Bishop's Statement on Charlottesville Events
From Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi
“Let no evil talk come out of your mouths, but only what is useful for building up, as there is need, so that your words may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with which you were marked with a seal for the day of redemption.” (Ephesians 4:29-30)
The events in Charlottesville this past weekend were horrific. As I heard the stories and saw video of the march, counter-march, fighting and other violence, I was reduced to tears. It reminded me of previous videos I had seen of KKK marches, only those videos were from before I was born. The hatred I viewed this weekend was happening in 2017 and the people spewing the hatred were not afraid to show their faces! How God must be grieving because the rhetoric of discrimination and hatred continues to be boldly shouted and written on placards directed at God’s children.
I condemn these acts of hatred. I ask you to join me in prayer for Heather Heyer, who died from injuries sustained when a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protestors. Please pray for the families of Virginia State Police Lt. Jay Cullen and Trooper Berke M. M. Bates, who died when their helicopter crashed while circling Charlottesville. Pray with me for healing for those who were injured physically and emotionally by the violence.
Christians must resist the temptation to respond to racial and religious hatred with an anger that perpetuates violence. (Ephesians 4:26). The challenge is to respond with an anger that fosters grace-filled condemnation and accountability. The challenge is to respond with an anger that fosters empathy and promotes justice for the victims of the vitriol and violence.
As an annual conference, we have covenanted with each other and God to focus on dismantling racism. At our baptism we, or our sponsors on our behalf, answered yes to the question, “Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?” At each baptism we witness, we reaffirm our commitment to this covenant.
The way in which we respond to the events in Charlottesville demonstrates to God and the world whether or not we can be trusted to do what we say we are going to do. Will we be faithful to our covenant? Will we condemn the evil, injustice and oppression of hate groups?
Those are simple questions. There are no commas or semi-colons at the end, because when we add “but”, we dilute our condemnation of evil, injustice and oppression and we give up some of our God-given freedom and power.
I ask you to join me in condemning these acts of hatred. I particularly ask those who are not usually targets of the KKK and neo-Nazi groups to condemn their acts. As an African American, I send a message by condemning these acts, but when the condemnation comes from an Anglo-American, the message is more compelling, particularly for those looking for ways to justify the actions of the KKK or neo-Nazi groups.
The good news is that God has promised to give us the freedom and power to resist and combat these forces. I am confident God will reveal to you how God wants you, in your context, to resist this evil, and God will give you the freedom and power to do it.
I am asking our Anti-Racism Team to suggest some ways local churches might respond. But don't wait for them. Pray and act, knowing that your bishop has been praying for your discernment and will support you. The world and God are waiting to see if we are people who mean what we say. Download suggestions
The United Methodist Church is advertising nationally to encourage a unified stand against racism, challenging people to learn how we all can be a force for good. A compilation of articles and denominational statements is available at UMC.org/EmbraceLove
. Resources from across the connection, including liturgies, discussion guides, videos to use in worship and on social media, and tips for talking to kids, are also available. Explore resources at http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/archives-racism-resources