Bishop David Bard has invited every Michigan United Methodist congregation to take steps to engage in a study of Anti-Bias/Anti-Racism during the coming year.
Bishop Bard issued the following challenge on June 4 during the Michigan Annual Conference:
I invite every Michigan United Methodist congregation to engage in a study in the coming year dealing with intercultural competence, racism, or racial reckoning.
The issue of race has been present and has been an issue of concern from the beginning of Methodism’s foundation in the United States. In his letter to William Wilberforce, John Wesley wrote, “I was particularly struck by that circumstance that a man who has a black skin, being wronged or outraged by a white man, can have no redress; it being a ‘law’ in our colonies that the oath of a black against a white goes for nothing. What villainy is this?”
The Social Principles of the United Methodist Church recognize the need for ongoing work to address both personal and institutional racism:
“Therefore, we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.”
As individual churches, we have an obligation to be a healing force within our culture. The work of healing is preceded by the work of justice, and justice requires that we critically examine existing power structures and unequal relationships between racial groups to understand our role in these. In order to guide the churches in the Michigan Conference in the work of addressing racism, Bishop Bard has formed a working group to respond and take seriously a call to address the ways we perpetuate bias and racism.
The hope of Bishop Bard’s challenge is to move the Michigan Conference more decidedly in the direction of the Beloved Community, which the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. described as requiring “a qualitative change in our souls as well as a quantitative change in our lives.” The hope is that all churches within the Michigan Conference will join in this work of creating a new kind of community in Jesus Christ—one that dismantles racism, breaks down dividing walls, and serves as a healing force in our divided world.
Taking the first step:
If you determine your congregation is ready to have a conversation about race and racism, and this is the first time your congregation has engaged in this work, we recommend Discipleship Ministries’ Courageous Conversation About Race resource.
First few steps into the journey:
A few steps further on the journey:
- Meaningful Conversations About Race
- Building the Beloved Community
- Preaching Courageously Against Racism
- Equity vs. Equality: Understanding the Differences
- UMC Racial Justice Timeline
- United Methodist Women Racial Justice Manual
- 5 Ideas for Stewardship for Churches Seeking to be Actively Anti-Racist
- Praying for Change: Daily Prayers for Anti-Racism
- Called to Witness, Care, and Act: A Message for Laity in The United Methodist Church
- De-Colonizing the Church: A Commitment to Anti-Racism (Webinar Series)
Often, predominantly White congregations feel they are unable to take the first step because there are no people of color in their congregation to engage in this conversation. Or there may be a desire to invite a person of color to come and lead this conversation. To place the burden of this work on people of color, whether members or outside leaders, can be harmful. Every church, regardless of the racial makeup of their membership, can engage in anti-racism work.
Let us know how you participated:
Please complete this survey to let the Anti-Bias Anti-Racism Working Group know how you participated in this challenge.
If you need further assistance or would like to talk with someone about this work, Anti-Bias Anti-Racism Working Group members have made themselves available. Please complete this form, and a member will be in contact with you.
To learn more about this initiative, check out our website.