To all Oklahoma United Methodists
from Bishop Jimmy Nunn of the Oklahoma Area:
A response and call to action against racism
The evil of racism reared its ugly head in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. What unfolded there and continuing violence and threats of violence against people must move us beyond tears to action.
Therefore, I issue a three-step call to Oklahoma United Methodists:
to prayer, to discussion of the statements below, and to specific group and individual acts of kindness toward people of different ethnicity — all of these making a concrete statement against hatred.
Our highest response to evil is to pray. Jesus taught us to pray, asking God to “deliver us from evil.” As I write this note, the words of Rev. Harry Emerson Fosdick return to my mind: “Save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.”
Lord, in your mercy, hear our prayers.
Any organization or network that dehumanizes people is fundamentally evil. Such organizations thrive on intimidation and violence. They espouse a narrow vision of self-preservation, provoke the worst in people, and act to repress persons unlike themselves.
The 2016 United Methodist Book of Discipline articulates the perspective we offer the world — the opposite of those hate groups. Below, I have reproduced parts of paragraphs 162 and 162A as a guide for your prayers and response. I encourage you to engage in group discussion drawing on the statements and in actions expressing Christian love toward people whose ethnicity differs from yours.
From the Book of Discipline:
“The rights and privileges a society bestows upon or withholds from those who comprise it indicate the relative esteem in which that society holds particular persons and groups of persons. We affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We therefore work toward societies in which each person’s value is recognized, maintained, and strengthened. We support the basic rights of all persons to equal access to housing, education, communication, employment, medical care, legal redress for grievances, and physical protection. We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation. Our respect for the inherent dignity of all persons leads us to call for the recognition, protection, and implementation of the principles of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights so that communities and individuals may claim and enjoy their universal, indivisible, and inalienable rights.”
“Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons”
“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. Racism includes both personal and institutional racism. Personal racism is manifested through the individual expressions, attitudes, and/or behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and that maintain the benefits of this system. Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racist value system. Racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. In many cultures white persons are granted unearned privileges and benefits that are denied to persons of color. We oppose the creation of a racial hierarchy in any culture. Racism breeds racial discrimination. We define racial discrimination as 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.
“Therefore, we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life. We commit as the Church to move beyond symbolic expressions and representative models that do not challenge unjust systems of power and access.”