Vital Conversations on Race
Vital Conversations on Race, a video series from the General Commission on Religion and Race of the United Methodist Church--Sundays following the 10:00 am service, starting September 17.
 
In the Summer newsletter I included under the “Pastor’s Note” section a document from the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church (click here to view it). It was a resolution passed by a meeting of the Northeastern Jurisdictional Conference outlining actions to be taken by every annual conference in the northeast, in which we, as part of Upper New York Annual Conference, are included. In essence, the document calls all of us to work diligently to combat racism in all its forms. The document uses strong language and is very direct. In light of the rising racial tensions in our nation, such direct and strong action needs to be used. Domestic terrorists from federally recognized hate groups such as the Neo-Nazis and the Ku Klux Klan have been emboldened into actions designed to create fear and terror in the hearts of racial and religious minorities. As followers of Jesus Christ and as members of the United Methodist Church, we are committed to loving God with all that we are and to love our neighbors as ourselves—to do no harm, to do good, and to stay in love with God (our founder, John Wesley’s, 3 rules).
 
The governing book of the United Methodist Church is the Book of Discipline. Within this book is a section entitled the Social Principles, outlining the ongoing debate in the UMC on issues concerning our nation and the world. The Preamble to the Social Principles, found on page 105 in The Book of Discipline (¶160) begins, “We, the people called United Methodists, affirm our faith in God our Creator and Father, in Jesus Christ our Savior, and in the Holy Spirit, our Guide and Guard. We acknowledge our complete dependence upon God in birth, in life, in death, and in life eternal. Secure in God’s love, we affirm the goodness of life and confess our many sins against God’s will for us as we find it in Jesus Christ.”
 
The section of the Social Principles on the Social Community begins with “Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons.” In this portion of our Book of Discipline our denomination affirms that racism is a sin. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. As sin, racism plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, in as much as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. To combat this sin and others that permeates our church and our society, the UMC has several general boards and commissions that offer resources to local churches and annual conferences. Two important general agencies in our work combating and dismantling racism are the General Board on Church and Society (www.umcjustice.org), which advocates for our stances in the Social Principles, and the General Commission on Religion and Race (www.gcorr.org), which directly addresses racism in the church and in our society.
 
Beginning on September 17th, we will utilize a resource from the General Commission on Religion and Race following the 10:00 am service each Sunday—Vital Conversations Series 1 and 2. These include videos from experts in the field of racial relations that will help us to sort through much of the rhetoric surrounding race conversations, politics, and vocabulary. The first series is 7 sessions long.
 
We may not individually hold racist thoughts or beliefs, but we live in a cultural that is inherently racist on many different levels. We may not be guilty of creating this racial culture but we do live within it and are responsible in how we respond to it. Together we can affect change that brings us as a church and as a culture closer to the dream of God’s beloved community, God’s Kingdom, God’s Kin-dom. Let us boldly come together in vital conversations. If you have a suggestion of other times to offer the conversations during the week, I would love to hear them. The more we engage in this work, the closer we come to God’s realm.
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