We are not powerless in the face of Ferguson; Christians can seize this opportunity to talk, act.
In the aftermath of the shooting death of 18-year-old Michael Brown, there are no easy answers for the current crisis in Ferguson, Mo.; however, there are some things upon people who follow Christ can and must agree:
- This most recent high-profile case the killing of an unarmed black man, allegedly by law-enforcement (or one acting in that role) is a signal that something is tragically amiss in our society.
- Confronting issues where racial injustice poverty, fear, denial, violence and mutual mistrust is risky and scary for many of us, including people of faith.
- Neither silence nor violence will save the lives and souls of God’s people; only courageous, Christ-like engagement can change things for the better.
The General Commission on Religion and Race is inviting United Methodists to engage one another in difficult conversations, vital conversations, right now. We are inviting members of this great denomination to our faith to bear on the situations that make God weep. For God does weep in the face of brokenness, tearing asunder, and division among God’s people. As the United Methodist community seeks to be a place for all people, we must embark on new journeys of intercultural competence and understanding. Just as Jesus’ discourse with the bleeding woman caused him to rethink his Jews-only view of ministry to include non-Jews, so we who follow Jesus must engage those we have, until now, held at an awkward, sometimes deadly, mistrustful distance.
What can annual conference leaders do right now?
Work with your bishop and conference communications team to develop a pastoral letter or statement calling for reflection, prayerful study, deliberation action and honest conversation by clergy, laity and congregations. Cite Biblical texts as well as the Articles 4 and 5 of the United Methodist Church’s worldwide Constitution, which invites all people to Christian community and calls the church to confess the sins of and work to eliminate racial injustice.
Send to each area congregation a list of suggested worship aids, ideas for involvement in ministries of reconciliation and justice seeking, discussion-starters and other resources available from the General Commission on Religion and Race.
What can clergy do right now?
Participate in community prayer vigils, and ask local clergy and chaplains to share. You may also wish to join group of pastors across the nation who are praying daily for healing in the wake of the Ferguson crisis.
Preach and teach about impact of racism, racial profiling, and differences in people’s experiences with law-enforcement based on race, education, economic circumstance, and age. Again, you don’t have to have all the answers to address inequity and express sorrow about racial conflict and the loss of life.
Suggest that your bishop or superintendent host a “teach-in” for area pastors where clergy can talk together possible actions that United Methodist clergy can take as a community. Suggest speakers who can help you explore United Methodist teachings and history, develop sermon and Bible study topics, and offer specific resources for women, men, youth and children.
Reach out to colleagues from other racial groups about sponsoring a joint service of prayer and commitment and to engage in problem solving for the long haul. Bring together an interchurch team of laity –including youth—who are willing to work with community groups and the police to discover issues of concern in your area. Host facilitated conversations that lead to ongoing engagement, relationships and action.
Ask United Methodist Women, United Methodist Youth, and United Methodist Men leaders to lead conversations for your church or an interracial, ecumenical groups of churches. Each of these organizations have made official positions and, at times, have taken strident action on issues of racial injustice, violence, classism and engaging at-risk teens.
Hymns & Songs
God Weeps (#2048, The Faith We Sing)
Forgive Us, Lord (#2134, The Faith We Sing)
We Are Called (#2172, The Faith We Sing)
We Pray for Youth We Dearly Love (by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette, a foster mom of a 4-year-old African-American boy, written to commemorate the 2013 death of Trayvon Martin)
Close to Thee (No. 497, United Methodist Hymnal)
Calls & Litanies
A Call To Worship for Troubling Times by Safiyah Fosua
O Lord, Fix Me (meditation) by Larry D. Pickens
Honest Transformation by Trevor Hudson and Stephen D. Bryant
What People of Faith are Saying
Commentary on the Death of Michael Brown by GCORR Board President Bishop Minerva C. Carcaño.
Why Has the UMC Been Silent on Ferguson, Racism? by the Rev. Pamela Lightsey, Boston University School of Theology
Church leaders strive to be peacemakers in Ferguson, news article by Heather Hahn of United Methodist News Service
The Reason This ‘Ancient Prayer Position’ Was Used by an Entire Church Congregation by Billy Hallowell of The Blaze.com.
St. Louis rapper calls church to model reconciliation in the aftermath of Brown shooting (The Christian Post online)