December 14, 2020
If I speak in the tongues of mortals and of angels, but do not have love, I am a noisy gong or clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and If I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And now faith, hope and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love.
-- 1 Corinthians 13:1-2, 13
The criminal vandalism that was perpetrated on the properties of Asbury UMC, Metropolitan AMEC, and Luther Place Memorial on Saturday evening is without question ungodly and unpatriotic. Once again, people trespassed upon church property to engage in acts of intimidation and destruction. By removing the Black Lives Matter sign and burning it in the street, the vandals engaged in a historic practice of using fire to threaten the agency, autonomy, and advocacy of Black people. The victims of this hate crime are being preyed upon for a much larger anger, disappointment, and perceived loss of power by the perpetrators. Again, this is not new to our history and belies a deep-seated belief of superiority and a false sense of justification that perpetuates the scapegoating of Black and Brown people.
While the Constitution of the United States of America affords all citizens the right to peacefully assemble, to engage in non-violent protest, and to have their voices heard, it does not afford the right to engage in acts of intimidation and hatred. Unfortunately, these actions are arguably the direct result of racially coded language, often referred to as dog-whistle politics, that further divides our nation. It cannot continue.
As United Methodists, we have agreed through our baptismal vows to resist injustice and oppression. We have also committed ourselves to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which calls us to love our neighbors as ourselves. Although we denounce in the strongest terms the vandalism that occurred at Asbury UMC, we still seek to be in conversation with all people to work toward understanding, reconciliation, and peace. We take this posture, not out of naivety or acquiescence, but because in the words of Dr. King, "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." We choose love.
As the bishop of this conference, I fully support all faith communities who advocate for the marginalized. I also affirm their right to proclaim that advocacy through signage. It is consistent with our mission and ministry, and it is protected as free speech by the Constitution.
We in the Baltimore-Washington Conference are in prayer for the Rev. Dr. Ianther Mills and the Asbury community as they have endured this act of vandalism. We share in their grief and outrage. We also lift Metropolitan AMEC and Luther Place Memorial in prayer. As the pastor of this historic congregation, Rev. Dr. Mills has offered a brilliant response to this grievous act, and I encourage all to read her letter and respond accordingly.
Our collective response will be of one unity, peace, and prayer. Details for how we will come together to show our support will be forthcoming. Until then, may we pray for our leaders, our nation, and our communities.
Bishop LaTrelle Easterling
The United Methodist Church
The United Methodist Church