Bishops sound alarm about surge in racism

United Methodist bishops decried the rise of racism in the U.S. and recommitted themselves to "exposing and dismantling racism in whatever forms and wherever it presents itself."

The Council of Bishops, in a unanimous voice vote, adopted this statement drafted by the denomination's active and retired African-American episcopal leaders. 

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"Racism is so insidious that often those who are in bondage to it are not even aware of their chains. It is a persistent sin and evil that infects all it touches," the statement said. "We are grieved that a culture of racism is institutionalized even in our beloved denomination."

The bishops released the statement just weeks after violent crimes were committed in the U.S. that are being investigated as hate crimes. 

"We pledge to hold United Methodists, particularly those in the United States, accountable to engage in education around white supremacy, white privilege and internalized racism," the bishops' statement said. "We recognize that until our Anglo brothers and sisters are free of their racism and acknowledge their white privilege, none of us will be free."

Bishops Leonard Fairley of the Kentucky Conference and LaTrelle Easterling of Baltimore-Washington presented the statement to their episcopal colleagues. The two co-lead the denomination's Ebony Bishops.

Bishops have issued statements against racism in previous years, but usually only after some discussion. This time, after a moment of silent reflection, bishops immediately moved to affirm the statement. 

North Georgia Conference Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson moved that the statement be included in the work of the bishops' Anti-Racism Task Force.

North Carolina Conference Bishop Hope Morgan Ward told the bishops the task force was already including the statement in its work.

Indeed on Nov. 7, Ward announced the group's plans to rename itself the Dismantling Racism Task Force.

Ward told her colleagues that the group plans to help dismantle racism in three ways. Those include strengthening interracial relationships within the denomination; creating a central place where bishops and others can exchange ideas and increasing the capacity to name the reality when racist action occurs.

A majority of bishops have already made confronting racism a priority in their areas.

Bishop Easterling said the Ebony Bishops plan to produce resources that bishops can use in their areas to educate about white supremacy. 

Also on board is the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race. Erin Hawkins, the agency's top executive, said her team aims to help United Methodists confront racism with dialogue, training and resources.

Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Jr., the Council of Bishops president, said he appreciated the call from the Ebony Bishops to address hateful rhetoric and other actions that do harm.

Heather Hahn, multimedia news reporter, UMNS

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