An open letter from the Justice and Reconciliation Team

December 2, 2016

cropped-PNG-WNCC-logo-75.png     December 2016 A letter to Christians who are United Methodists in Western North Carolina Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ, As Christians we are called on by our Lord to do our duty to our country, obey just laws, pay taxes and vote. Unfortunately, in the process leading up to the elections we were swept up in the incessant campaigning and put our hopes in the candidates for the parties that seemed to best represent our views. To the extent that we placed our hope in the candidates we have sinned, our hope is only rightfully in the Lord. Let us repent. Fear has been rising. Fear is the emotion we feel when we perceive, whether real or imagined, that something is being taken from us. The natural response to fear is anger towards the thing or people that we believe is threatening to take something from us. We have been awash with anger. Traditionally and currently much of that anger is focused on the foreigner. Many of our forefathers when they first arrived in this land were the focus of the anger of those who had preceded them here, with the exception of slaves taken from their land and arrived here against their will. They were accused of taking jobs and prosperity away from the "real Americans." Once again we are tempted to do the same. Let us repent if we have fallen into this sin. What is the real reason that we are afraid and angry? Truthfully it is because we have not trusted God. Let us repent and trust God, not the Democratic, Republican, or other parties. Scripture shows that God removes blessing when God's people do not care for: foreigners, widows, orphans, poor and others who are in need (1). Let us repent of our selfishness and recommit to help those in need. Mistreatment of people of color through the institution of slavery and then Jim Crow has been one of the greatest sins staining our national consciousness. Great advances have been made in outlawing racially discriminatory practices. Thank God for those who have fought for these changes. However, suspicion of the other and racial attitudes remain and are daily experienced by our; Black, Brown and sisters and brothers of other minorities. Let us search our hearts and ask God to root out remaining prejudices. This is not theoretical; it is very personal and real. Many of us have personal stories and other stories have been shared by our neighbors and parishioners. Here are two of the many stories: Within the past couple of weeks, two precious elementary school girls who attend a United Methodist Church came home from public school and their grandmother was shocked when the girls told her how afraid they were because at school that day, they were told by their classmates that they would be deported. It should not make any difference, because these girls, their parents and grandparents are all U.S. citizens. In another recent incident, one of our United Methodist Clergy received a highly offensive text message, where the sender used derogatory insults and called her a "nigga." We are called to be reconcilers through Christ. Let us go out of our way at church, work, school and in the neighborhood to fellowship with the other. As friendships develop let us make a safe space to hear each other's stories. Let us be humble when our conscience is pricked, let us repent and ask forgiveness, when we recognize that we have offended one who is made in God's image. May all United Methodist Churches become safe places where all people, Black, Brown, White, American born, foreign born, citizen, resident, undocumented, gay, straight, poor, rich, feel safety and acceptance. Our citizenship is in heaven(2). That is the loyalty that we are called to defend with only one weapon, love. Let our loyalty not be red, blue or green though they may be our voting preferences. While we are here, let us work for good and just laws, fair treatment, and the dignity of all people. Let us help those in need and pray for Christ's kingdom to come on earth. But when the end comes we will leave this world with the confidence of arriving at the kingdom of our true citizenship. Yours in the Love of Christ, On behalf of the entire WNCC-Justice & Reconciliation Team Timothy Webster Susan Suarez-Webster Co-Conveners Hispanic/ Latino Ministries-WNCC Pamela Shoffner, Acting Chairperson WNCC- Justice & Reconciliation Team DOWNLOAD PRINTABLE TWO-PAGE LETTER _____

  1. Jeremiah 5:25-31, Ezekiel 16:49
  2. Philippians 3:20
_____ Read this Letter from Deborah Dangerfield, President of Black Methodists for Church Renewal: The First Week Following the 2016 Presidential Election

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A Summons to Witness, Protest, and Promise

We give thanks for this Summons to Witness, Protest and Promise written by the cabinet of the North Carolina Conference.  In our ongoing collaboration, we affirm these words alongside them.  Across our state, we invite all United Methodists to be a part of building “the new world God promises as heaven in time descends to earth.” (Revelation 21)

A Summons to Witness, Protest, & Promise

We, United Methodists in The Western North Carolina Conference, join our voices with The North Carolina Conference in witness, protest and promise in these times of violence against our Black brothers and sisters.

We believe. . .

We believe that the Holy Spirit is indeed poured out upon all people.
We believe that in baptism, we are incorporated into God’s mighty acts of salvation, and commissioned to resist evil, injustice and oppression, in whatever forms they present themselves.
We believe that God’s intent for humanity is community, compassion, and holiness, and that justice has been marred by the history of enslavement and racism.
We believe that repentance is urgent for the historic and ongoing violence against Black girls and boys, men and women.
We believe that in the wounding of Black bodies we see Christ crucified.
We believe that those who have been steeped in white privilege, through repentance, can be transformed into humble servants of the living God.
We believe we are called to work for the day when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

We protest. . .
We protest violent murders of Black men and women, most recently Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd.
We protest the narratives of fear and suspicion that divide people from one another.
We protest our historic failure to ensure all our churches are places of hospitality, welcome, and belonging for our Black brothers and sisters.
We protest the historic and continuing suppression of voting and other basic rights.
We protest all incendiary public leadership in this time of crisis and turmoil.
We protest the lack of will in our communities, our state and our country to protect the lives of our Black brothers and sisters, and especially the most vulnerable, the young and the old.

We promise. . .
We promise to use our voices, resources and power to dismantle white privilege and racist systems, especially within our own United Methodist Church.
We promise to read the Scripture with ear and eye attentive to the continued call toward God’s will for all people.
We promise to exercise the right to vote and to work against voter suppression.
We promise to create around ourselves at all times hospitable space for all people.
We promise to name prejudice when we see it and to receive the correction of others who see prejudice in us.
We promise to be life-long learners, to constantly make adjustments in the way we use our power and influence, to be active participants in the building of the beloved community, and ultimately growing always in holiness toward the perfection we see in Christ.

Signed,

Bishop Paul Leeland
Laura Auten
Carl Arrington
Michael Bailey
David Christy
Amy Coles
Bev Coppley
Beth Crissman
Otto Harris
David Hockett
Kim Ingram
Linda Kelly
Mark King
Melissa McGill
Samuel Moore, Jr.
Dan Pezet
Mark Ralls
David Snipes
Caroline Wood
Jane Wood

Bishop Hope Morgan Ward
Tim Russell
Edie Gleaves
Ray Broadwell
Gil Wise
Gray Southern
Mike Frese
Kenneth Locklear
Randy Innes
Linda Taylor
Dena White
Tara Lain
Ismael Ruiz-Millan
Jon Strother
Beth Hood
Lisa Yebuah
Greg Moore
Steve Taylor

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