
  5. interpret the genuine meaning of affirmative action, dispel- ling the myths and responding to the specious appeals that would undercut and vilify affirmative action policies and programs.

Be it further resolved, that the 2016 General Conference reaffirm its mandate to implement affirmative action programs in all general church boards and agencies, annual conferences, church- related institutions, districts, and local churches.

Be it further resolved, that the General Commissions on Religion and Race and the Status and Role of Women continue to assess the progress of The United Methodist Church and related institutions and to provide assistance in helping them move toward greater conformity with the principle of inclusiveness. 

AMENDED AND READOPTED 2004, 2008, 2016

See Social Principles, ¶ 162A

  1. Annual Conferences’, Districts’, and Local Congregations’ Responsibilities for Eradication of Racism

Whereas, conferences, districts, and local congregations within the United States are becoming more diverse; and

Whereas, it is predicted that within the United States, the population of persons of European descent will be less than 50 per- cent before 2050; and

Whereas, racism has been a systemic and personal problem within the US and The United Methodist Church (UMC) and its predecessor denominations since its inception; and

Whereas, The UMC is committed to the eradication of racism; and

Whereas, it takes significant change, learning, time, and healing to eradicate racism; and

Whereas, it takes significant attitudinal and systemic change to learn and to incorporate the gifts and contributions of the different racial-ethnic persons within the church’s ministry, structures, and mission; and

Whereas, since 1980 the Charter for Racial Justice Policies has served as an articulation of United Methodist understanding of the biblical imperative for the eradication of racism and a guide for action (#161 2004 Book of Resolutions—“A Charter for Racial Justice Policies in an Interdependent Global Community”); 

Therefore, be it resolved, that every annual conference, district, and local congregation within the United States develop and Implement a strategy and program to educate and support systemic and personal changes to end racism and work multi-culturally, and

Be it further resolved, that an educational program which will include understanding systemic racism, a strategy for its eradication, appreciation and valuation of diversity, and guidelines for working with different groups in communities toward becoming an inclusive church be offered at least yearly within the annual conference, and

Be it further resolved, that all clergy and lay leadership be encouraged to participate in such programs and that all newly ordained clergy be required to participate in these programs, and

Be it further resolved, that United Methodist Women and the General Commission on Religion and Race continue to make available  to  annual  conferences,  districts,  and  local  churches resources such as the Charter for Racial Justice to assist them in their efforts, and

Be it further resolved, that the General Commission on Religion and Race include as part of its review process the adherence of annual conferences, districts, and local congregations in equip- ping and supporting leadership to eradicate racism and work multi-culturally, and that as annual conferences, districts, and local congregations develop and implement programs, results will be forwarded by the Conference Commission on Religion and Race (or other conference structures dealing with those responsibilities) to the General Commission on Religion and Race.



See Social Principles, ¶ 162A  

3375. Membership in Clubs or Organizations That Practice Exclusivity

Whereas, membership held in any club or organization that practices exclusivity based on gender, race, or socioeconomic condition is clearly in violation of the stance of the United Methodist Social Principles;

Therefore, it is recommended, that United Methodists who hold memberships in clubs or organizations that practice exclusivity based on gender, race, or socioeconomic condition prayerfully consider whether they should work for change within these groups or resign their membership. If one decides to resign, we urge that the decision and reasons be made public. This reflects the intent and purpose of the Social Principles of The United Methodist Church. 

READOPTED 2004, 2008, 2016


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

3376. White Privilege in the United States

European Americans enjoy a broad range of privileges denied to persons of color in our society, privileges that often permit them to dominate others who do not enjoy such privileges. While there are many issues that reflect the racism in US society, there are some cases where racism is the issue, such as affirmative action, housing, job discrimination, hate crimes, and criminal justice. In addition, there are many broader social issues where racism is one factor in the equation, albeit often the major one.

Poverty is a serious problem in the US, but a far greater per- centage of people of color are poorer than white persons. Police brutality is also more prevalent in communities of color. Schools in predominantly white communities receive a far higher proportion of education dollars than those in predominantly non-white communities, leading to larger class size, fewer resources, and inferior facilities.

While welfare affects the entire society, it hits predominantly non-white communities hardest. Many in Congress support tax credits for families to enable middle-class parents to stay home with their children, welfare “reform” forces poor, single parents to take low-paying jobs and leave their children to inadequate or nonexistent day care. Because more and better job opportunities are open to white persons, they are leaving the welfare rolls faster than non-white persons, making non-white persons a disproportionate segment of the welfare population.

While people of color make up about 30 percent of the United States’ population, they account for 60 percent of those imprisoned. The prison population grew by 700 percent from 1970 to 2005, a rate that is outpacing crime and population rates. The incarceration rates disproportionately impact men of color: 1 in every 15 African American men and 1 in every 36 Hispanic men are incarcerated in comparison to 1 in every 106 white men. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, one in three black men can expect to go to prison in their lifetime. Individuals of color have a disproportionate number of encounters with law enforcement, indicating that racial profiling continues to be a problem. A report by the US Department of Justice found that Blacks and Hispanics were approximately three times more likely to be searched during a traffic stop than white motorists. African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police (American Prospect, March 17, 2012, The 10 Most Disturbing Facts About Racial Inequality in the U.S. Criminal Justice System).

If only one of these areas impacted communities of color dis- proportionately, an explanation might be found in some socio- logical factor other than race. But where race is a common thread running through virtually every inequality in our society, we are left with only one conclusion: White, European Americans enjoy a wide range of privileges that are denied to persons of color in our society. These privileges enable white persons to escape the injustices and inconveniences which are the daily experience of racial ethnic persons. Those who are White assume that they can purchase a home wherever they choose if they have the money; that they can expect courteous service in stores and restaurants; that if they are pulled over by a police car it will be for a valid reason unrelated to their skin color. Persons of color cannot make these assumptions. 

We suggest that the church focus not only on the plight of people living in urban or rural ghettos, but also on white privilege and its impact on white persons. For example, churches in white or pre- dominantly white communities need to ask why there are no per- sons of color in their community, why the prison population in their state is disproportionately Black and Hispanic persons, why there are so few Black and Hispanic persons in high-paying jobs and prestigious universities, why schools in white communities receive more than their fair share of education dollars, and why white per- sons receive preferential treatment from white police officers.

We ask the General Conference to recognize white privilege as an underlying cause of injustice in our society including our church and to commit the church to its elimination in church and society.

The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons.

We ask each local church with a predominantly white membership: 1) to reflect on its own willingness to welcome persons without regard to race and to assess the relative accessibility in housing, employment, education and recreation in its community to white persons and to persons of color; and 2) to welcome persons of color into membership and full participation in the church and community and to advocate for their access to the benefits which white persons take for granted.

We challenge individual white persons to confess their participation in the sin of racism and repent for past and current racist practices. And we challenge individual ethnic persons to appropriate acts of forgiveness.

Finally, we call all persons, whatever their racial or ethnic heritage, to work together to restore the broken body of Christ.



See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

3377. Opposition to Racial Profiling in the US 

Whereas, racial profiling in the United States, is a practice directed at people based solely on race and has been a concern of numerous civil rights organizations and The United Methodist Church for decades; and

Whereas, insidious racial profiling by some law enforcement practices around the country has risen; and

Whereas, racial profiling is a violation of the respect for human rights, an abhorrent manifestation of racism, and violation of the moral standard of the United States and The United Methodist Church; and

Whereas, various states have signed or attempted to sign legislation that would give local law enforcement the right to arrest anyone they suspect is in the country illegally, which violates the equal protection clause in the US Constitution; and

Whereas, racial profiling threatens the safety of both US citizens and immigrants; 

Therefore, we call on the Council of Bishops, annual conferences, and members of local churches to contact their local, state, and federal representatives urging that they prioritize and enact legislation to end racial profiling and allocate sufficient funds for its vigorous enforcement so as to ensure: a federal prohibition against racial profiling, retraining of law enforcement officials on how to discontinue and prevent the use of racial profiling, and law enforcement agencies are held accountable for use of racial profiling. 

Therefore, finally, we call on The United Methodist Church through its annual conferences, districts, and local churches and under the leadership of the General Board of Church and Soci- ety and the General Commission on Religion and Race, in coordination with the General Board of Global Ministries and United Methodist Women, to be proactive in educating the constituency about racial profiling and establishing networks of cooperation with criminal justice and law enforcement agencies.


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

3378. Racism and Economic Injustice Against People of Color in the US

Biblical and Theological Grounding

Whereas, the prophet Isaiah spoke out:

Woe to those who make unjust laws, / to those who issue oppressive decrees, / to deprive the poor of their rights / and withhold justice from the oppressed of my people (Isaiah 10:1-2a NIV); and

Whereas, Jesus taught the foundation of the law and the prophets was to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself and he made clear that everyone is our neighbor; and

Whereas, Jesus proclaimed the essence of his ministry when he read from the scroll of the prophet Isaiah: 

The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, / because he has anointed me / to bring good news to the poor. / He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives / and recovery of sight to the blind, / to let the oppressed go free. (Luke 4:18 NRSV); and

Whereas, the prophet Isaiah proclaimed God’s condemnation of economic injustice, saying:

Look, you serve your own interest on your fast day, / and oppress all your workers. / Look, you fast only to quarrel and to fight / and to strike with a wicked fist. / Such fasting as you do today / will not make

your voice heard on high. . . . / Is not this the fast that I choose: / to loose the bonds of injustice, / to undo the thongs of the yoke, / to let the oppressed go free, / and to break every yoke? / Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, / and bring the homeless poor into your house;

/ when you see the naked, to cover them, / and not to hide yourself from your own kin? (Isaiah 58:3b-4, 6-7 NRSV)

Background and Motivation 

Whereas, this condemnation applies directly to the reality of racial injustice and economic inequality in the US; and

Whereas, the US has the most unequal distribution of income and wealth of all developed nations; and

Whereas, in 1967, when Jim Crow segregation was wounded, but still alive, median household income was 43 percent higher for white, non-Hispanic households than for black households, yet by 2011, with legal segregation eliminated, that figure had risen to 72 percent (Ned Resnikoff, “Race is the elephant in the room when it comes to inequality,” MSNBC, posted 03/13/14, updated 05/23/14. Available online at <http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/washingtons-silence-the-racial-wealth-gap>); and 

Whereas, despite steadily rising overall wealth in the US, the “wealth gap” between whites and African Americans went from 12 to 1 in 1984 to 19 to 1 in 2009 (Ibid.). Significant disparities exist at all income levels. So, for example, in the bottom fifth of house- holds, poor whites have an average of $24,000 in assets. Poor black households have, on average, $57 in assets, for a ratio of 421 to 1. In the middle income level, the ratio is 5.2 to 1 and even at the highest income level, white households have, on average 3.2 times more wealth than black households (Tim Wise, Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equality (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2010), 69-70); and

Whereas, “African Americans are twice as likely as whites to be employed in low-wage jobs and twice as likely to be unemployed,” even when the job climate is good. In addition, on aver- age, black men remain unemployed seven more weeks than white men and black women are out of work five more weeks than white women (Ibid., 66-67); and

Whereas, while median income for Asian Americans is higher than that of whites, Asian Americans earn less than whites at the same educational level (Ibid., 95) and many Asian Americans still live in poverty; and

Whereas, slavery, Jim Crow segregation, the sharecropping and tenant-farmer system, the convict slave-labor system (See Douglas Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (New York: Anchor Books, 2008)), thousands of lynchings, KKK terror, and other historical practices prevented the accumulation of wealth and property by most African American families and the legacy of those systems of oppression still affects many families, recent studies show that ongoing mass disparities between whites and blacks in the US can be directly attributed to current racist policies and practices: 

One study showed that African Americans, Latinos, and Asian Americans have more than a one-in-three chance of suffering discrimination in any given job search, concluding that roughly 600,000 blacks, 275,000 Latinos, and 150,000 Asian Americans face job discrimination each year (Wise, 88). 

In studies of service-industry employment, research showed that even when researchers sent African-American testers who were more qualified; white applicants were more likely to get an interview (Ibid., 90-91).

A Princeton study using black, white, and Latino test applicants who were trained to have the same communication styles, physical characteristics, and demeanor found that white applicants were far more likely than applicants of color to be called back. It also found that even white men claiming a felony record were slightly more likely to be called back than black applicants with no criminal record (Ibid., 88-89); and

Whereas, the deliberate de-industrialization of the US in the 1970s and ’80s led to massive job losses among people of color, who had only gained access on a large scale to good-paying blue- color jobs. This is directly linked to the re-impoverishment of a large proportion of African-American households, to urban decay (as incomes and tax revenues plummeted) and the dramatic rise in the jail and prison population (starting around 1980). People of color (especially African American and Hispanic men) became an unneeded surplus labor force and mass incarceration became one of the primary solutions to that problem; and

Whereas, widespread discrimination against people of color continues in the US in housing, education, health care, and the policing and criminal justice system; and

Whereas, we need a vision of a beloved community, founded on social and economic justice and motivated by self-giving love.

This vision includes removing the power of police oversight and discipline from the police themselves; substantially reducing sentences for minor crimes and dramatically reducing the prison population; eliminating the “prisons for profit” system; providing genuinely equal education opportunities for all; creating an economic system that provides for an equitable distribution of wealth, with much larger programs to assist developing nations; reinstating and strengthening voting-rights protections; and strengthening investigation and enforcement against discrimination in employment, housing, education, and healthcare; and

Whereas, racial injustice and inequality still constitute the cornerstone of US economic and social policy and practice; and

Whereas, intense and ongoing systemic and institutional racism is still the greatest barrier in the US to building beloved community;

Therefore, be it resolved, that The United Methodist Church advocates, encourages, and will support a new multiracial, mass movement for racial and economic justice in the US; and

Be it further resolved, that every annual conference in the US sup- port anti-racism training for every active clergy member and for all members of the conference Board of Ordained Ministry and district committees on ordained ministry, and that this training be offered as well to other key leaders among laity in each conference. We note that anti-racism training must address white privilege and focus on intentional struggle and advocacy against racism in our churches and in society at large. So-called “diversity training” or “sensitivity training” is insufficient; and 

Be it further resolved, that every annual conference, district, and local church should be engaged, intentionally, in being an anti- racist church, not merely on paper, but in action. Church bodies at every level should seek to educate themselves on the extent of racism in business, education, government, housing, and healthcare and find ways to advocate for the elimination of specific instances locally and nationally.

Resources on Racism and Economic Justice for People of Color:

Tim Wise, Colorblind: The Rise of Post-Racial Politics and the Retreat from Racial Equity (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 2010).

Joseph Barndt, Becoming the Anti-Racist Church: Journeying Toward Wholeness (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2011).

Charles Marsh, The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, from the Civil Rights Movement to Today (New York: Basic Books, 2005).

Douglas A. Blackmon, Slavery by Another Name: The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II (New York: Anchor Books, 2008).

ColorOfChange.org — “we keep our members informed and give them ways to act on pressing issues facing Black people in America.”


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

3379. Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States

In the United States, policing policies, immigration law enforcement, and exponentially growing incarceration rates all disproportionately impact persons of color and harm families and communities. The United Methodist Church must work to dis- mantle policies that assume whole groups of people are criminals and encourage public acceptance of the injustices of racial profiling (2008 Book of Resolutions, #3378), mass incarceration, and disenfranchisement of entire communities demonized as a threatening “other.”

Economic Crisis and Demonization of Communities

Globally and within nations, including the United States, there is a widening gap between rich and poor (2012 Book of Resolutions, #4052 and #6028). To maintain order amid this wealth and resource inequality, governments increasingly enact policies that divide workers and exploit migrant labor, as did Pharaoh in the biblical story of the Exodus. The Book of Exodus opens with Pharaoh looking over the land of Egypt and seeing a people growing in strength and number; he becomes fearful.

“He said to his people, ‘Look, the Israelite people are more numerous and more powerful than we. Come, let us deal shrewdly with them, or they will increase and, in the event of war, join our enemies and fight against us and escape from the land’” (Exodus 1:9-10 NRSV).

Pharaoh did not fear other peoples or migrant labor but rather, he feared that a mixed multitude of Israelites, impoverished Egyptians, and “enemies” would unite (Exodus 12:38) and rise up to free themselves from exploitation. As in Pharaoh’s day, today’s governments use fear-based policies to divide and to control populations that might otherwise challenge the growing concentration of wealth and resources in the hands of a few.

Today, invoking the crises language of national security—“the war on drugs,” “the war on illegal immigration,” “the war on terror”—the US government, like Pharaoh, has targeted poor, racial, ethnic, migrant, and other marginalized communities of color for selective enforcement of statutes, and thus criminalized entire communities.

Waging “War” on Communities of Color

The 40-year-old “war on drugs” has had a devastating impact on communities of color in the United States. In 2012, 23.9 mil- lion Americans, ages twelve and over, and of all races and socio- economic levels had used an illicit drug or abused a medication, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (National Institute on Drug Abuse, 2015). But the “war on drugs” has not been waged across all races and socioeconomic levels; it has been waged through systemic selective law enforcement targeting Afri- can Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans (2012 Book of Resolutions #3042, #3376, and #5033) in settings that vary from traffic stops, SWAT-type raids on homes and grocery stores, and stop- and-searches of people going about their daily tasks. 

Policies like New York City’s “stop and frisk” and “broken windows” policing have empowered officers to detain and search pedestrians without probable cause and make arrests for minor infractions. In 2013, 88 percent of the nearly 200,000 persons “stopped and frisked” by the New York Police Department were innocent civilians; 85 percent of those stopped were Black and Latino, and 11 percent were White (New York Civil Liberties Union, 2015). These policies subject hundreds of thousands of innocent people of color to routine abuse, public humiliation, injury, and even unprosecuted deaths for some (Harris-Perry, 2014).

Similarly, children of color are punished more severely and more frequently than their  white  classmates  (US  Department of Education, 2014), making school suspensions and expulsions “stops” on the “school-to-prison pipeline”—pushing children out of school and onto troubled streets and then off to prison.

Such over-policing erodes community trust in law enforcement and sends a clear message to police that not all Americans are equal under law, as people in targeted communities do not have the same constitutional protections other Americans enjoy (Alexander, 2010).

Targeting Migrants

This criminalization of entire communities is being expanded today in the name of a so-called “war on ‘illegal’ immigration” and “war on terror.” As with the “war on drugs,” citizens and migrants alike in “immigrant” communities are subjected to racial profiling and suspension of basic rights. Migrants are being arrested and held in prisons in a growing network of “detention centers,” many private for-profit institutions.

Roundups targeting specific communities of color, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids or drift-net arrests (this refers to police sweeps within a specific community and arrests without probable cause designed to catch potential criminals) sweep up large numbers of people without probable cause often for nonviolent offenses. In the process, more than 5,000 migrant parents have permanently lost custody of their children as detention court and family court policies collide (Race Forward). When migrants who have been deported seek to reunite with their families, they face felony charges for reentering the United States. More than 25,000 migrants with these and other nonviolent convictions are detained in thirteen private prisons under the “Criminal Alien Requirement” program, costing tax- payers billions of dollars every year.

Mass Incarceration

The criminalization of communities of color includes mass incarceration. The “war on drugs” has played a critical role in the escalation of US incarceration rates. From 1970 to 2009 the US prison population grew more than 700 percent (American Civil Liberties Union, 2015) so that today, with only 5 percent of the world’s population, the United States incarcerates 25 percent of all prisoners in the world. This makes the US the world’s largest jailer. More than 60  percent  of  the  people  incarcerated  in US prisons are people of color. Nearly half of federal prisoners (48 percent) are incarcerated for drug offenses (Federal Bureau of Prisons, 2015). Nearly half of state prisoners (47 percent) were convicted of nonviolent drug, property, or public order crimes (The Sentencing Project, 2015).

Migrant communities also find themselves in the tight grip of mass incarceration promoted by a growing prison industry, which includes the multibillion-dollar business of detention and deportation. In 2010, private companies in the United States operated more than 250 correctional facilities, housing almost 99,000 prisoners. These companies regularly lobby Congress for more detention and mandatory sentences as they profit from increased incarceration and extended sentences, even if this is not the most effective use of taxpayer dollars (Detention Watch Network, 2011). US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detains an average of 34,000 immigrants each day, three times the number detained in 1996. In 2012, about 400,000 immigrants were detained, costing taxpayers $1.7 billion at an average of $122 a day per bed (Carswell, Sarah; Grassroots Leadership; Detention Watch Network, 2015). As of 2015, a congressionally man- dated bed quota obliged ICE to incarcerate 34,000 immigrants in detention at any given time or pay private companies in any case (Detention Watch Network, 2015). 

Both citizen prisoners and migrant detainees are frequently held in facilities far away from their families and legal counsel, placing tremendous hardship on loved ones and their ability to legally fight for their freedom. 

Impact on Women and Children

Women of color—citizen and migrant—are at the crux of the mass incarceration of people of color. African American and Latina women make up the fastest-growing population in US prisons and jails (The Rebecca Project for Human Rights). Nearly 25 percent of women in state prisons are there for nonviolent drug-related offenses (Carson, 2015). Fifty-six percent of female prisoners are mothers (Glaze & Maruschak, 2015). 

Women in prison and detention face sexual harassment and sexual abuse, as they struggle to keep families together. Women who face abuse in prison and detention fear speaking out and cannot flee. Both imprisoned and detained women have been chained and shackled during childbirth. Most incarcerated women were first survivors of sexual and physical abuse.

Ending the Torture of Solitary Confinement

Once incarcerated, the conditions of confinement for many people of color continue to follow a pattern of bias, as exemplified by the use of solitary confinement in jails, prisons, and immigrant detention centers. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, on any given day, roughly 80,000 incarcerated adults and youth are held in solitary confinement in the United States. A disproportionate number of them are people of color (Schlanger, 2013). Pro- longed solitary confinement in US prisons constitutes torture and violates the Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).

Solitary confinement also impacts immigrants confined in civil detention. Women are placed in solitary confinement in retaliation for reporting incidents of rape.

Ongoing Punishment After Incarceration

The impact of the criminalization of communities of color does not end after incarceration. Rather, upon their release from prison, people with a felony conviction begin a lifelong sentence of sec- ond-class citizenship, stripped of their right to vote, facing legal discrimination in employment and housing, and banned from accessing government services such as tuition assistance, food stamps, housing, and more. Such experiences are described in Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

The United Methodist Church’s Response 

The United Methodist Church affirms the inalienable human rights of all persons. The Charter for Racial Justice calls us to challenge institutional racism. Also, The United Methodist Church’s Social Principles (¶ 164H) calls United Methodists to practice restorative justice, seeking alternatives to retribution and restoration of right relationships among all God’s people. So, The United Methodist Church calls on local and national governments to:

  • Stop the criminalization of communities of color and the cacophony of “wars” being waged against these communities.
  • Make the enforcement and protection of international human rights law central to criminal justice and immigration policy.
  • End racial/ethnic/religious profiling by law enforcement officers and end “zero tolerance” policies in schools.
  • Suspend ICE raids, end family detention and ALL incarceration of children in compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. 

Keep families together.

  • End local police involvement in immigration enforcement (2012 Book of Resolutions, #3281).
  • End mandatory sentencing laws and mandatory detention policies, and affirm judicial discretion in sentencing and deportation rulings.
  • Restore the full citizenship rights, including the vote, to US citizens with felony convictions; remove barriers to their employment and ability to secure housing

                 and supportive services. Provide education and job creation so they can rejoin society.

  • Repeal employer sanctions and other measures that criminalize undocumented migrants seeking work.

The United Methodist Task Force on Immigration, representing the Council of Bishops, agencies, and racial/ethnic caucuses should work to:

  • Affirm the humanity and inherent dignity of all who are under correctional control and examine links between criminal justice and immigrant enforcement policies as they impact communities of color.
  • Challenge the criminalization of migrants in the United States and globally by engaging annual and central conferences in advocacy. Build alliances with ecumenical

                     and secular groups.

   General Board of Church and Society, General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Board of Global Ministries, and United Methodist Women should:

  • Develop local church resources on this issue with US and international groups. 


  • Work with central conferences to deepen research, analysis, and action on global migration policies.
  • Mobilize congregations to challenge private prisons and detention centers, and to advocate the release of prisoners held for nonviolent offenses.

Annual conferences and local congregations should: 

Challenge police engagement in immigration enforcement.

  • Call United Methodists to discernment on these issues through use of the Wesleyan Quadrilateral, as well as the frameworks of human rights, racial justice, and restorative justice. Use a critical lens regarding mass media. (See Resolution #8016, “Proper Use of Information Communication Technologies.”)
  • Engage with churches and local communities in speak- ing out publicly for police accountability regarding racial profiling, misconduct, abuse, and killings.
  • Work to end the use of solitary confinement.
  • Provide reentry ministries for people released from prison. 


See Social Principles, ¶ 162A.

  1. Humanizing Criminal Justice

The biblical view of the criminal justice system is one that should be characterized by accessibility to all (Deuteronomy 1:17; 16:18), impartiality (Exodus 23:1-3), honesty (Exodus 23:7), integrity (Exodus 23:6, 8), and fairness to all without regard to status (Leviticus 19:15). God exhorts God’s people, “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20 NRSV).

It is later in the narrative of God’s people when justice has become subverted by greed and self-indulgence that God prescribes corrective action, as described by prophets such as Isaiah and Amos. When justice is distorted God desires for the cause of the widow and the orphan, those most vulnerable to the injustice of the affluent and powerful, to be defended (Isaiah 1:17). When injustice is committed against the poor and marginalized, authentic justice as described here is prevented from being experienced and God’s people are alienated from God (Amos 5:7, 10-13, 21-24). God is just and those who follow God must be just as well. 

A justice system that reflects God’s desires for the world is one that is healing and restorative. Those who have been victimized by crime and the communities in which they reside need healing. Healing can come as safety and security are restored and the bro- ken bonds of mutuality and shared existence are mended. Those who commit crimes must be held accountable through making amends to those they have caused to suffer, and they must be given the opportunity to return to their full place in society and community.

Since crimes are so often linked to a lack of access to resources, gaining access to resources is a necessary part of this return. As United Methodists we “support measures designed to remove social conditions that lead to crime, and we encourage continued positive interaction between law enforcement officials and members of the community at large” (¶ 164H).

A justice system must be first and foremost about humanization since God’s justice always works to bring reconciliation. Systems of retribution breed only violence and isolation. Indeed, “we can- not punish our way to a healthy society” (Laura Magnani and Harmon Wray, Beyond Prisons: A New Interfaith Paradigm for Our Failed Prison System. Minneapolis, MN: Fortress Press [p. 5]).

Retributive systems of justice form barriers to the realization of the vision of restorative justice because they are tainted with explicit and implicit racial and ethnic bias, they punish children as harshly as adults, and they accommodate a two-tiered system that serves those with wealth and subjugates those without. Indeed, most justice systems do not seek healing and restoration for the people affected by crime or for those who commit crimes. Too many social and political obstacles blocking our path to achieving equal justice and safety for all God’s children exist, including: 

  • Misinformed and biased public perceptions of racial and ethnic minorities that justify excessively punitive policies;
  • Inadequate public health systems that neglect serious mental illness and treatment for addictions;
  • Limited assistance and social services for victims of crime, and for children living in poverty and those with incarcerated parents;
  • Justice systems that measure success by increasing numbers of arrests, prosecutions, and incarcerations over ensuring fair and impartial justice;
  • Outdated public policies that equate crime reductions only with increased incarceration and longer sentences, and inadequately support rehabilitative

        programming; and

  • Inferior or absent legal representation for defendants without financial means to hire counsel.

Crime Prevention and Criminal Proceedings

Communities plagued by high rates of violent and nonviolent crime need the attention of the Church and government to heal their pain. These communities are often disproportionately poor, disenfranchised, and populated by racial and ethnic minority peoples. Sometimes victims have also committed crimes and sup- port services are unavailable to them. The Church believes that all people have sacred worth, including those who commit crimes and those impacted by it, and deserve our attention and support in order to limit recidivism and the intergenerational cycle of crime.

Racial and ethnic profiling is never an acceptable law enforcement tool. Police and prosecutors must be trained to avoid its use even unconsciously. Special care must be exercised in the selection of persons who serve as police officers, prosecutors, and court personnel. They should be persons who possess good judgment, sound discretion, and proper temperament. 

Moreover, police encounters with people who break the law must not always end in arrest. In certain circumstances diversion to a mental-health or treatment provider, homeless shelter, or out- reach to a parent in the case of a child are more effective strategies to combat criminal behavior, reduce costs to the criminal-justice system, and avoid a stigmatizing arrest record. 

These kinds of restorative-justice practices should be utilized within the community as a first response to criminal behavior.

Young people under the age of eighteen who commit a criminal offense should not be adjudicated within the adult criminal- justice system. A special diversion program and/or court system centered on family solutions to addressing youth behavior is most appropriate.

When the arrest of adults is warranted, criminal defendants should have access to appropriate legal representation even in circumstances when he or she cannot afford to pay for representation. Prosecutors and the court system should use utmost scrutiny in determining whether or not sufficient evidence exists to charge a defendant. Decisions about guilt or innocence are best decided by a jury of peers within a court of law. All trials and the sentencing of those convicted under criminal laws must be conducted in a public courtroom.

The United Methodist Church urges the following recommendations in the area of crime prevention and criminal proceedings: 

Police departments publicly establish standards of police conduct and policies for promotion that incorporate training in peacekeeping, life-protecting, other service

          roles, and law enforcement. The standards must include strict limits on the deadly use of force;

  • The composition of police agencies should reflect the communities that they serve, including geographic residence, diversity in race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, etc.;
  • Law enforcement agencies should be held accountable by the communities they serve. 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;

  • Fair and adequate compensation for police officers, public defenders, prosecutors, and other court and law- enforcement personnel should be provided to these

               valuable public servants;

Train judges of juvenile and criminal courts in the use of non-incarcerating community sanctions whenever the offense does not involve persistent violence;

  • Encourage local churches to set up court-monitoring panels to observe court operations and proceedings. Such panels may well adopt a role of friends of the

          court or of advocacy on behalf of accused persons and/or on behalf of crime victims. They may adopt other appropriate procedures in the interest of restorative      

                   justice, including close scrutiny of plea bargaining and/or evidence of unequal imposition of sentences;

  • Develop appropriate jury selection procedures that would ensure the most inclusive representation, including representatives of the socioeconomic class and ethnic

               group of the defendants and of the crime victims; and

Adoption by all courts of: (a) speedy trial provisions; and (b) a presumption that a person accused of a crime should be released on personal recognizance unless an evidentiary-based determination is made that personal recognizance will not reasonably assure future appearance or represents a risk of imminent physical harm to others. Financial bond should be used as a last resort.

Criminalization of personal behaviors or conditions perpetuates unfair racial disparity, class discrimination, stigmatization, and wastes resources needed for other purposes. Therefore, the Church supports the repeal of laws that criminalize personal conditions or behaviors. Examples include vagrancy, homelessness, personal gambling, public drunkenness, drug use, prostitution, and real or perceived sexual orientation or consensual sexual activity. Moreover, individuals forced or coerced into criminal behavior should not be criminalized. The Church also opposes extreme sentences, including the death penalty and life imprisonment with no consideration for release, particularly for people under the age of eighteen. These extreme sentences are inherently cruel and leave out any opportunities for redemption or rehabilitation among people who commit crime.

Penal codes should prescribe a range of penalty options for courts to consider at sentencing with an emphasis on utilizing non-incarceration community sanctions wherever consistent with community protection. Furthermore, court-determined sentences that consider the unique circumstances of each case are most appropriate, rather than mandatory sentences prescribed by policymakers unaffiliated or unfamiliar with the nuances of specific criminal proceedings.

Judges and juries issuing penalties should issue publicly accessible statements to the court detailing the reasons for selecting a particular penalty for a defendant. When fines are assessed, they should be scaled to the magnitude of the crime and the ability of a defendant to pay.

Governmentally regulated programs of compensation for reimbursement of financial loss incurred by victims of crime should be encouraged, particularly as an alternative to incarceration.

Conditions of Confinement

More than 10 million people are held in penal institutions throughout the world, according to data compiled in 2013. The Church is concerned for the health and well-being of all detained and incarcerated people. Those confined in institutions, regard- less of the length of their mandated stay, have basic human rights that must be protected by administrators and government officials. All confinement facilities must provide:

  • Safe and sanitary living conditions, which incorporate a zero tolerance in policy and practice for violence, including sexual violence, committed by staff or other

         incarcerated individuals, and a bar on solitary confinement except in extraordinary situations where the safety of an individual or individuals is in jeopardy and

                 then only for the briefest time possible;

  • Medical and mental health care treatment services that meet community standards;
  • Nutritious foods;
  • Opportunities for compensated employment, education, recreation, and other rehabilitative programming;
  • Fair and responsive grievance systems;
  • Regular access to family, friends, clergy, legal representation, and the media.

Exiting Incarceration

People leaving incarceration to return to their home communities require special assistance during their transition. Communities benefit if people leaving incarceration are successful in their reintegration and do not return to criminal behavior. Families may also need aid in preparing to welcome home loved ones, particularly children who disproportionately feel the burden of a parent’s absence. The Church has a powerful role to play in the reentry process and should utilize its resources to ensure successful transitions for those leaving incarceration and the families and neighborhoods to which they return.

Discrimination against people with criminal records must not be tolerated. Stereotypes about people who have been incarcerated can result in unemployment and homelessness because of a desire to exclude people with criminal records from businesses and housing. Laws that forbid professional licenses to persons with a criminal record, regardless of the relevance of the per- son’s criminal history to the occupation, should be repealed. In addition, persons who commit no new offenses after a short time deserve an opportunity to expunge or erase a criminal record permanently. Moreover, laws that exclude any persons with a criminal record from the normal benefits and rights of citizenship, including publicly financed income assistance and housing, student loans, and voting rights should be ended.

United Methodist churches are encouraged to build relation- ships with returning citizens in their communities and congregations. Healing Communities is a framework for ministry for United Methodist congregations to mobilize existing resources within the congregation for ministry with the families of those impacted by crime and the criminal-justice system. By fostering reciprocal relationships and removing stigma and shame within congregations, Healing Communities emphasizes that good the- ology is an engaged missiology. Healing Communities engages in ministry with those directly impacted by the criminal-justice system and their families and mobilizes congregations to join in advocating for “the creation of a genuinely new system” (¶ 164H).

We call upon the General Board of Church and Society to mobilize United Methodist churches to advocate for legislation that will eliminate racism and classism in the criminal-justice system; ensure equality, transparency, and fairness; and protect the human rights of all adults and children by: 

  • promoting equity and transparency in courts by instituting legal representation of equal quality, regardless of financial ability, and public scrutiny of decisions to pursue criminal charges, convictions, and sentencing;


  • ensuring adequate government funding to support the prevention of crime, including anti-poverty measures, strong public-education systems and universal access to medical and mental-health care, services for victims of crime, services for incarcerated people and those leaving incarceration and their families;
  • protecting children from the severity of the adult criminal justice system, and ensuring the punishment of youths takes into full account the science of youth brain development and youth’s still immature impulse control and decision-making capacity;
  • creating laws prohibiting discrimination against people with criminal records; and
  • restoring voting rights for people with criminal records.


See Social Principles, ¶ 164H.

5038. Caring for Victims of Crime

In the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), Jesus illustrates for his listeners the importance of caring for those who have been victims of crime. The way in which the Samaritan cares for the man who was robbed, beaten, and left for dead was specific as to the areas of need and lovingly generous. The Samaritan personally bandages his wounds, shares his wine and oil for healing, shares his animal so that the beaten man can ride to the inn, stays with him and cares for him during the night, and then covers all of his expenses while promising to return to check back in. Jesus defines a neighbor as the outpouring of mercy on this man by the Samaritan. For us to be neighbors today means that we must fol- low this example. We too must care for victims of crime.

Many people are victims of crime. Victims and their families suffer shock and a sense of hopelessness. In addition to financial loss, there is a spiritual and emotional trauma and often a lack of support and direction. Many victims feel frustrated because there often seems to be no provision for them to be heard. Their injuries are not redressed, and they are not always notified of the court procedures. Victims should have a greater voice within the criminal-justice system.

The United Methodist Church believes in healing through the ministries of restorative justice. As stated in the Book of Discipline, “restorative justice grows out of biblical authority, which emphasizes a right relationship with God, self, and community. When such relationships are violated or broken through crime, opportunities are created to make things right” (¶ 164H). Making restitution to those who have been victimized is at the heart of restorative justice. Judges and criminal-justice officials are urged to consider this when appropriate to help make victims of crime as financially whole again as possible.

For United Methodist congregations to effectively live out Jesus’ call to be a neighbor to those who are victims of crime there are strategic ways in which congregations can act. These include:

  • prayers by congregations for the healing of victims of crime and their families,
  • funeral assistance,
  • congregational care groups assigned to care for the crime victim,
  • participation in, support of, and utilization of advocacy groups for victims of crime,
  • referral to individual counselors and support groups that help crime victims as well as

   provide space for support groups to meet,

  • help for the victim to understand how the criminal-justice system works,
  • transportation getting to and from court,
  • child care for young children while the victim is in court,
  • good writers available to help the victim write their victim impact statement, and
  • financial aid to help those with financial losses or the losses that occur from missed periods of work.

Congregations can be advocates for the rights of crime victims.

Victims of crime should know these rights include:

  • the right to participate and be heard at all phases of the criminal-justice process,
  • the right to be treated with dignity and compassion and respect by criminal-justice and church officials,
  • the right to be notified about the criminal case dispositions,
  • the right to disclosable information about the case, and
  • the right to request compensation that includes state victims compensation, restitution in the courts and paroling authorities, and civil-justice tort claims.

Therefore, The United Methodist Church calls for:

  • Congregations to embrace and care for victims of crime by identifying leaders and necessary resources both within the congregation and the local community;
  • Pastors and congregations to study the biblical basis of restorative justice and discuss how their church might engage in restorative-justice ministries. Some

           resources for this study include Changing Lenses: A New Focus for Crime and Justice by Howard Zehr, Ambassadors of Recon-

ciliation: New Testament Reflections on Restorative Justice and Peacemaking by Elaine Enns and Ched Myers, Restorative Justice: Moving Beyond Punishment by Peggy Hutchison and Harmon Wray, Redeeming the Wounded by B. Bruce Cook, and Criminal Justice: Retribution vs. Restoration by Eleanor Hannon Judah and the Rev. Michael Bryant; and

  • The General Board of Church and Society to advocate for the recognition of the needs and rights of victims of crime.

See Social Principles, ¶ 164H.


  1. Global Racism and Xenophobia: Impact on Women, Children, and Youth

The General Conference of The United Methodist Church affirms the United Nations principles relating to global racism, tribalism, and xenophobia.1

The General Conference reaffirms the principles of equality and nondiscrimination in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and encourages respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction of any kind such as race, color, sex, language, religion, political, tribe, or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth, or other status.

We, the General Conference, affirm that all peoples and individuals constitute one human family, rich in diversity. “So now you are no longer strangers and aliens. Rather, you are fellow citizens with God’s people, and you belong to God’s household” (Ephesians 2:19).

We recognize the fundamental importance of nations in combating racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia, tribalism, and related intolerance and the need to consider signing, ratifying or acceding to all relevant international human rights instruments, with a view to international adherence. 

We recognize that religion, spirituality, and belief can contribute to the promotion of the inherent dignity and worth of the human person and to the eradication of racism.

We recognize that racism reveals itself in a different manner for women and girls and can be among the factors leading to deterioration in their living conditions, poverty, violence, multiple forms of discrimination, and the limitation or denial of their human rights.

We recognize the need to develop a more systematic and consistent approach to evaluating and monitoring racial discrimination against women, children, and youth.

Therefore, we, the General Conference, urge that, in light of these affirmations and principles, each nation in which The United Methodist Church is established:

  • adhere to the principles and programs contained in the opening statements;
  • incorporate a gender perspective in all programs of action against racism, tribalism, and xenophobia;
  • undertake detailed research on racism, tribalism, and xenophobia, especially in respect to its effect on women, children, and youth;
  1. Principles can be found on the United Nations website in various reports including “Declarations World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, Durban, South Africa, 31 August to 8 September 2001.”


  • address the burden of such discrimination on women, children, and youth and promote their participation in the economic and productive development of their com- munities, especially in respect to:

*  the increased proportion of women migrant workers, human rights violations perpetrated against them, and the contribution they make to the economies of their countries or their host countries;

*    the large number of children and young people, particularly girls, who are victims of racism, tribalism, and xenophobia;

*    the rights of children belonging to an ethnic, religious, linguistic minority or indigenous community and their right individually or in community to enjoy their own culture, their own religion, and their own language;

*   child labor and its links to poverty, lack of development, and related socioeconomic conditions that can perpetuate poverty and racial discrimination disproportionately, denying children a productive life and economic growth;

*    education at all levels and all ages.

  • involve women, children, and youth in decision-making at all levels related to the eradication of racism, tribalism, and xenophobia; 

Therefore, we further resolve that the General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, in consultation with United Methodist Women, assess evidences of racism, tribalism, and xenophobia in pro- grams for and with women, children, and youth;

  • all mission institutions, schools, and institutions of higher education, annual conferences, and general agencies evaluate current and projected programs to determine their impact in reducing racism, tribalism, and xenophobia in programs for women, children, and youth; and
  • a report be prepared and presented to each General Conference by the General Commission on Religion and Race, the General Commission on the Status and Role of Women, in consultation with United Methodist Women, related to the status of women,  children,  and youth impacted by racism, tribalism, and xenophobia.


See Social Principles, ¶ 165.