Diversity and Inclusiveness

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Enough is enough: church must break its silence on racial violence

GCORR calls on The UMC to speak against hatred of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 2021.
GCORR calls on The UMC to speak against hatred of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders. 2021.

Once again, women of color have been murdered in a society that glorifies racist and sexist violence.

As the leader of a Christian entity that seeks to confront racism in all its forms, in the name of Jesus—my heart goes out to the victims, their families, and their communities. And I offer this question to my Christian community: When will we, the followers of Jesus, get frustrated enough and convicted enough by our faith to cry out, intercede, and transform?

Police officials say that an apparent lone shooter—white, male, and armed—shot and killed eight people, six of them Asian American women, during a March 16 assault in the Atlanta area. These six murdered women join the growing number of Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) people across the nation who have been targets of bias and violence. The fact is our AAPI family—along with our Black and Brown families—are at this moment caught in the crosshairs of unchecked aggression, mostly at the hands of angry white men. Unprovoked violence against People of Color has increased exponentially over the last five years.

And where is the Christian church?

The United Methodist Church is a community of faith called by The Almighty to transform the world for Jesus Christ. Yet, too many laity and clergy choose to stay shut in our homes and sanctuaries, pretending gun violence—coupled with racism and sexism taken to extremes—is not a church problem.

But it is.

One year ago, pushed by the secular outcry against the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, our Council of Bishops issued a challenge to the whole United Methodist Church to dismantle racism and its fetters on church and society. The bishops called us, by our faith in God, to dismantle racism that threatens our mission, ministry, and integrity as the Body of Christ. Our episcopal leaders charged us to step out from our safety zones and show the nation and the world that racial hatred has no place in the church or in our neighborhoods. We were challenged to interrupt the violence, vitriol, and victimization that always comes with unbridled, systemic racism.

Yet, nearly a year later, People of Color are still dying by violence at the hands of white people, the people the United Methodist Church works hardest to reach, teach, and convert. At least 90 percent of the people in our church pews are white, so our church should wield great influence on how white people in America live their lives and express their faith. Yet, even with our Council of Bishops’ urging, much of our denomination’s 2020 initial zeal and commitment to end racism has melted away, quickly falling out of fashion like seasonal shirts and dresses. Our church membership, worship, and communal life is still largely segregated by race, and we are ill-prepared and silent when incidents like the Atlanta massacre occur.

Because white United Methodists remain unmotivated, unwilling, or unable to confront the realities of racial injustice in our own house, they shut down, especially when the church is needed to bring the liberating work of Christ to bear. We fumble through trite prayers instead of crying out, “No more! In the name of God, no more racist violence!”

Isaiah 58:12 calls believers to be “repairers of the breach and restorers of the streets.” Confronting racism is still our holy calling from God. And until and unless we who serve the God of Love are willing to confront the indifference and racism in our own individual and corporate souls, people will die. The calling is clear. We must respond now or be prepared to lose more people to evil and death.

Respond now to aggression against Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities:

  • Make a specific financial gift to victims and their families.

  • Educate yourself and your faith community about racism again people of AAPI heritage. Start here.

  • Ask AAPI congregations in your community how you and your church can support them.

  • Champion legislation to protect AAPI persons and immigrants in your community.

  • Pray during worship for AAPI persons who are targets of harassment and violence.

  • Pastors, preach sermons about the God who loves, includes, and wants justice for all people, and connect your message directly to recent acts of violence against Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.

  • Give to antiracism organizations specifically addressing anti-Asian aggression. Two national groups, Stop AAPI Hate, Asian American Advancing Justice, along with the NAACP, are among them.

  • ·Confront your own implicit biases. GCORR offers an online course, Implicit Bias: What We Don’t Think We Think. Sign up today.

Originally published by the General Commission on Religion and Race. Republished with permission by ResourceUMC.org. M. Garlinda Burton is the Interim General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race.