August 06, 2019
“A Call to Discipleship: Living as Disciples of a Non-Violent Lord in a Time of Violence”
To the People of The United Methodist Church:
As president of the Council of Bishops, but more fundamentally as one who professes faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior, I write with a call to discipleship.
What is God’s dream for us? How can we become the answer to the words we say in worship, “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done”? (Matthew 6). In Wesley’s words, we are being called “to reform the nation, particularly the church, and to spread scriptural holiness over the land.”
The United States has witnessed a steady occurrence of mass shootings across our nation, this past weekend in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. I commend the statements of Bishop Gregory Palmer and Bishop Earl Bledsoe to the people of their residential areas (West Ohio, New Mexico/Northwest Texas). The carnage following these acts of violence reminds us of Sandy Hook and Orlando, Sutherland Springs and Charlotte, Las Vegas and Parkland, Charleston and Pittsburgh, and on it goes.
Underneath the violence is a culture of white supremacy and a fear of immigrants (xenophobia). These are expressions of our sinful nature, and deny the image of God (Genesis 1) that is in every person. Christ died for all (2 Corinthians 5), and in this he loved us and gave himself up for us (Ephesians 5).
I also join my voice with Bishop LaTrelle Easterling of the Baltimore-Washington Conference. The president’s disparaging comments about an honorable congressman and a major northeastern city (Baltimore) are rooted in a cynical desire to divide us along racial lines. The use of the presidential role granted for the purpose of serving an entire people for white privilege does great harm to us. According to counterterrorism experts, the president’s racial rhetoric is fueling an incipient and violent white nationalist movement in our nation.
The majority of our membership in the U.S. is Anglo. If you are a white person reading this and you find it troubling—in my own self-examination and confession, I do, as I am under the same judgment—I urge you not to write me, but to contact a friend who is African-American or Latino/a and ask them, “What did you hear in these statements?” and “What do you perceive in these mass shootings?”
I write less to reinforce our very real political partisanship and more to say that we can have a better civil dialogue, and perhaps United Methodists who are Democrats and Republicans in the United States can contribute to this. We are in desperate need of leadership that does not pit us against each other. And we are in need of a dialogue that is deeply rooted in our discipleship in the way of our non-violent Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.