A new resource has been launched by South Carolina Resident Bishop L. Jonathan Holston and his Cabinet designed to provide tools to address racism.
The resources are rooted in a response of love, education, communication and scriptural background while working together as the body of Christ. The tools are intended to help groups learn about the history of racism in United States, how to listen and hear often-difficult personal stories and how to lead discussions that will form and strengthen relationships. It is intended to be helpful in the process of healing in our churches and communities, viewing all as equal human beings.
The endeavor to end racism dates back centuries and is firmly rooted in Scripture. For instance, Jesus said, “As I have loved you, so you must love one another” (John 13:34 NIV). Acts reminds us, “God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right” (Acts 10:34-35). And 1 John 2:11 says, “Anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.”
How do we end racism? By taking one step at a time, by getting to know each other and each other’s stories, by having conversations that lead to understanding, and then by working together to take relevant, meaningful action to make a difference, the resource posits..
“Our Response to Racism: Forming Authentic Connections Across Racial Lines” is a compilation of resources commissioned by Bishop L. Jonathan Holston through The Cabinet of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church designed to help local churches do just that.
“As a people of faith, we are called by God to advocate against racism in any form as we witness to the love of Christ, promote social justice and work for reconciliation,” Holston said. “We pray this new resource will help tear down the walls that divide us and build bridges of reconciliation between all of God’s people. The walls crumble when we begin to see and hear beyond our own experience – when we make a concerted effort to learn each other’s stories.
“Now is the time for us to have honest conversation about the pain of discrimination and racism and move forward together. May our willingness to learn, share, listen and grow reflect the light of God’s love into a hurting world, rendering a true reflection of the Gospel and building up the kingdom of God.”
A team of South Carolina clergy and laity gathered the resources to help groups learn about the history of racism in our nation, how to listen and hear often-difficult personal stories, and how to lead discussions that will form and strengthen relationships.
“Our Response to Racism” includes six recommended responses that can be implemented based on local context: 1) district clergy meetings, 2) small-group conversations, 3) cross-racial exchanges, 4) a season of jubilee, 5) healing through preaching and 6) a call to accountable honesty in society beyond the church.
“Racism is simultaneously the most defining and most damaging social condition in America,” said the Rev. Steve Patterson, the superintendent of the Anderson District who led the team. “While always present, the sin of racism occasionally resurges with tragic effect in the human family. Following the resurgence of the past few years, we have crafted this response—prayerful for transformation, still mourning the deaths of many at the hands of racism.
“Racism must never be given the benefit of tacit acceptance, granted the lie of harmlessness or allowed the wink of subversion. As the people of God, it is our essential calling to challenge and change that which erodes the common good. Such is the purpose and hope of the components offered in Our Response to Racism.”
Conference Lay Leader Barbara Ware said the resource will help any church or group begin discussions that can lead to true transformation.
“United Methodist congregations can have a tremendous impact on our local communities if we take the steps needed to begin an honest, open and genuine dialogue about racism,” Ware said. “When we listen to and hear our brothers and sisters whose lives have been affected by intolerance and injustice, we all walk together as a united church.”
Valerie Brooks-Madden is a lay member of the team that developed “Our Response to Racism.”
“It makes me proud to be part of a body of believers who recognize that racism is a problem to be addressed—from its obvious forms to more insidious expressions,” Brooks-Madden said. “Responding to it in such a comprehensive way is a remarkable accomplishment.
“This resource will help local churches make the invisible visible and foster understanding with a willingness to acknowledge that if all lives matter, black lives matter.”
It is hoped that some part of this palette of responses may be found useful in every local context and that God’s own Spirit will inspire hearts to redeeming action beyond what is offered.
“A people whose majority will not defend the rights and dignity of its minority is a people without honor,” Patterson said. “Let us restore the honor which God originally bestowed.
“Let us reach beyond complacency to holy action, proving our belief in God’s love for all humankind, for all Creation.”
Access resources at https://www.umcsc.org/endracism.
Advocate to release second racial narratives book soon to raise awareness about racism through shared stories
A few more stories sought
The Advocate is gearing up to release its next book, a second collection of personal racial “awakening” narratives where South Carolina United Methodist people share their stories about race.
“We know sharing our stories helps people understand each other, and making people’s personal race experiences or awakenings available for people to read is one huge way we can help foster understanding and awareness,” said Jessica Brodie, editor.
There is room for a few more narratives if you have a story to share regardless of your race, whether Black, white, Hispanic, Asian or other. Narratives should be 500-1,000 words and emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 15.
The first racial awakenings collection, “Stories of Racial Awakening: Narratives on Changed Hearts and Lives of South Carolina United Methodists,” came out in December 2017 and is available at www.advocatesc.org/books.