Bishops united against racism

Download MP3

On Friday, June 5, 2020, we spoke with 2 bishops about racism, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police, and the protests happening across the United States. They express their anger, how they approach the world and are treated differently because of race and gender, and some steps United Methodists can take to be part of the solution of dismantling racism.

Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Episcopal Area participated in a vigil at St. John’s Episcopal Church near the White House earlier in the week.

Bishop Robert Farr serves the Missouri Episcopal Area and wrote a powerful statement about the killing of George Floyd. 

Bishops' Statements

Listen and Subscribe

Get Your Spirit in Shape features conversations to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. Logo by Sara Schork, United Methodist Communications.

Listen on Google Podcasts logo button.

Listen on Spotify logo button.

RSS Feed

Racial Justice in The UMC

Books recommended in this episode

More on UMC.org

Join the conversation

  • Email our host Joe Iovino about this episode, ideas for future topics, or any other thoughts you would like to share.

Help us spread the word

  • Tell others: members of your church, coworkers, and anyone else might benefit from these conversations.
  • Share us on Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.
  • Review us on iTunes, Google Play, or wherever you download the episode. Great reviews help others find us.

More Get Your Spirit in Shape episodes

Thank you for listening, downloading, and subscribing.

This episode posted on June 8, 2020.

Transcript

Prologue

Joe Iovino, host: Welcome to Get Your Spirit in Shape, United Methodist Communications and UMC.org’s podcast to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino.

On this very special episode of Get Your Spirit in Shape I am talking with two United Methodist bishops about racism, the killing of George Floyd at the hands of the police and the protests that are happening across the United States. I’m joined by Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, who serves the Baltimore-Washington Episcopal area, and Bishop Robert Farr who serves the Missouri Episcopal area.

Conversation

Joe: Bishops, welcome to the podcast.

Bishop Easterling: Thank you so much. Honored to be here.

Joe: I want to begin talking today because there’s so many things that we could talk about. But I want to begin talking today because Bishop Farr, you wrote a piece where you begin by saying simple sentence, “I am outraged.” I want to hear about the emotions that you’re experiencing, both of you, and the emotions that you’re hearing from the people in your area.

Bishop Farr: Well, as my sister here will testify from our four-year acquaintance. I speak fairly plainly. And so when I saw that picture of George Floyd and that guy’s knee on his neck and his hand in his pocket like he didn’t give a damn, it just…. I mean, literally…. I mean, I shouldn’t have… It just made my blood boil. It was like, what in the world would cause somebody to act like that? I mean, it was just… I mean, it was just blatant…. I mean, until this moment it just infuriate…. Every time I see it I’m like, what… I just want to almost run up there and, you know, I want to say, “Where are people standing around? Why don’t you knock him off of it?” You know. So, LaTrelle, I grew up in the fire service. So I mean, I’ve been around a lot of police. I mean, they’re…. That’s not any sort of thing I’ve ever seen. That’s just wrong. It’s sin. So yeah, it bothered me greatly. It bothered me greatly.

Bishop Easterling: Amen. And I can identify with that. Let me confess something right up front. I’ve seen pictures. I have not watched the video. And I probably will never watch the video. I have 2 black sons. And to…to watch the life ebb out of a human being that could well have been one of my sons, while someone cavalierly continues to leverage their full-body weight on them, and as Bob has said, others stand around and do nothing, might be more than I can bear, to be honest with you. So…. And if I were to actually hear him call for his mother… Again, the thought of that causes me to, again, to become numb almost. And in all honesty, my first reaction probably was numb because, of course this didn’t start with George Floyd. Right? We have to go back to Ahmaud Arbery. We have to go to Brianna Taylor. We have to go back to Tamir Rice. We have to go back to…right? How far can we keep going back?

So a part of me was numb to what I was seeing. Numb, not because I don’t care; but numb because here we are again. And that was one of the first things that I posted about it, was just ‘again.’ So numb, and then, yes, outraged.

But I want to talk about that feeling of outrage for a moment because… and Bob, I did read what you wrote, even prior to preparing for this conversation. And one of the first thoughts I had to myself was, well, what a luxury it must be to be able to even say you’re outraged, because part of the policing of black and brown bodies is about how we can respond to things. So if I display too clearly and…and…and without some care my real, genuine, human, Christian, citizen’s outrage, I’m an angry black woman. And so that’s not becoming of a bishop. That’s not becoming of a pastor. Ooh, that then becomes a story rather than what is the atrocity that’s taking place. So I felt a panoply of emotions as I understood what was happening to this man. And I continue to flow through, you know, numbness, anger, fear for my two black sons who every day of their lives…. I’ve got one who’ll be 26 and one that’s 20. …every day of their lives I fear that I’m gonna get that call. Right? And then a sense of…. Oh, what’s the right word? Just sort of dismay. Bob, you talked about just a moment ago the folks who were like, What’s the big deal? I don’t understand. If he had just…. Right? If I hear one more sentence that starts with “but if they had just…” So then there’s that whole…the response I had to some people’s response, to…to what’s out there. And so…. In a book called…

Bishop Farr: I get plenty of push back, but nothing like…. You are correct. …nothing like you would get. When I push that button I said to myself, “Oh, I probably just let my thoughts get away from me.” I had a lot more thoughts, my fire department language kicked into my head.

Bishop Easterling: I know about that language.

Bishop Farr: I know you do. So I can have a colorful response to this. The response I got back would just drive me insane a lot was, “Why do you want to blame a white man for all the problems?” Well, because it was a white man on the black man’s neck. I don’t know how they explain that. I mean, that’s just the deal. So, I’m sorry.

I get criticism for even saying ‘a white man.’ I started doing that 3 or 4 years ago because no one is ever Caucasian, all of our nice little stuff. You know what? We call black people black people. I’m gonna call us white people. We white people. That just infuriates my tribe. But it’s true. And you’re right, if you’ve have done that…. Bishop Beard and I are good friends. You know. He’s at Great Rivers. And he says that to me. Gosh, if I said some of the things you said, I’d be called an angry black man.

Bishop Easterling: Right. Once again, these are the tropes that are trotted out to silence us, stifle us, and to become a distraction from what’s actually going on. So, yes, it was a white man who had his knee on a black man’s carotid artery. But it was also the full weight of law enforcement. Right? And so it was also looking at…knowing that you’re not trained to do that. As you said, I, too, prior to coming into ministry fulltime, as you know, I’m a lawyer. I work in resources. I was an HR director with the fire department. And so I know the training. I know that’s not the training. So to see that kind of misuse of…abuse of power…. I mean, that’s the

Bishop Farr: If that’s the training…. Maybe it is. If that is, it’s even worse than I’m thinking. I mean, it cannot be the training.

Bishop Easterling: No. I don’t think that it is. And part of what I wrote in my statement was that I do not think that that…those kinds of things are done to enforce nor uphold the law. Those things are done to send the same message that was trying to be communicated through the whip during enslavement, through lynchings, through Jim Crow, through things like the Tulsa massacre, through Rosewood. It’s, ‘you better stay in your place.’ That’s what’s being communicated by those acts. And so there’s a form of terror, right? As he knows, because if you look at some of the footage from the cameras across the street, there are black people standing there on that curb, right? As much as they may have wanted to, they knew better than to go and try to remove him. Right. So they’re witnesses to what’s happening. And I firmly believe part of the message was, this could be you, too; you’d better learn to stay in your place. So I think there’s a terrorism, right? And I’m using that word intentionally and I believe appropriately. There’s a terrorism that’s attempted to be communicated. It’s no different than when churches used to break from worship and go grab their picnic lunches and go out to the tree and watch someone be lynched, and then come back in. This is to send a message. This is what happens to uppity…I won’t use the word, but you know the word. They didn’t say black people or even colored people. You know the word that was used. This is what happens to uppity folks. So I believe that when folks talk about, well, again, what’s the big deal, or why didn’t he just listen. Why didn’t he just comport? What didn’t he just obey? In those instances it’s not about that. Right? Because again, he’s got his full weight on it; there’s other officers holding him down. But at the same time he’s saying, Just get up, as I understand it. My husband watched the video. I didn’t. But my husband tells me he’s saying, Just get up. Just get up. How can I get up when your knee is on my neck and 3 other officers are holding me down? How do I get up? So the whole engagement was not about what it appeared. It was a larger message.

Joe: Well said. Thank you. I totally agree. It’s a much larger message. One of the things that I hear you saying is that…. And I guess we know this, but I guess but it’s good to hear over and over again. …is that we experience life very, very differently. The way, Bishop Easterling, you’re saying, you know, the way you have to measure words when talking about this. Or the way Bishop Farr maybe has some more freedom to be able to say ‘I’m outraged.’ And the way that we do this. So, can you talk a little bit more about those differences and the way we experience the world or the way that we can express ourselves in the world?

Bishop Farr: We are from very different places. We have very different experiences. In fact, you know, I’ve said Bishop Easterling drives me crazy half the time. But I have appreciated…and I’m sure she’s said that about me. I’ve appreciated her forthrightness and her integrity, even if we were to disagree. And I just…. There is a big difference. I mean, that’s been true my whole life. I’ve been a fairly successful pastor. And I can get away with saying things in churches knowing about white or black or different color, that I can do it that a woman pastor would say the same thing and immediately be in all kinds of trouble, and even say, well, in another case, Bob Farr just said the same thing and you didn’t say a word. So it’s just that whole disparity of our system that’s built in, that’s very multi-faceted. I’ve had that all my life. It took me a long time to… I mean, I used to just…I was like, well, I don’t know what you mean. I don’t have any more… I don’t have any more voice than you do. And I get pushback. You might be, well, I got pushback, too. And I did. But not…. You know what? I’ve never had to worry about walking down the street and wondering if somebody is going to accuse me of taking something or…just because I’m a different color. Nobody does… Do I get some pushback? Yeah, but I don’t get that. When people get mad…. I’ve had people get mad at me in every church I’ve ever served. I’ve got people mad at me right now because I say… I’m too plain spoken. But this is deeper than that. I mean…. So, I decided this tim… I honestly...done that wrong. I didn’t care.  So I have a voice. So one of the things I learn in this. Okay, you’re right. I have a white voice. I can get away with something you can’t. Why don’t I?

Joe: Well, that brings me to another…. I’m sorry, Bishop, do you want to jump in?

Bishop Easterling: Well, I want to say….

Bishp Farr: I’m gonna use my voice, okay? The only way white people are gonna change… This has been my fault, too. I would say…. If I were trying to deal with racism in my…. I would want a black person to come teach us about racism. That’s what I was taught. But that is baloney. The only people gonna change white people’s things about racism is white people speaking to white people. It’s not the burden of an African American to teach me about racism. And yet I will tell you for a long time in my ministry I’ve actually thought I was good to, by having black people to come to my church and speak on behalf of racism to a whole crowd of white folks. I shouldn’t be speaking on….

Bishop Easterling: But you know what? But, Bob, wait a minute. I want to go back some…. because I didn’t…. Did you say I drive you crazy? Is that what you said? I didn’t…. I didn’t….

Bishop Farr: …much better advocate than I am. I was in Ferguson. And it was the most uncomfortable thing I’ve ever done in my entire life. I just… I’d been a protestor. I mean, I got taught to be a nice Methodist. And you know I’d say things like, Well, there’s other ways to work this out. And there’s gotta be a way… I was always a behind-the-scenes guy. Let me gather up the the ten people in the room. Let’s talk this out. Let’s figure out a new system. So,…. But to get into the street… And, I learned a lot in 3 nights in Ferguson.

Bishop Easterling: Right. In terms of…. You talked about what I would consider to be the more traditional approach to addressing racism, inviting the person of color in and asking him to speak. So I believe in the both/and of the debate. There has to be…

Bishop Farr: That has to be the burden.

Bishop Easterling: That’s right. It’s got to be the both/and, though. It’s got to be people of color being allowed to talk about what it does feel like to be the recipient of the systemic, insidious racism, and then those that enjoy the power and privilege that some of them aren’t even conscious of…. I talk about also in what I wrote about. It is possible to be cognizant and not conscious. You’re cognizant that this thing called racism exists out there. But you may not be fully conscious…you may not be fully conscious of your complicity in a system of…or how you’re even the unknown recipient. I was reading something that talked about none of us necessarily fully understand how these pipes work that take the waste out of our homes, right? We don’t all have some PhD in understanding how all of this works. We’re just the recipients of this wonderful system that works. I don’t have to be aware of it because it works for me. If there’s a system that’s working for folks and they don’t ever have to question, don’t have to think about it. They may not know. But once you have conscious, now you have the responsibility to use the privilege that you enjoy to begin to dismantle it. So I do believe that it’s the both/and. I’ve spent much of my life…much of my adult life, all the way back to when I did work for the City of Colorado Springs on their first diversity council (Right?) and you get trotted in and you have to try to explain to folk, you know, what it is. And they’re like, Well, what’s wrong with you? You’re here. You have job. What are you talking about? And to go back and talk about from the time of enslavement on, again the systemic, insidious, programmatic, intentional (right?) racism that exists and how the repercussions of that continue. Right? Not being able to own land. The wealth that’s amassed by man’s ownership that’s passed down through families. Talking about the times when people of color did…. I talked about earlier.  Tulsa and Rosewood. Right? The black Wall Streets. When black communities did come together and the quote/unquote pulled themselves up by their own bootstraps and create that systems of wealth, whole communities of wealth and self-governance and education. And bombs were dropped on them. Right? The whole place was burned to the ground. We have to talk about those things. And the lingering effects of those things and how that continues to contribute to a lack of equity, a lack of parity, a lack of justice in our society. I appreciate you. And you are taking a risk. And I want to acknowledge that. I’m talking a risk by speaking up. But you’re also taking a risk by speaking up because unfortunately we operate in a system, even though it’s supposed to be a movement based on Jesus Christ, it’s also a system based on a business model. Right? And so we say too much “black/white, male/female, progressive/traditional.” I don’t care. We say too much and folks start weaponizing their mission shares. Oh, I don’t like what the bishop said. So our church isn’t gonna pay our mission shares. I don’t like what my pastor said. So I’m not gonna pay my tithes and offerings. Folks start weaponizing what is supposed to be their offering, first unto God—not to me or to you, but unto God. But that’s what starts to happen. So there is a risk for all of us, you included. Do we have the courage…do we have the courage to stand up to the moment and face that and move through it? That’s what’s important.

Bishop Farr: I agree. See, I told you. She’s a much better advocate than I am.

Bishop Easterling: Not true. Not true.

Joe: I want to come to another point that both of you had similar takes on. Bishop Easterling, I’ll start with you because after the…you were at Saint John’s Episcopal Church earlier this week for part of a protest. And after that gathering you were asked, I think, what was reported by the Associated Press…. I just want to quote you for a second, or at least the way they quoted you. It says, “All leaders that consider themselves to be religious or moral leaders have an obligation to rise and to speak to this moment because institutional racism and supremacy cannot be dismantled by African American leaders alone. Those who enjoy the privilege of the systems must rise.” Can you say a little bit more? I mean, we’ve kind of been touching on that. But can you say more about that?

Bishop Easterling: Well absolutely. As I said, the privilege that…. My brother said we can say it; so I’m gonna say it. …that white persons in this country enjoy must be spoken to. And if we’re honest, people hear it one way when I talk about it sometimes, those especially who want to immediately deny it, reject it, resist it, try to minimize it. They hear it one way from me. They may well hear it another way from my brother. And so for him to stand up and say, No, we’re not gonna act like this does not exist. No, we’re not gonna become distracted by some of the ways people are responding in the street. I’m not gonna let you use that as a distraction anymore. There is a real issue here. So we’re not gonna flip the script and turn it back on the people who have been the recipients of 400 plus years of maltreatment. We’re gonna deal with the issue of systemic racism and oppression and white supremacy. That voice has to exist. And I really do believe if you consider yourself a religious leader, if you consider yourself a moral leader, the crux of wherever you are gaining that authority…. So for me it is the gospel of Jesus Christ. It is being a follower of Jesus Christ. The basic tenets of that demand (right?) that I speak to the injustice that I believe Jesus Christ came, lived and died to speak to. And now as he sits on the right hand of God Almighty, continues to empower us through the Holy Spirit to speak to. So, for me, there’s not much else I exist to do than to speak to that kind of oppression. And not just because I’m a black woman in America, but because to me that’s what the gospel is based on. And so my brother and I and other white leaders are standing on that same corpus—those same 66 books. I don’t know how else we don’t address it. So, yes. I believe there is a responsibility. There is an imperative for them to raise their voice alongside us (right?) and bear up some of this weight of trying to address this issue.

Joe: And Bishop Farr, I want to quote you, too, because in your post that we started with, you have a paragraph that ends with this sentence: “This is white people’s work and our need to engage in this work is urgent. Lives depend on it.” Can you say more about what you were expressing in that paragraph?

Bishop Farr: I mean, if we don’t…. If I just sit still and act nice and… I mean, LaTrelle’s right. You can rock along in my world. And everything’s good. The pipes are running. Water’s running. I don’t need to know, and it doesn’t really bother me too bad. Occasionally, I brush up against it (right?) occasionally. You know. In fact in my world I hear that all this is robbing the jobs of the white guy. And you’re taking away blue collar…. I grew up not having a lot. I grew up blue collar, small town. So I hear that a lot today. So it is our work. I mean, it’s our work, everybody’s work. But if we don’t engage in the work it will not get better because we’ll do what we’ve been doing. The cycle.

We’re in this insidious cycle of a black man gets killed; we try (all of us in leadership; all of this family pray) we maybe have a riot or two. Then we get back in the normal life and then wonder why 6 weeks later, 2 months later (whatever it is) it happens again. And we do the same catharsis. Maybe this time disruptions enough that we won’t just go back to normal. Actually that’s been my whole lifetime. This little…except it’s picked up speed. I don’t know where this…. I mean, the truth is, thank God for the camera. Right? The truth is this has been happening probably at greater speed in the ‘70s, ‘80s and ‘90s. And we just didn’t know it. You all knew it…

Bishop Easterling: I will say I think we did know it. But I think justice back in the ‘60s when folks were sitting in their living rooms and saw the water hoses and the dogs turned loose on persons of color…

Bishop Farr: Right.

Bishop Easterling: …there was a turning at that point. There was a turning. I do think we’re at a turning point. I think we’re at a turning point because there’s a video of a man dying on the street. You get to watch him. One minute he’s alive; the next minute he’s now dead. And this person…this knee is still on that neck. So I think that’s part of it. But I also think it’s different because when I was out there at that protest, at that vigil, I saw more white people than I saw African Americans. That might just be because where I was. I don’t want anybody to take what I’m saying right now to mean that black people were not present and are not present about this. They are. But I was heartened to see the number of white people who were there. I was heartened to see how many of them are young people. I was hearted to see persons from the LGBTQIA community saying we’re not here to talk about LGBTQIA rights right now. We’re here to stand in solidarity with our black and brown brothers and sisters to talk about how black lives matter. And there’s a…. I see more than what just appears to be a temporary anger or outrage. I see what appears to be a sure-footed stand with shoulders square, look you right in the face, and say we’re not going away this time. This will be addressed.

Bishop Farr: I hope it’s a turning point. You’re right about the water and the dogs. My mother is 83. And she would have followed it on her black and white TV. When they saw that, the little naïve being in rural Missouri… Well, that’s not right. …sudden light bulb that went from this isn’t bothering me, to that is bothering me. Now this is true with this, I hope. And I said, I’m tired of the cycle just repeating itself. It has to stop. You know, I’m sorry about the burning and stuff. But that’s kind of secondary to the…. You gotta stop killing people first.

Bishop Easterling: That’s exactly right. I’m so glad…

Bishop Farr: I don’t know when we recognized the police department. I’m sure it’s been gradual. My dad was a deputy sheriff, volunteer, for 20 years in the little Cass County community. He loved that.

Bishop Easterling: I’m aware. I’m aware.

Bishop Farr: It was not.... It’s weaponized now. So I have a lot … So this always… I grew up really on the side of the police. But it wasn’t…. This has changed. Mother is really good friends with the second in command of the Kansas City Police Department for years and years. And I watched him change. It’s changed. We’ve weaponized the… I mean, there is a place for the military. This isn’t it.

Bishop Easterling: This isn’t it. Right. But I want to go back to something you said, Bob, because you talked about, a minute ago, the notion of well, you’re taking the blue collar job. Right? So this notion of pitting marginalized communities against each other is nothing new. It keeps us from being able to understand and grasp the solidarity that we really ought to be feeling with one another. Right? Because it really isn’t about who’s taking whose job. Again, that’s a narrative that’s fed to us. But it’s fed to us for a reason; It’s fed to us for a purpose, to keep folks from seeing each other as in a similar position rather than seeing each other as enemies. So again, that’s part of that insidious, systemic, intentional racism.

Bishop Farr: Classism system that’s imbedded.

Bishop Easterling: Right.

Bisohp Farr: Other articles…. When I travel around Missouri—rural Missouri—the poverty, that’s really white folks…. The issues in rural Missouri and the issues in the inner city of our two cities, actually are the same issues…

Bishop Easterling: There’s the same.

Bishop Far: They’ve made them out as though they’re enemies.

Bishop Easterling: That’s right. They’re exactly the same. When I got here and toured Baltimore and then I toured the area of Cumberland/Hagerstown and went over into parts of West Virginia, I could have thought I was in the exact same locale in either place. The exact same conditions and predicaments. But they have been led to believe that they both come from different places, that…

Bishop Farr: They’ve been led to believe that the other group is what’s causing, my problems.

Bishop Easterling: That’s exactly right. And so….

Bishop Farr: We’ve taught folks that these are enemies of each other when they’re…actually remarkably the same. We ought all to be mad at all of us who live in white suburbia because they’re the same. And there’s no healthcare in rural…. I mean it’s just scary.

Bishop Easterling: And the school system. I mean, this whole pandemic, this notion of if the school system could scrape together the funds to send these kids home with a laptop or an iPad to now go online, well, good luck going online because you don’t have Wi-Fi in your neighborhood. So…

Bishop Farr: Why am I not home on Wi-Fi? I’m 10 minutes out of town. I can’t carry this… How’s a student supposed to do online learning?

Bishop Easterling: That’s right. So that’s also part of our responsibility, is to talk through the false narratives that are there, to get folks to see, this is your issue. It isn’t just a black issue. It isn’t just a Latinic’s issue. It isn’t just a Native American’s issue. It isn’t just an immigrant issue. These are our issues because we’re talking about human beings, all human beings being able to thrive. And what are…what are the systems that don’t allow that to happen? Right? So that’s also part of all of our responsibility, is to talk through and to dismantle the narratives that keep us separated.

Bishop Farr: That probably has helped me identify… because I grew up blue collar…. Well, we didn’t know we were poor. But compared to what we know now we were. And so it’s easy to at least identify with the classism that goes on. Every church I’ve ever served has received more men and more people…actually more people of color and more blue collar folks than the church previously had. And actually I had more conflict with that than I did to color. We were very poor at classism, at trying to dismantle that boundary.

Bishop Easterling: Right.

Bishop Farr: That was a steep boundary. It just fell into everything. So…

Joe: Before we run out of time I have one more thing I want to ask you guys because this is important. You both talked about this being a cycle. And you see the cycle. How do we break the cycle? How do we become part of the solution instead of part of the problem? Are there things that you’re telling your churches or pastors that they should be doing to move us forward rather than continuing the cycle? Bishop Farr, do you want to go first?

Bishop Farr: Well, I can share with you my personal frustration with that is I don’t know what to do. I mean, that is the hundred-dollar question for people like me. What am I supposed to do? I can’t figure out where my levers are. You know. Maybe that’s because I’m in a bishop role and I just…. So, how am I supposed to impact this somehow…other than I’m mad about it. I go home and rant about it, but I can’t…

Here’s what I’ve done. I do feel it’s kind of a lame deal. But, you know, the White Fragility book that I read last summer. And I thought I was up on this. I read that book…it was…I said, Well crap. This thing it spoke into me. I thought, This is me. I was thinking, this is not…. You know, her line is, well, you know, if I’m not in the Ku Klux Klan, therefore I’m not racist. Well, it could be some other things. It was just eye-opening. It didn’t blame, it just helped.

So I’m asking every congregation in Missouri to read that book, their lay leaders and that. And we’ll see how many I can get to do it. But it feels lame. I’ve got to confess. … Well, go read the book and study it.

Bishop Easterling.  That’s not lame. We’ve got to start somewhere, Bob. We have to start somewhere.

So the book that I’m asking folks to start with is the book by Ibram X Kendi, How to be an Antiracist.  That’s where I’m asking folks to start. I’m also asking folks to come back to the basics because I said it earlier. If we just read Scripture, but also confess the lens through which we read Scripture, right? If we begin to confront the lens… None of us come to Scripture blank, empty…. None of us do. We all come to Scripture reading it through a particular lens. So studying Scripture with diverse groups. Right? Hearing how other people engage the scripture. Really honing down. Really getting to that plumb line, the depths of what do these scriptures really mean? And realizing that it costs us something. I so appreciate something Richard Rohr wrote not too long ago. If I could read it…. He said, “For the first 300 years after Jesus’s death Christians were the oppressed minority. But by the year 400 of the Common Era, Christians had changed places. We moved from hiding in the catacombs to presiding in the basilicas. That is when we started reading the Bible not as subversive literature, the story of the oppressed, but as establishment literature to justify the status quo of people of power.” We’ve got to get back to teaching the scriptures in the way that they were intended. And, to really understanding that we’re here not to worship a book (okay?) but to be followers of Jesus the Christ, and to really look at how he spent his life. Where was he angry? Where did he break through barriers? Where did he cross boundaries of culture? Where did he do it and for what reason? And that’s what we need to be doing. And also reminding ourselves of our Wesleyan heritage. Right? So that prayer. I am no longer my own, but yours. Put me to what thou wilt. Rank me with whom you will. That whole notion. Our Wesleyan heritage is not about sitting in beautiful high-steeple, stained glass buildings. Our heritage has been about getting out into the margins and walking with and advocating on behalf of all the poor, of all people who’ve been dispossessed, or all people who don’t enjoy privilege. That’s who we are as Methodists. So we also need to go back to teaching new members classes to let folk know what they’re becoming a part of. I said, when we were talking earlier, sometimes you can’t get mad at folks because we haven’t done a really good job of educating…

Bishop Farr: I’m telling you that’s who we were. We haven’t been that in my lifetime.

Bishop Easterling: Well, I think we need to reclaim who we think we are and the shoulders upon which we stand, because John Wesley stood firmly against enslavement. He stood firmly against women being denied the right to be leaders in the church. He stood firmly against those things. And so I agree with you. I know that we…. It’s not too late. Martin Luther King said, ‘always the right time to do the right things.’ We need to reclaim the basics of who we are, and then we are real advocates in this movement—not just for a minute; not just while the fire is burning. But that becomes who we are. We go back to our beginning.

Bishop Farr: See? I told you. She has this great knack at making you completely uncomfortable.

Bishop Eastering. Stop it.

Joe: That was it. Man, that was the last word. Bishops, thank you both for allowing me to be a part of this conversation. This was important, and it was very powerful. So, I thank you for your time on a Friday afternoon.

Bishop Eastering: Thank you. I appreciate your work and I appreciate your time and attention to this very important matter.

Bishop Farr: I appreciate both of you and appreciate being here with my sister.

Epilogue

Joe: To learn more about the United Methodist Church’s work for racial justice go to UMC.org/endracism. Or, if you’d like to learn more about our podcasts, go to UMC.org/podcasts and look for this episode. Thanks for listening. I’ll be back soon with another conversation to help us keep our souls as healthy as our bodies. I’m Joe Iovino. Peace.