Bringing down walls of hostility
FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN
On May 8, I released a statement concerning the death of a young African American, Ahmaud Arbery, in Brunswick. And now, just weeks later, we find our entire nation engulfed in a sense of shock, frustration, and anger over the death of another African American man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis. Tragically, you and I know that these deaths are only the latest in a long litany of such deaths that have occurred for generations among people of color.
In response, some are marching with peaceful determination in a show of support for communities across the nation and for the human family that is hurting and in pain. Others are expressing themselves in a violent rage that destroys businesses, community institutions, and even the lives of others.
We stand with those whose commitment to non-violence is expressed in the kind of witness that unites all people. We are especially concerned for people of color in our conference - African American, Hispanic, Korean, Native American - our brothers and sisters in Christ. The strength of South Georgia is seen in our very diversity and yet our unity in Christ leads us to acknowledge that people of color bear special burdens of worry, hurt, and fear.
Today, I call upon all South Georgia United Methodists to take the next step in being Alive Together in Witness in our communities. What is that witness and how do we offer it in the name of Jesus Christ, who was himself beaten, spat upon, and killed?
First, I want to highlight these points from our United Methodist Social Principles:
- We recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons.
- The churches of a community, along with other religious communities, can act collaboratively to create an environment that is conducive to healing, justice, and mutual understanding.
- As disciples of Christ, we are called to love our enemies, seek justice, and serve as reconcilers of conflict.
As I watched the troubling events of the past week, I took time once again to review the guide and videos. Brothers and sisters, this is a place to start. As you read the Resource Guide and watch the videos you will see, as I have seen, that this is the way forward. These are the resources needed in every community in South Georgia. Please do not wait for someone else to do it. Use these resources and lean into this opportunity to be Alive Together in Witness in your church and your community.
I draw your attention to two specific examples of help found in these videos. First, the last video in the series is about the Intercultural Development Inventory, which deals with identifying areas of individual biases and working to understand others. Self-examination and understanding constitute “root issues” that enable honest, fruitful engagement in communal race relations.
In another video, Rev. Michael Culbreth, pastor of Connexion UMC in Savannah, shares about the CURE program started by a young adult in this multiracial church. CURE - which stands for Connect and Understand Racial Equity – meets monthly and is an example of one program every local church can offer to its community they are not likely to get any other way.
As you study these resources, I want you to know that I am in conversation with the leadership of the Multicultural Task Force and the Advocacy Discipleship Team to consider online options for connecting laity and clergy across our conference at this time of special need.
Just this Sunday we celebrated Pentecost, and all over the world Christians read the story found in Acts 2. Crowds were gathered in Jerusalem, and the coming of the Holy Spirit brought unity to those from all nations as they each heard the Gospel in their own language.
Brothers and sisters, we know something about “dividing walls of hostility” and how they can be brought down by the blood of Jesus Christ. This is our wheelhouse. It’s who Jesus created us to be. It’s why the Holy Spirit has been poured out upon us. Our communities need us now. Our nation needs us now.
We have the CURE. Will we be Alive Together in this Witness?
**For assistance in your local church setting, please contact Rev. Earnestine Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org.