“I give you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other. This is how everyone will know that you are my disciples, when you love each other.” John 13:34-35, CEB
Responding to Racism
“I join in calling people to speak out about and follow Jesus’ way of love seeking to be people of peace and advocates of justice in response to a nation that continues to be wounded by racism, experiencing anger, and in profound grief.”
Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball
We hope that these resources will help you and your congregation to explore race and Christianity and have conversations about how Jesus called us to live as people of peace and advocates of justice.
How to talk about Racism, and how to respond to systematic Racism:
Helpful resources to begin to have healthy dialogues.
The General Commission on Race and Religion: A wide variety of Resources
Discipleship Ministries resource pages: Responding to systemic racism
The General Board of Church and Society: Sacred Worth Books, books for young readers with diverse characters.
A Glossary of Racial Equity, tools for individuals and small groups to better understand so that the quality of dialogue and discourse on race can be enhanced.
Recommendations for parents and youth group leaders of young people ages 12-18.
Tools for processing protests with teens, from Youth Worker Collective.
A downloadable curriculum to share with your young people from The Youth Cartel.
Bishop Steiner Ball participated in the West Virginia Council of Churches Interfaith Press Conference, Tuesday June 9th. Here is her statement:
On the steps of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Charleston, WV, I participated in an interfaith press conference and witness sponsored by the West Virginia Council of Churches concerning the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. The following is the text of what I shared.
Good morning. I am Sandra Steiner Ball, current president of the West Virginia Council of Churches and Bishop of the West Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church.
Thank you for being here, for caring enough to be here. Thank you for multiplying the voices that call for justice and change in the wake of the senseless deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, and Breonna Taylor. These deaths call for response and change.
As a Christian and a United Methodist, I believe in the sacred value and worth of all people. I believe all people are created in the image of God – valuable and beloved. I receive and seek to follow Jesus command to love one another unconditionally as God loves us.
My baptismal vows call me to resist evil, injustice and oppression in whatever form they present themselves. White supremacy, the idea that whiteness reigns above, is better than, is not just. No one person or culture or race is better than another. I am a person of privilege. I have benefited from privilege that has not been extended to my black brothers and sisters just because people see me as white. This is not fair, not right, not just, not equality.
We gather today as people connected to a beautiful variety of faith communities – to say that these deaths were wrong and unjust, to confront the virus of racism that has plagued our communities for generations, to challenge the unjust systems of power and access, and oppose the creation and existence of racial hierarchies in any culture. We have an obligation as people of the human family to redress long-standing, systemic social deprivation of racial and ethnic persons...
We, the College of Bishops of the Northeastern Jurisdiction of the United Methodist Church, prayerfully stand with our pastors, members, and churches during the aftermath of the recent deaths of unarmed African American people at the hands of law enforcement officers and citizens across our nation. We decry the murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and countless others.
The racist system and structures that permeate every facet of life in the United States including health care, employment, education, wealth, the criminal justice system and housing infects our churches as well. In the face of these injustices we often embody the words of the prophet Jeremiah by treating “the wound of God’s people carelessly, saying ‘peace, peace’ when there is no peace” because there is no justice. (Jeremiah 6:14)... (read more here)
A statement from the West Virginia Council of Churches re: the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor:
"Two basic tenets of the Christian faith are that all human beings are created in the Image of God and that we are called to love God and to love one another.
Once again, as our nation is witness to the senseless deaths of three African Americans..."
Litany to End Racism and Discrimination This worship resource may be used in any season.
A Pentecost Message, from Bishop Sandra Steiner Ball
I have written many times now about my grief and anger in the midst of unjust actions, the sin of racism, the sin of treating people as objects instead of persons of sacred worth. I have wondered: What more can I say?
George Floyd’s death was wrong. The violence being perpetuated in a number of our cities is wrong. The destruction of property – which also destroys even more of the limited job employment opportunities that the pandemic has not yet taken and destroys some of the very service centers and markets where the most marginalized in our communities can get food, shelter, clothing, and medical care – is wrong. Racism is wrong. Violence perpetuated and encouraged against any group of people is wrong. The manipulation of people and gatherings that seek to help give a voice to the marginalized and the disenfranchised by turning protests into destructive riots is wrong. Keeping silent in the midst of all these things is wrong.
I groan with the Spirit of God and all of creation at this moment. All of this that is happening – the disregard for human life – racism – a host of other isms - a pandemic where all people do not have equal access to medical care – systems that continue to act as if some are more valuable or better than others – is not what I believe God had in mind when God’s Spirit swept across what was formless and void and brought forth life. All of this, I believe, is not what God had hoped and prayed for when on that first Pentecost, the barriers were broken and all people were enabled to hear the Good News of Jesus Christ in their own languages, within their own cultures. This was not what God had in mind when God’s Spirit birthed the bringing of people together – creating community in the midst of difference where God’s Spirit was poured out upon all flesh and all could hear a message of hope, of life, and be called to a vision, a vision of working and sharing together - prophesying, dreaming dreams, rejoicing.
And so, I groan. I bring my anger, my frustration, my fears, the injustice I see and the pain I experience and lay it before God, knowing that even as I bring all this to God, God has been grieving, groaning, and lamenting – even before I realized it was right so to do! The Good News is - God is here and God will not stop being here!
Yes, yes, yes – the church is essential! Pentecost birthed the Church so that God’s message, the message that God so loved the world, and all that comes with that message … would continue to be unconditionally shared for all time so that people for all time could find their way to transformation and new life. In these turbulent times, in these uncertain, and anxious times, in these times when perhaps many have forgotten the purpose of why the church exists, Jesus is once again trying to gather us together just as a hen tries to gather its brood under its wings. Please, please, please - would you have it? Will you, will I, allow God’s Spirit to gather us?
God’s Spirit is moving! Christ’s light is present! Will you and I proclaim, testify to the Good News so that the wind of God’s Spirit and the light of Christ might make its way through the cracks – move through the openings no matter how small - to bring us to a new Pentecost experience?
Will you and I allow the Spirit of God to capture us once again and move us to witness and testify in all the languages and ways God is seeking to muster through us, to both hear and proclaim again the Good News of Jesus Christ?
Will we continue in the work and ministry of proclaiming the work of Justice in constructive, life-giving ways? Will we commit ourselves once again to the power of working together, the gift of God’s variety, difference, and color of all the people God created in God’s own image?
And, will we be bold in sharing the hope and the truth of God’s power to transform, redeem, heal, forgive, and bring new life to both individuals and communities? May it be so.
From the United Methodist Book of Discipline (The Social Principles), paragraph 162 A.
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.
We commend and encourage the self-awareness of all racial and ethnic groups and oppressed people that leads them to demand their just and equal rights as members of society. We assert the obligation of society and people within the society to implement compensatory programs that redress long-standing, systemic social deprivation of racial and ethnic persons.
We further assert the right of historically underrepresented racial and ethnic persons to equal and equitable opportunities in employment and promotion; to education and training of the highest quality; to nondiscrimination in voting, access to public accommodations, and housing purchase or rental; to credit, financial loans, venture capital, and insurance policies; to positions of leadership and power in all elements of our life together; and to full participation in the Church and society. We support affirmative action as one method of addressing the inequalities and discriminatory practices within the Church and society.