A Cabinet response to the escalation of hate crimes and violence in Iowa

A Cabinet response to the escalation of hate crimes and violence in Iowa

September 20, 2020

Siblings in Christ of the Iowa Annual Conference:
In recent weeks, we have seen the escalation of hate crimes and violence across Iowa. In the small community of Stuart, a family discovered racial epithets spray-painted on their home. Near the college town of Grinnell, authorities are investigating an apparent homicide after witnesses discovered the body of Michael Williams, a Black man, burning in a Jasper county ditch. Too frequently, we receive reports from laity and clergy around our state that in their communities, flyers filled with hateful, divisive content have been placed on cars during worship or distributed in neighborhoods. These incidents marked by hate and violence must not be diminished or dismissed. 
Friends, this is a moment when church after church, lay person after lay person and pastor after pastor, we must stand for righteousness and holiness by standing against intolerance, injustice, and hate. One church at a time, one town at a time, one city at a time, we must look deep into our very souls to begin this healing and hard work.  

Hearing again the echo of the prophet Micah, let us reach out with words and actions of support to proclaim as people of faith we are called to a higher and more holy calling to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with our God.
Beloved United Methodists across Iowa, do not hold back from standing alongside our church and community members in these places of pain, fear, righteous anger, and uncertainty that seem to be a constant and become even more elevated when hate crimes happen. Remember that in our shared identity as disciples of Jesus, we stand in the waters of our common baptism where Jesus calls us to reject evil in its many forms, including racist behavior that presents itself as intimidation, harassment, hateful rhetoric, bullying behavior (whether in person or online) and other forms of violence.
Accordingly, we call on you to join us with Iowa Bishop Laurie Haller and her Cabinet in a week of prayer, confession, and solidarity as we come together with individuals and communities threatened by violence amid crimes of hate. It is time for us to unite around our common humanity to say enough is enough. As a church, we must step into the gaps and become agents of compassion and change. This invitation is a matter of “loving our neighbors as God loves us.” And especially in these days when we often see the worst of humanity, loving our neighbor means reaching out, taking the initiative to know your neighbor, learn their story, seeking to understand their pain and lament, confessing our own shortcomings and sin as we realize we need to be and do more than we have been or done in the past.  
Furthermore, we call on you to turn to our sacred texts that teach us the following: 

  • We believe all humankind is created in the image of God and that life is sacred.
  • We believe that we must cross existing divides within the religious, political, and social locations that purport an “us versus them” mentality. 
  • We believe all people should be treated with dignity and respect, recognizing that love, not hate, is what Jesus calls us to as we seek to live Jesus’ words, “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”  

You may wish to begin with a physically distanced candlelight vigil in your church parking lot or on the public square. You may choose to turn on your porch lights at sundown as a statement of God’s light in these troubled times. You may choose to research racism and what it means — noting that truly good, moral people often lean away from this topic because it is offensive and we get uncomfortable — but the reality is that we all need to lean into it to be better informed as people called to community, compassion, and care. You may choose to reach out to your elected officials, encouraging them in their response, as well. You may choose to explore the websites and resources of our United Methodist boards and agencies in their efforts to educate and empower.  
One place we can all start is at the beginning and end of each day in the praying of prayers familiar to our faith:
Prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace: where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console, to be understood as to understand, to be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen.
The Lord’s Prayer
Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom and the power, and the glory, forever and ever. Amen. 
Bishop Laurie and the Appointive Cabinet of the Iowa Annual Conference