In the times in which John Wesley lived, white supremacy was taken for granted as the standard on which society is based. Wesley, however, did not agree. In his 1778 pamphlet, Thoughts Upon Slavery, he concludes “Long and serious reflections upon the nature and consequences of slavery have convinced me, that it is a violation both of justice and religion; that it is dangerous to the safety of the community in which it prevails… Freedom is unquestionably the birthright of all mankind (sic.)...” Although slavery was abolished in the United States more than 150 years ago, the sins of the fathers and mothers have carried down to our current generation and the unChristian realities of white supremacy remain a part of every level of society. This has been made clear once again by the events of the first half of 2020.
Casting shade on the roots of our nation’s difficulties saying the shade of the color of our skin determines our place in society ignores the reality of our communities where for generations men, women, and children have had their pain and suffering and fear ignored by those in power. As the prophet Jeremiah wrote centuries ago when speaking of those who oppress the word and people of God: “They offer superficial treatments for my people’s mortal wound. They give assurances of peace when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6.14, NLT), there is still no peace on the streets and in communities and homes where our brothers and sisters of various shades seek shelter under the wings of the most high, and yet fear the judgement and anger of those who believe their color or position proves God-sanctioned power over those who by law were seen as less than human. Peace is what this world so much desires, and yet this peace will not come until together we stand and kneel and speak and listen to those who have a story to tell which we as a nation and society have for so long refused to hear.
As the body of Christ, we are called and commanded by Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations by teaching them to obey all that Jesus had taught. Sometimes, that means breaking bread together and other times that means turning over tables. According to Christian ethicist Miguel de la Torre, we as Christian are called to live out Jesus’ ethics of messing with the status quo until change for the Kingdom of God arrives. Just as those in power in Jesus’ day did not appreciate his desire to bring about the perfection of God’s kingdom to this earth, so today, those in power do all in their power to maintain control, not realizing that if the rights of some are denied, the rights of all are denied because “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).
United Methodists have a history of standing opposed to racism in all its manifestations and seek to do all we can so both ourselves and our world may be transformed, but the time of standing opposed has now become the time of action. In a joint letter signed by the bishops of the Southeast Jurisdiction we have been called to action: “We now ask you to join us in recommitting ourselves to non-violently exposing and opposing injustice, racism, and violence even when it resides in our own hearts. We must not allow our righteous indignation and prophetic calls for justice to become spiritually hollow with no moral integrity to speak into a world that is in desperate need of the fresh bread of hope.”
We, the Latino Ministries Committee of the North Georgia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church, stand in unity with those seeking to bring light to the darkness through peaceful means of protest and social action and loving those who oppose us, thus living into the words of Dr. King: “Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding a deeper darkness to the night already devoid of stars. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can not do that.” (Matthew 6.22-23)
We stand in unity with all those who seek to bring true and long-lasting change through the creation and implementation of just and fair laws that positively impacts all of society. (Ephesians 5.11)
We stand in unity with those who due to the shade of their skin painfully suffer for they do not have an equal voice in the conversation although the narrative of their experience is what is most needed in the national dialogue today. (Luke 14.12-13)
We stand in unity to commit ourselves to maintaining open and clear conversation and dialogue. (Matthew 11.15)
We stand in unity to make our voices heard by all those who benefit from the status quo until they no longer find the need to divert the narrative to their own personal gain based on the suffering of others. (Psalm 82.2)
We stand in unity as sisters and brothers, knowing change and transformation is not easy. (Romans 12.2)
We stand in unity and dream with the dreamers who see a new nation based fully on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for all people regardless of the differences that make us unique individuals of value and worth. (Genesis 1.26)
We stand in unity and commit to work together until that great day when, in the words of Dr. King, “All God’s children will say, free at last, free at last! Thank God Almighty, I am free at last!”
June 16, 2020
North Georgia Conference of The United Methodist Church