Pastoral letter about racism in America in 2017

Bishop Scott J. Jones
Texas Annual Conference, The United Methodist Church
August 14, 2017

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,

Racism is incompatible with Christianity.

Yet, to our shame as Americans and Christians, it has marked our history through slavery, segregation, discrimination, immigration policies and other practices both legal and informal.

While we have often fallen short of our ideals, the ideals have been clearly stated. Being American has always been a process of aspiring to the highest of goals. Our Declaration of Independence says “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men [persons] are created equal.” We embodied that principle more fully with the abolition of slavery and amending the constitution to provide equal protection. The Civil Rights movement of the late 20th century helped our country make progress in further embodying our ideals.   

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. helped Christians and Americans to see a vision of the beloved community, where no one would be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. Dr. King reminded us that God so loved “the world” that he gave his only Son, and that in Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, but all are one in Christ Jesus.  Dr. King died 49 years ago, and yet America is still not where it ought to be.

To our shame, overt racism is becoming more acceptable in American culture today. It is a deep affront to the Greatest Generation that their sacrifice in defeating racist, anti-Semitic Nazism is no longer respected. When Nazi slogans, Nazi salutes and Nazi flags are combined with racist slogans, racist chants and racist flags in public demonstrations Christians must stand up and bear witness to the truth of the Gospel. We must name evil and condemn it before it gathers strength.

The gospel of Jesus Christ says that God loves everyone, regardless of race, color, language or national origin. All human beings, both male and female, are created in the image of God and worthy of God’s love. Those of us who love God are called to love all those whom God loves, and that means everybody.

The events in Charlottesville this past weekend are only the latest in a long series of warning signs that our on-going fight against racism needs a response and recommitment from all Christians. Those of us who are white bear a special responsibility to make sure that our sisters and brothers from other races are supported and affirmed in this scary time and they need to know that they are not the only ones that speak up against bigotry and racism.  This is a Christian responsibility.

I encourage all Christians, and especially all United Methodists with whom I have a special relationship, to take steps to support people of color and condemn racist behavior.