Bishops launch Dismantling Racism

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On Juneteenth (June 19) 2020, bishops of The United Methodist Church announce the launch a multi-level effort to initiate a sustained and coordinated effort to dismantle racism and promote collective action to work toward racial justice. Learn more about this coordinated effort at UMC.org/EndRacism.

Transcript

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, President of the Council of Bishops

Have you been listening lately? Have you been watching what’s taking place all around us? There is so much to be heard and much to respond to in the wake of the murder of George Floyd.

Can you hear it in the chants on the street?

Can you see it on all the placards and street paintings that say so clearly, “Black Lives Matter?”

Can you hear it? Can you see it?

It’s a movement to freedom with many colors and many ages. It’s the resolve of young people whose voices are crying out and the resolve of a 75-year-old man lying on the ground bloodied but unmoved. It is the resolve of so many across the country and across the world that is stating with uncompromised clarity that “no knock warrants” and “a knee on the neck” must quickly become part of our past.

Can you hear it? Can you see it?

It’s the convergence of economic hardship, the lack of adequate health care, broken systems, antiquated structures, police brutality, the absence of accountability, the continuance of white privilege and power, all combining into a mass outpouring with one clear message: Enough is enough.

And it leads us to ask: In this movement, what is the voice of the church? What is the voice of the church?

It must be a voice that provides an integration of our faith with action, a voice of hope as we find our way forward, and a voice that presses us to freedom.

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

The undeniable sights and sound around us are a clear signal. We’ve been here before and this time I need – we need -- it to be different.

Don’t you agree that the work of the church cannot just be a repeat of a story that we have seen played out time after time after time over the course of our lives?

You know the story – A few days of headlines followed by a few days of protests followed by short-lived initiatives, hollow acts of repentance and broken promises.

You know the story – A spark of hope that gets doused when something else comes along to grab the headlines or to grab financial resources.

You know the story – A fading of emphasis, a sigh of relief from some - “we don’t have to deal with that anymore.”

You know the story – A cry of despair from others that “it will never change,” and a voice of anger that says, “I knew it was too good to be true.”

It is a story that has played out far too many times. And in the midst of it all, we wait for the next gunshot, the next knee on the neck, the next cry of, “I can’t breathe.”

I will not lead or participate in another effort full of sound and fury signifying nothing. The lives of my people and of all people of color who’ve been systematically disrespected, disregarded and extinguished by the sin of racism are too important to settle for anything less than uncompromising action in dismantling racism. The same uprising that has engulfed our communities must be unleashed in the church interrupting business as usual until a breakthrough comes.

This time – this time – it has to be different. We must change the story this time as we press on to freedom.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough

Don’t you agree that enough is enough, that this time it has to be different?

It WILL be different when white people rise up to carry the banner of Black Lives Matter.

It WILL be different when white people come alongside black people and authentically, genuinely give ear to a voice that has long been ignored.

It WILL be different when white people realize that this “moment” for a white person is an “always” for Blacks, Asians, Latinx, Native Americans and Pacific Islanders.

It WILL be different when we all pick up that banner together.

It must be different this time and we together must make sure that the headline remains constant as we press on to freedom.

As people of faith we have to take the lead, carry the banner, and keep pressing on to freedom.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

We come to you intentionally on this day, June 19th, a day known to many as “Juneteenth.”

Juneteenth is the oldest nationally celebrated commemoration of the ending of slavery in the United States. It was on June 19th in 1865, two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, that Major General Gordon Granger announced in Galveston, Texas that the war had ended and that those who had been enslaved were now free.

General Granger’s words began most significantly with this, “The people of Texas are informed that in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free. This involves an absolute equality of rights and the rights of property for master and slaves.”

Those are great words but, as we know, it has been and remains a long struggle on the road to freedom.

During the Civil Rights movement, Juneteenth was a focal point in the story of struggle for postwar civil rights. In the 1970s, it became the focal point for African American freedom and the arts. And by the advent of the 21st century, Juneteenth began to be celebrated in most major cities with readings of the Emancipation Proclamation, the singing of traditional spirituals, and readings from noted African American writers.

And today, on this Juneteenth, 2020 we wanted to initiate another focal point for conversation. It is a conversation about the hope for a movement that is afoot in our midst. It is a conversation about the resolve necessary to make sure that this time it is different. And it is a conversation that says, with resolve, “Enough is enough.”

But it is a conversation that will not settle for mere words, for empty and pious platitudes. For we believe that without works, faith is dead.

And so I say to you, in some of the words of an old spiritual, “Over my head, I see freedom in the air.”

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton

So today, we invite you on a journey. It will not be a journey without pain, but it will be a journey that intentionally walks into the pain knowing that lament, confession, a deepened awareness, a deliberate plan, a change of heart, a conversion, an acceptance of a changed heart, and a deepened commitment to change the story will bring about the change that we all long for and desire.

Today, in a combined effort of the Council of Bishops, the General Commission on Religion and Race, Discipleship Ministries, United Methodist Communications, United Methodist Women, and other boards and agencies, we are embarking on an intentional spiritually guided journey from this Juneteenth to a gathering in Minneapolis, Minnesota in late August/early September, 2021.

We’re inviting you into a journey. A journey that’s designed to stimulate you with frequent events: worship services, town halls, book studies, resources, and honest conversations that we believe can create a movement for lasting change.

A movement. Not simply a piece of legislation that tempts us to feel as if we have done something or an act of worship that makes us feel good in the moment.

Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey

Friends - we pray for a movement that will keep this issue in front of us, not allowing us to be complicit but responsible, a movement that will set the stage for the church to fully incorporate our understanding of God, our theology, with our deep and unwavering love for neighbor, our actions, into a sea change of our culture that will go from pulpit into the pews and into the world, not just with a cry of “enough is enough” but with a pathway to transform the world forever.

This is the moment, friends. This is our moment. This is the time.

So won’t you join us as we press on...?

Bishop Cynthia Moore-Koikoi

Press on.

Bishop Bruce R. Ough

Press on.

Bishop Gregory V. Palmer

Press on.

Bishop Thomas J. Bickerton

Press on.

All

Press on to freedom!