Pastor’s Ponderings

Thank you, Asbury United Methodist Church! A retired United Methodist pastor visiting family in the area, sent me this note of appreciation: “I was greeted by a couple before I reached the sanctuary (way to go)…you should be proud. I was also greeted as I entered the sanctuary….. Thanks for providing a place for me to encounter the One who made us all. “

To be welcomed, to invite others to encounter the One who made us all. That’s what faith communities do.

In the wake of attacks by white supremacists, neo-Nazis and members of the KKK in Charlottesville, VA, faith communities are called to do be bold in claiming our true purpose (welcome all so that together we encounter the One who made us all). To do this, seems to me we have to become aware of the ways we withhold love, the times we hesitate to welcome, the hidden areas of bigotry or prejudice that shape our actions.

The blatantly evil slogans that were part the demonstration in Charlottesville, jarred me. I do not want to live in a world where our Jewish sisters and brothers are seen as a threat. I do not want to live in a world where people of color are threatened. What is being asked of me/us, as we live our faith in these days?

This tweet by Sarah Cavrak (and she gave permission to share) challenged me: “As white people of privilege, we are obligated to dismantle racism from the inside out. Talk to your white friends and family. Ask them what they think about what is happening. Ask what level of responsibility they feel to stand up for people of color. And then just listen.
And I mean REALLY listen. With an open mind, and an open heart. You might be surprised at what you hear. Someone you thought was woke, might not be. And someone you thought had their head in the wrong place may not be that far from where justice resides.
Call things out, name them, if they need to be said, but please do it form an anchored place of love and compassion. I think our best option to move toward reconciliation is to preserve the relationships we have (if safe to do so) and continue having these necessary, though probably awkward conversations.
And I’m walking the walk too. We’re in it together.”

I’m trying to listen, especially to folks in my life who look at the world through a different lens. ( A learning curve for me. It’s really hard to keep listening when people see things differently than I do.) And I’m practicing speaking up, naming privilege and entitlement when I see it in myself or others.

I’m grateful for our United Methodist response to events in Charlottesville, and have copied an open letter to Jeff Sessions, Attorney General of the United States, from Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society

The Honorable
Jeff Sessions
Attorney General of the United States
U.S. Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave NW
Washington, DC 20530-0001
Dear Mr. Attorney General,
From one southern United Methodist to another, I implore you to prayerfully and actively work to protect the civil rights of all people, especially people of color and religious minorities. Your position requires it, and our faith demands it.
As the general secretary of the General Board of Church and Society of The United Methodist Church, I am responsible for advocating for the implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements of the Church to which we belong.
These Social Principles state, “Racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself” (2016 Book of Discipline, Social Principles ¶162.A). The spiritual and systemic manifestations of racism tear at the heart of our faith and our society. Racism is not only the expression of hate, but it is the perpetuation of economic injustice, enactment of discriminatory housing and education policies, implementation of unjust policing practices, infringements on voting rights and more.
Your position as the attorney general of the United States is responsible for addressing these injustices and upholding the civil rights of all people in the United States. Your call to public service requires an explicit commitment to eliminating racism.
I call upon you to more justly uphold the protections and rights of people of color and religious minorities than what we have seen in your seven-month tenure at the Department of Justice. In addition to the blatant culture of hate and bigotry manifesting across the nation, recent events at the Department of Justice have alarmed many civil rights advocates, especially those within faith communities.
In your work engaging with civil rights and encountering the sin of racism, I appeal to you to be faithful to your United Methodist baptismal vows:
• To renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin.
• To accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.
I understand that you have opened a civil rights investigation into the tragedy that occurred in Charlottesville, Virginia this weekend when white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and the KKK terrorized people standing for justice and peace, and attacked a city that did not invite them. In this civil rights investigation – and in the entirety of the work of the Department of Justice – I urge you to prioritize racial equity and justice. To do anything less would be a disservice to the office that you hold, and an affront to our shared faith in Christ.
I will be praying for you and this country,
The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary, General Board of Church and Society
The United Methodist Church

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