A Church Committed to Embodying Anti-Racism
Since it’s inclusion in the UMC Constitution in 1968, “The United Methodist Church proclaims the value of each person as a unique child of God and commits itself to the healing and wholeness of all persons. The United Methodist Church recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history. Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places.” (¶ 5. Article V. Racial Justice, Book of Discipline). We are called to live this out through our baptismal vows: “to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in whatever form they present themselves.”
As we commit to transform our lives, our churches, and our society, we acknowledge that we each enter this work in different places. We acknowledge that some people have been fighting for human rights for a significant amount of time, some people have actively engaged in the NEJ Call to Action for Racial Justice, and some don’t want to engage in this conversation at all. We acknowledge that no matter what we put in this document, it will not be enough for some and far too much for others. The chasm of experience between being a White person and a Black person in America must be crossed. This bridge requires not only faith in God, but enough faith in one another to begin the journey of healing and hope.
We know that all people are sacred and worthy. We are made equal by God, who created humanity in God’s own image. Out of our deep love of God and neighbor, when we see people being treated as less than equal we will speak out.
Therefore, we invite you to pray about how God is calling you and your church to be engaged in dismantling racism, not for a moment, but for a lifetime. As a continuation of the NEJ Call to Action for Racial Justice, we are asking churches to pledge their Commitment to Becoming an Antiracist Church. In signing the pledge, you join with others to seek justice, do the work, and end racism as disciples of Jesus Christ.
DISCIPLES SEEK JUSTICE
Our mission is to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Our shared history includes a primary emphasis on Christian living, on putting faith and love into action.
Live: Our church commits to include the spiritual discipline of justice as a part of our understanding of discipleship and congregational vitality. John Wesley’s Rule of Discipleship needs to be understood and resurrected today: “(T)o witness to Jesus Christ in the world and to follow His teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.”
Resist: Our church will regularly uplift our shared baptismal vows to encourage believers to a) repent of the sin of racism; b) resist evil, injustice, and oppression as it relates to racism; so that, c) we might be able to live into the vow to be in union with people of all ages, nations, and races.
Organize: Our church commits to directly engage with our local leaders and officials to work toward ending racism, poverty, and violence based upon the liberating Gospel of Jesus Christ, our United Methodist Social Principles, and Book of Resolutions. Specifically:
- Resolution 5031: Humanizing Criminal Justice;
- Resolution 3378: Racism and Economic Injustice Against People of Color in the US;
- Resolution 3422 Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the United States;
- Resolution 3371: A Charter for Racial Justice in an Interdependent Global Community;
- Resolution 3376: White Privilege in the United States.
DISCIPLES DO THE WORK necessary that results in naming and addressing racism when they witness it and working toward becoming a level 4 racial justice change agent. Each church’s leadership needs to engage in doing the work.
Listen: We will build relationships across lines of difference as we listen deeply and get to know someone who doesn’t look, think, or act like us. Download this resource sheet for help. Listen to the pain, experience, hopes, and shared humanity and consider how you might be an agent of love and healing. Pray for what God is calling you to do as a result.
Learn: Our leaders will educate themselves on how to have conversations about race. This resource from the National Museum of African-American Culture and History includes the following topics: Bias, Being Antiracist, Community Building, Self-Care, Race and Racial Identity, Social Identities and Systems of Oppression, Whiteness, Historical Foundations of Race.
Lead: Our leaders, once they know better, do better by exposing and eradicating racist stereotypes, naming microaggressions, and speaking up. They will help others learn how to have conversations about race and use their power to talk about racial justice in worship, small groups and service ministries; include more voices at the table; and create more equity.
DISCIPLES END RACISM because racism is a sin. Our church acknowledges that perfect love casts out fear and will persist in the work of ending racism. We will seek to love all people as Jesus loves, whatever their racial and ethnic heritage, and work together to restore the broken body of Christ. These deep wounds can be healed but the healing process is delicate and will require humble involvement from those who have previously remained silent.
Truth: Our church will discover and tell the whole truth about our church's history with regards to racism. This may include looking at the language in our deeds, tracing our churches’ role during the time of slavery and segregation, and looking at the historical accuracy of how the images in our churches depict Jesus. Truth-telling also includes confronting our racism and affirming that Black lives and all lives of color really do matter.
Change: During a season of prayer and fasting, our church will repent and identify what change is needed to be intentionally anti-racist given the uncomfortable truths we have discovered. We will persist even when we don’t want to.
Love: Our church will participate in vital conversations in cross-racial and/or cross-cultural groups followed by a discerned, collective action in the wider community.
Have questions? Here are some answers.
The Discipleship Council aligns the BWC’s mission and vision with critical issues in the church and world. It oversees the conference’s participation in the NEJ Call to Action for Racial Justice. The Council invites every congregation to commit to becoming an anti-racist church.
- Jessica Hayden, Chair (on maternity leave)
- Jenny Cannon, Vice Chair (serving as Interim Chair)
- Carol Travis, Secretary
- Andre Briscoe
- Joshua Chinagorom
- Pam Durbin
- Delonta Hicks
- Hazel Jackson
- Bob Kells
- Delores Martin
- Barbara Parrish
- Shemaiah Strickland
- Joe White