A Call to Repentance and Pledge from The Bishop and Cabinet

6/9/2020


Dear People of the North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church:
 
We believe that every human being is a sacred creation of God, made in the image of God, with gifts uniquely given to share with the world. All are equally valuable, precious in God’s sight. But, since the very beginning, when Cain killed his brother Abel, we have jockeyed for superiority, wealth, power, and status.
 
Through the ages, race has been used to divide and conquer. This country, for much of its history, identified those who are White as enslaver, and therefore superior, and those who are Black as enslaved persons, and therefore inferior. This construct has permeated our culture, our politics, our workplaces, our neighborhoods, our educational systems, our financial systems, our churches, and sadly, our very souls.
 
Enslavers often perceived the enslaved persons as less than human. Indeed, even our Constitution provided that only three out of five male enslaved persons counted as people (the women did not count at all) when determining legislative representation. At the heart of history’s greatest atrocities is the oppressors’ conviction that their victims are not fully human.
 
The enslaver's mindset of domination and dehumanization is all too alive and well in the psyche of this nation. Denial of due process, imposition of cruel and unusual punishment, lynchings, mass incarceration: inhumane treatment was and is all too often the experience of Black people in the American judicial, penal, and law enforcement systems. The incidents of the past few weeks have shed new light on its horrors:
 
Ahmaud Arbery, a 25-year-old Black man who was hunted down and killed in our state by three White vigilantes;
 
Breonna Taylor, a 26-year-old Black first responder/EMT in Louisville, KY who was shot at least eight times in her own home by officers serving a “no-knock” warrant; and
 
George Floyd, who died when a police officer pinned his neck to the ground for 8 minutes and 46 seconds after he was already handcuffed, despite his pleas that he could not breathe.

The case of Ahmaud Arbery lay dormant for over two months, and likely would never have been prosecuted had an incriminating video not come to light. This video, and the video of George Floyd’s cruel death, demand that we listen to the pleas of Black people, who have tried for years to tell us of these injustices but have been belittled or ignored. Injustice has been excused, minimized, tolerated, and even applauded.
 
Injustice is also alive and well in the life of our Church. Racism permeates our system, which was born from a polity that institutionalized separation of white churches from black churches. The inequality of that history was transferred wholesale into our Church, with no real repentance and few mechanisms in place to address the inherent imbalances in resources and opportunities.
 
We acknowledge the deep pain that this sinful history of church and state, magnified by the egregious events of the last two weeks, has inflicted upon our Black clergy and laity.
 
We confess that Black clergy do not have the same opportunities for advancement as White clergy, and that White leaders have used Black leaders to gain influence and maintain their power structures.
 
We lament that many churches still balk at receiving Black pastors.
 
We acknowledge that we have established many new white churches but few black churches, and that resources have not been equitably distributed.
 
We, your Bishop, Extended Cabinet, and Conference Chancellor, call the North Georgia Annual Conference, and The United Methodist Church, to a repentance that bears fruit. We have grown weary of statements and ritual actions that do not lead to change. Intent without impact is impotent. We therefore pledge to take the following actions:

  1. Knowing that only God can change a human heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will lead the Church in prayer and in practicing the spiritual disciplines that make time and space for the Spirit’s work. We will call our churches to greater spiritual maturity trusting that, as the Holy Spirit perfects us in love, it will banish racist attitudes and make us more like Christ. It will also spur us to action, compelling us to work together to abolish institutional and systemic racism.
  2. We will refuse to allow the Church to dismiss abolishing racism and racist policies as “too political” in order to avoid taking action. We call upon the Church to better balance personal piety and social holiness.  The Early Methodists invested their blood, sweat, and tears in a relentless movement to abolish slavery in the British Empire. We, their spiritual descendants, act squarely in the Methodist tradition by working relentlessly to dismantle and eradicate the insidious evils in our culture born of the enslavement they so detested.
  3. We pledge to lead the clergy and laity in North Georgia in educating ourselves regarding racism, white privilege, and the history of systemic racist policies in United States history. We must help everyone understand that being kind to everyone and seeking to love everyone does not mean that one is not a participant in a racist system or has not received benefits from this system.
  4. We will allocate Conference funds to support anti-racism efforts and address the inequalities inherent in our system. We will designate funding for the Conference Commission on Religion and Race and work in partnership with it to fulfill our goals.
  5. We will lead, in partnership with the Conference Commission on Religion and Race, advocacy efforts to support legislative policy and work in the public sphere to root out and address institutional racism in every aspect of our society.
  6. We will require all clergy coming into our Conference to participate in anti-racism training and demonstrate how they are implementing what they have learned.
  7. We will require clergy and laity serving in any Conference position to participate in anti-racism training.
It is our fervent prayer that we can live into the perfect unity Jesus prayed for in John 17, and that we will abide by Jesus’s new commandment in John 13:34-35: “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”
  
The Bishop, Extended Cabinet, and Chancellor of the North Georgia Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church

Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson
Jane Brooks
Quincy Brown
Brian Clark
Bernice Kirkland
Susan Landry
John Pinson
Greg Porterfield
Alice Rogers
Jessica Terrell
Doug Thrasher
Terry Walton
Richard D. Winn, Sr.​
Phil Schroeder
Dana Everhart
Keith Cox
Keith Lawder
Bill Martin
Donn Ann Weber
Jim Thornton
Rodrigo Cruz
Michael T. McQueen
Sybil Davidson
Hal Jones
Blair Zant


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