Excerpt from Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson
Interview with Bryan Stevenson
July 17, 2020, NEW YORK- The United Methodist Women Board of Directors affirms the statement that “Black Lives Matter to God and to United Methodist Women.” We must dismantle racist systems in our communities, agencies, workplaces, governments and churches.
The Board calls on United Methodist Women members and leaders to:
Racism exists. Racism kills. Racism is a sin that occurs at individual, institutional and cultural levels, including in our disproportionately white U.S. church. The evidence of racism and White privilege is irrefutable and not up for debate. Listen to people of color. Listen to God’s stirrings as you pray for a church that does not perpetuate white supremacy and how you can help build a more just kin-dom.
Read the Charter for Racial Justice and let it convict you. Read it alone and read it out loud in community. The charter can be found in The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church, Resolution 3371, “A Charter for Racial Justice in an Interdependent Global Community.”
Read other promises of The United Methodist Church, such as Resolution 3379, “Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States”; Resolution 3422, “Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the United States”; Resolution 3376, “White Privilege in the United States”; and United Methodist Women’s new proposed resolution for General Conference 2021, “Voting Rights Protection in the United States.” Hold yourself, your church, and your United Methodist Women accountable to these promises.
Read and learn United Methodist Women’s Tools for Leaders: Resources for Racial Justice.
Learn more about United Methodist Women’s social action campaigns. Racism is at the core of the changes we are working to achieve. Learn more and sign up for action alerts at www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/action.
Read So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo, studied by the United Methodist Women Board of Directors and Program Advisory Group and a bonus book in the 2020 Reading Program. Take the free online class on the book. Purchase the book from a Black-owned bookstore.
Read about conversations with Michelle Alexander, Hannah Adair Bonner and Tamika Mallory at the Assembly 2018 in special issues of response magazine.
Engage with the United Methodist General Commission on Religion and Race and the General Board of Church and Society.
Learn about implicit bias. Learn to recognize White privilege. Learn how to stop everyday microaggressions. Learn more about the history not taught in our schools, churches, and homes. Do not generalize racism—learn about the different forms of racism, especially the exceptional lethality of racism against Black and Indigenous people of color.
Love is action. Love is ensuring the safety of all of God’s children and their flourishing. Love is living up to our expressed commitments. Love is letting our learning transform us and move us to transform the world by not repeating mistakes, by calling others in, by following the lead of the marginalized who have been crying out for ages.
Activate and strengthen the work of the United Methodist Women Committees on Charter for Racial Justice; contact the Charter for Racial Justice Support Team for engaging small groups in hard conversations about race and addressing current issues of racial violence:
Women of color must be leaders in United Methodist Women at all levels. Committees on nominations must make this a priority. This starts with welcome and invitation and examining why your church or United Methodist Women membership does not reflect the demographics of your community or of the community you want to be. Encourage district and conference committee on nominations to nominate persons that represent the racial diversity within their boundaries. United Methodist Women should recommend women of color for United Methodist Church district and conference leadership to assure women of color are nominated and elected each year.
Insist your pastor use the pulpit to speak on racism.
Participate in all levels of decision making in the church to help support ethnic ministries, the continuance of the General Commission on Religion and Race, real support of churches in communities of color and leadership of United Methodists of color.
Act in the ways the Book of Resolutions calls us to act. Among them, give attention to the employment, purchasing practices, environmental policies and availability of the institutions and businesses you support. Create spaces for learning and dialogue. Advocate for equal housing, employment, medical care and for environmental justice. Advocate for international and national policies that protect civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights. Reflect on your willingness to welcome persons without regard to race. Educate on racial profiling and establish networks of cooperation with criminal justice and law enforcement agencies. Challenge police engagement in immigration enforcement. Speak out publicly for police accountability regarding racial profiling, misconduct, abuse and killings. Work to end the use of solitary confinement. Provide reentry ministries for people released from prison.
Inform curriculum. Participate in state boards of education to ensure children’s education is not whitewashed.
Patronize Black businesses. Look for groups on Facebook highlighting Black businesses in your community or start your own group. Encourage stories in your local media.
Participate in justice movements led by people of color. If you are white, follow. Do not show up to take over. Do not assume you know best (you do not).
Talk to children about race. Buy them books and movies and toys that celebrate multiculturalism.
Vote for those whose policies will help end white supremacy. Contact your representatives when they don’t. March with those who need you marching. Act when you receive your action alert.
Love is letting the Spirit move you away from comfort and toward joy for all. And the Spirit is moving. Books on antiracism are sold out. Racist monuments are coming down. Police are being held more accountable and being removed from schools. Towns, cities and states are moving toward name changes that will no longer celebrate white supremacy and toward redirecting resources to programs that serve and build rather than divide and harm. May the fruits of the Spirit be more access to leadership, voting, health care, education, employment, healthy environments, wealth, safety, well-being, thriving lives for people of color.
The Spirit is moving, United Methodist Women. Be part of the movement.