Dear faithful leaders of the Iowa Annual Conference,
Amid our nation’s deep grief over the loss of so many American lives from the COVID-19 pandemic, we are witnessing that another fatal virus of systemic racism is taking away precious lives and human dignity. George Floyd’s outcry, “I can’t breathe,” at his last moment, haunts the whole American public. His senseless death puts us in trauma and moral injury because it reveals deeply rooted racial bigotries in the history of our country. It denies who we are as fellow human beings of sacred worth, and it disavows our Christian values of love and grace for all. However, we have seen so many people across the nation awakened and mobilized to make a difference for the future of our country. We must and will do better.
The people called United Methodists firmly believe that racism is sin ( BOD, ¶ 162. A), because it is antithetical to Jesus’ teaching of perfect love for all people. The Social Principles defines that “ Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others… In many cultures, white persons are granted unearned privileges and benefits that are denied to persons of color” (Ibid.). All forms of systemic racism are intensifying “the disparate treatment and lack of full access and equity in resources, opportunities, and participation in the Church and in society based on race or ethnicity” (Ibid.).
We, the Appointive Cabinet, renounce all forms of systemic racism as sin detrimental to humanity. We reaffirm our baptismal commitment to resist the evil, injustice, and oppression that racism presents. We also call on the Iowa Conference to join together to “affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons” and to speak out against racism and transform our communities and churches. Martin Luther King, Jr., proclaimed that “Justice too long delayed is justice denied” (“Letter from Birmingham Jail”). We cannot breathe without justice and peace which is the oxygen for the wellbeing of our society. This is what God requires from us: “to do justice, embrace faithful love, and walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
Let us take a moment to acknowledge profound pain, suffering, and wounds in the hearts of those marginalized people of color across our communities. Especially, we stand in solidarity with the family of George Floyd and many other black lives who were senselessly sacrificed at the hands of white privilege. Here are some actionable items:
- Reach out to people of color in your congregations and communities to listen to their stories and grow in solidarity with them.
- Contact local officials to advocate for those who have no voice.
- Stand with those who protest injustice and racial inequality peacefully and without violence.
- Do not participate in or perpetuate the physical violence or the verbal violence of extremists who seek to divide, hate, or lie.
Following Jesus, who lived out his mission to the oppressed for freedom, justice, and reconciliation, let us strive for God’s kingdom and righteousness that will bring healing and peace to our wounded hearts and broken communities.
Peace in Christ,
Bishop Laurie Haller and the Appointive Cabinet