Save me, God, because the waters have reached my neck! I have sunk into deep mud. My feet can't touch the bottom! I have entered deep water; the flood has swept me up. I am tired of crying. My throat is hoarse. My eyes are exhausted with waiting for my God.
– Psalm 69:1-3
This psalm, this lament, is offered as a communal cry in the wake of metaphorical as well as literal suffering. The psalmist pleads for the innocent to be saved from unjust circumstances. The writer is weary, tired of crying and hoarse from crying out for justice, justice, justice. Yet, the ultimate plea is not for personal retribution, but for public vindication of God's justice. The psalmist does not lose hope, but trusts that God will have the last word.
In the wake of another police shooting, reports of racism and bullying on the campus of American University, and the Washington Post reporting that flyers from the Ku Klux Klan are being distributed from "California to Kansas to New Jersey," Psalm 69 could have been written today. While in each situation the circumstances are different, what is constant is the racism, bias, and disregard for the lives of people of color. This evil has become all too common. How many videos do we need of unarmed men of color being shot in the street before we recognize that immediate action is needed? And, while many argue that we should not question the actions of law enforcement officers who must make split second decisions, the question remains how a terror suspect can be taken into custody with non-life threatening wounds, while a man stranded with a disabled vehicle is tazed and killed.
During our Northeast Jurisdictional Conference in July, delegates adopted a resolution calling for the church to do more to eradicate racism and injustice, and to acknowledge that all lives, including Black lives, matter to God. This Call to Action also admitted that The United Methodist Church has not done enough in this effort. We collectively repented, accepted responsibility, and pledged to take specific action. The resolution calls us to a sense of urgency -- and that sense of urgency is even more tangible and palpable as blood once again stains the street and students don't feel safe on campus. As we are discerning our way forward, we cannot be silent. We cannot wait for yet another board or committee or task force to direct our actions. We must act today, and today is now!
Today we can pray; today we can have conversations in our congregations about race and race relations in our country and communities; today we can engage with our first responders about their approach to community relations; today we can be in conversation with students about feeling safe at school and in their neighborhoods; today we can begin to understand systemic inequities and how we can dismantle them; today we can acknowledge privilege, and use that privilege to confront discrimination; today we can make it known that we will not be silent in the face of hate.
As your new episcopal leader, I am painfully aware that the issue of race and race relations is not an easy conversation. And yet, as brothers and sisters in Christ, we are called to care for one another, and to confront evil in all its forms. Though the work will not be easy, we join the psalmist in knowing that God will have the last word.