In light of some post-election racism and other acts of hate and division seen across the nation, including hostile actions at a United Methodist youth event in North Carolina, the South Carolina Conference’s Hispanic/Latino Task Force has drafted an open letter to the conference.
The letter calls for neighborly love, denounces hateful rhetoric and urges United Methodists in South Carolina to stand up against racism (see full letter, below).
It was drafted in similar fashion to a statement by the North Carolina Conference of the UMC after some of their young people were harassed at the Pilgrimage 2016 youth event attended by about 5,000 students between sixth and 12th grade. A United Methodist News Service article by the Rev. Gustavo Vasquez said some people were using the event hashtag #nccp16 in order to promote another hashtag, #buildawall.
Derek Leek, director of communications for the conference, said event leaders responded with a statement explaining the hashtag was to be used to share fun things happening around the event, that the conference affirms all people as valuable and that statements against people based on race should not be tolerated. Leek said event leaders talked with two of the students who posted a photo using the #buildawall hashtag. The article noted Leek said one Hispanic/Latino youth had a clothespin placed on him by an unknown person, with the words “I Love Trump” on one side and “Build a Wall” on the other.
An open letter to the South Carolina Conference of the United Methodist Church:
Grace and peace to you, brothers and sisters!
We have seen a very divisive election this year, yet, in our most basic Christian theology, Christ calls us to love God with our entire beings and to love our neighbors as ourselves. We recognize and affirm that many Hispanic/Latino people, particularly immigrants and refugees, have recently experienced a rise in threats and exclusion. We deplore any hateful rhetoric that has been professed in the name of Christianity. We urge United Methodists in South Carolina to stand up against racism.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to care for the least of these in our society, particularly the widow, orphan, and immigrant. We pray that United Methodists will live fully into our Social Principles, which state: “We recognize, embrace, and affirm all persons, regardless of country of origin, as members of the family of God. We affirm the right of all persons to equal opportunities for employment, access to housing, healthcare, education, and freedom from social discrimination. We urge the Church and society to recognize the gifts, contributions, and struggles of those who are immigrants and to advocate for justice for all.”
Jesus did not say that picking up our cross and following him would be easy or comfortable. The temptation for Christians can be to take the easy path, instead of the path that may lead to the cross. Instead of ignoring racist speech or urging superficial reconciliation, we must stand up to injustice as Jesus did, even when the Gospel message may offend longtime church members or compromise congregational giving.
May we be “slow to speak and quick to listen” to the pain and fear of our Hispanic/Latino brothers and sisters. John Wesley followed three general rules: do not harm, do good and stay in love with God. Do our policies and rhetoric do harm to part of the body of Christ? We ask you, as United States citizens, to use your voice for others by advocating for legislation that does not harm immigrants or separate families through deportations and repealing DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals).
We are reminded through partaking in communion that we, though many, are one. Despite the political divide, we pray that God gives us the convictions to stand up for justice, peace and love for all people.
Peace of Christ,
The Hispanic/Latino Task Force
South Carolina Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church