America, We Have a Problem
America, we have a problem. Texas, we have a problem. United Methodism, we have a problem.
The problem is racism, and in recent weeks that problem has come to the forefront of our conversations and our attention. Some have rightly said to me, “Why are you all paying attention to this problem only now? It has been a problem for a long time.” There is no good answer to that question. But when an opportunity arises where attention is being paid - however late and inadequate it is - one should take action.
The position of the United Methodist Church on the issue of racism is quite clear. It is embedded in our Constitution:
¶ 5. Article V. Racial Justice—The United Methodist Church proclaims the value of each person as a unique child of God and commits itself to the healing and wholeness of all persons. The United Methodist Church recognizes that the sin of racism has been destructive to its unity throughout its history. Racism continues to cause painful division and marginalization. The United Methodist Church shall confront and seek to eliminate racism, whether in organizations or in individuals, in every facet of its life and in society at large. The United Methodist Church shall work collaboratively with others to address concerns that threaten the cause of racial justice at all times and in all places.
We are obligated to “confront and seek to eliminate racism.” I believe it is a task that requires sustained effort. We must still be dealing with this long after media attention and our society’s focus has moved on to other issues.
I hope to be part of conversations within the Texas Annual Conference about eliminating racism both in our church and in society. Toward that end, let me lead with four affirmations that are worthy of much longer explanations and conversations:
- Racism is long-standing. We Americans have a 400-year history through slavery, Jim Crow, segregation and our present reality.
- Racism affects all persons of color, but especially African Americans.
- Racism is systemic. It results in health disparities, income disparities, educational disparities and mass incarceration.
- Racism privileges white people. Those of us who are white often take for granted the privileges that do now extend to people of color.
We in the United Methodist Church have an opportunity to be in relationship with people who are different from us, and we should intentionally work on those relationships. We need to have some courageous conversations to understand the experiences of people with a different ethnicity.
I am clear that I have work to do personally in addressing this issue. I hope and pray that, when you are given the opportunity to make progress individually, that you will avail yourself of that opportunity.
We need to reclaim and recommit to the creation of a beloved community where all God’s people are valued and included regardless of the color of their skin. If heaven includes people of all ages, nations and races, let’s start living on earth as it is in heaven.
Bishop Scott J. Jones