The following is a joint statement from GCORR Interim General Secretary Bishop Linda Lee and GCORR Board President Bishop Minerva Carcaño.
As our nation continues to struggle with issues of relationship and race, life and death, justice and injustice, people of Christian faith have an opportunity to exemplify the spirit of Christ. The death of Trayvon Martin, the acquittal of George Zimmerman, the admitted use of the “N” word by TV chef Paula Deen, and the ongoing disproportionate unemployment and incarceration of and violence against young African-American and Latino men make it more important than ever for people of faith to model ways different from the world’s way of division and violence.
As United Methodists we have proclaimed that “we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life.”1 Yet, the reality according to the Bureau of Justice is that blacks are 1.7 times as likely as whites to be victims of violent crimes and more than twice as likely to be victims of aggravated assault. Even more alarming are the imprisonment rate for black males, which is more than six times higher than that of white males,2 and the homicide victimization rate for blacks, which is equally six times higher than the rate for whites.3
The Book of Resolutions of the United Methodist Church states that “violence and, more particularly, violence to children and youth is a primary concern for United Methodists.”4 As United Methodists we have said that, “We recognize and deplore violence which kills and injures children and youth…we call upon the church to affirm its faith through vigorous efforts to curb and eliminate gun violence.”5 However, it is one thing to make a statement and another to make that statement our reality. This is a critical time to consider how we as United Methodists are going to follow through in our beliefs.
One way for us to move from words to action is for our congregations to work together to build new relationships in our communities and our churches. Building new relationships with people we perceive to be different, even threatening or frightening to us, can be transformative. Creating spaces and opportunities for people to sit face-to-face with one another in holy conversation about what we are burdened by and what we hope for is an excellent starting place.
GCORR is committed to fulfilling its mandate to equip the church to be more relevant, related and engaged with local communities and communities around the world.
In his book Community: the Structure of Belonging, Peter Block describes the simple and often overlooked process of having conversations with our neighbors. He reveals the power of this simple beginning to bring about necessary change that benefits all. Block states:
The key to creating of transforming community, then, is to see the power in the small but important elements of being with others. The shift we seek needs to be embodied in each invitation we make, each relationship we encounter, and each meeting we attend. For at the most operational and practical level, after all the thinking about policy, strategy, mission and milestones, it gets down to this: How are we going to be when we gather together? (p. 10)
How are we going to be when we are together?
At the same time we must continue to actively and intentionally address the systemic racism and injustice in our society and in the Church. GCORR is committed to creating institutional equity and justice. This can be done by speaking the truth, challenging all expressions of racism and injustice, staying at the table when the conversation gets uncomfortable or even painful and believing that, with God, change is possible. With God’s help we can become a community where all experience justice and peace.
1. The Book of Discipline of The United Methodist Church: Social Principles Par.162. (2012). Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House.
3. Homicide Trends in the U.S. (2011) Retrieved May 11, 2011 from: http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/homicide/tables/vracetab.cfm
4. The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (2012). Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House.
5. The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church. (2012). Nashville, TN: The United Methodist Publishing House.
Cover photo courtesy of theTrayvon Martin Foundation