A Pastoral Letter to United Methodists of the Southeastern Jurisdiction

June 05, 2020

June 5, 2020

Brothers and Sisters:

As president of the Southeastern Jurisdiction College of Bishops my
heart rejoices over the bold, courageous, and compassionate offering of
confession, lament, and call to action by our white brothers and sisters of
the SEJ College and the gracious acceptance of this act of truth telling as
we journey toward the Beloved Community. It is our belief that such
actions enhance our work and witness to a hurting community seeking
moral leadership in this time of racial upheaval.

We see this statement as a reversal of the sentiments of the letter sent to
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. by a group of clergymen that caused him to
write the eloquent and brutally honest “Letter From a Birmingham Jail.”

We have longed for white voices of power and influence to stand with us.
It is an amazing gift to hear and work with colleagues joining voices in
solidarity with African Americans who have been both prophet and
victim. It is only when the privileged who have benefited from the evils of
racism take a stand that real change happens. It is our prayer that the
church, the nation, and our world will no longer place the burden on the
oppressed to liberate themselves. It is impossible to free yourself when
the power of systemic injustice has its knee on your neck.

We pray that what follows will serve as a model for our brothers and
sisters who have lived a life of white privilege to speak a gracious yet
painful word of truth as we journey together toward real transformation,
hope, and love in this racially charged atmosphere. We share this work of
solidarity with these words from our fellow White Bishops with
thanksgiving and hope that others will join us.

Bishop Leonard Fairley

We, the White Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United
Methodist Church, call upon all United Methodists to stand with and see
our Black brothers and sisters.

As White American Bishops, we stand up and stand with our Black
Bishops in the Church who have consistently named and called out the
systemic and sinful practice of discrimination that has been pervasive in
the United States since the first slaves walked the shores of this land. For
our failure to join our sisters and brothers we ask forgiveness.

As White American Bishops, we stand up and stand with the Black
Communities across our Episcopal Areas recognizing that we who have
been in positions of power and privilege have been silent. In our silence
we have and do sin. We implore all United Methodists across the
Southeastern Jurisdiction of The United Methodist Church to exercise
influence and power to be agents of repentance, reconciliation,
reformation, and restoration in a system that has failed to bring hope to
all God’s children of color.

As White American Bishops, we stand up and stand with all persons who
live in fear of the very systems designed to protect them.

As White American Bishops, we stand up and stand with all persons
whose anger has reached the point of intolerance due to failure after
failure to change systemic racial injustice which has created the climate
where black lives can be snuffed out without consequence.

As White American Bishops, we stand up, stand with, and stand against
any systems of injustice that treat people differently because of the color
of their skin. We call on the people called Methodist to live fully into our
baptismal vows to renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the
evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin.

We believe that the soul of our nation needs to be examined which
means that each person, individually, needs to engage in self-examination.
Self-examination includes educating oneself about the
roots of racism from slavery to lynching to racial segregation and Jim
Crow to contemporary presumptions of guilt, incarceration, and police
violence. Self-examination means scrutinizing one’s beliefs, attitudes,
and actions. A beginning place is for each of us to read “Letter From a
Birmingham Jail” written by Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1963.

God calls us individually and collectively to take action.

In our Baptism we are called to accept the freedom and power given by
God to resist evil, injustice, and oppression however, wherever, and
whenever they are present.

We, the White American Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction United
Methodist Church, cry out to the people of The United Methodist Church
to unite our hearts, our minds, our souls, and our strength now to step
into this present brokenness by seeing those we have chosen not to see.
We do so believing that out of the pain of the tragic deaths of George
Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, Philando Castile,
Trayvon Martin, and countless others whose names have faded, that
these senseless killings will stop and healing can begin.

Let us now, this day, stand up and stand with our Black brothers and
sisters so that we will be united as one body in Christ, redeemed by his
blood. May we be one in Christ, one with each other, and one in ministry
to all the world until Christ comes in final victory.

This is our deepest prayer.

The Holy Work Before Us

We now ask you to join us in recommitting ourselves to non-violently
exposing and opposing injustice, racism, and violence even when it
resides in our own hearts. We must not allow our righteous indignation
and prophetic calls for justice to become spiritually hollow with no moral
integrity to speak into a world that is in desperate need of the fresh
bread of hope.

We hear and see it in the protests. The world grows weary of
injustice where the marginalized become voiceless and invisible living at
the mercy of power. If we are unwilling to walk the path of Jesus Christ
and truly acknowledge white privilege, then all our statements simply
become high sounding pontificated documents joining other statements
gathering dust on the shelves of empty promises.

With your prayers and actions joined with ours, we can answer the cries
we hear in the midst of protests—cries of injustice, fear, and anger, that
when gone unanswered turn violent. If Jesus is indeed the answer let us
dare to see one another as beloved children of the living God deserving
of love, mercy, and justice.

We offer our example to the church. In the name of Jesus Christ this is
our work and we dare not abandon it or the world because we desire
privilege and power over what the Lord requires of us.

Please join us in this holy work of dismantling racism in its subtle and
overt forms. If not us, who? If not now, when?

Christ have mercy.
Lord have mercy.
Christ have mercy.

Bishop Lawson Bryan Bishop Paul Leeland
Bishop Kenneth L. Carder Bishop Sharma Lewis
Bishop Kenneth H. Carter Bishop Richard Looney
Bishop Ray Chamberlain Bishop William T. McAlilly
Bishop Young Jin Cho Bishop Lawrence McCleskey
Bishop Charles Crutchfield Bishop Jack Meadors
Bishop Lindsey Davis Bishop C. P. Minnick, Jr.
Bishop Leonard Fairley Bishop Joe Pennel
Bishop Bob Fannin Bishop Bob Spain
Bishop David Graves Bishop Thomas B. Stockton
Bishop Larry Goodpaster Bishop James Swanson
Bishop Al Gwinn Bishop Mary Virginia Taylor
Bishop Jonathan Holston Bishop Debra Wallace-Padgett
Bishop Sue Haupert-Johnson Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
Bishop Hasbrouck Hughes, Jr. Bishop Mike Watson
Bishop Charlene Kammerer Bishop William Willimon
Bishop James King Bishop Dick Wills
Bishop Clay Lee  


The Bishops of the Southeastern Jurisdiction