September 8, 2015
To the Clergy, Lay Leaders, and Congregations of The United Methodist Church in the Tennessee Conference:
Ferguson. Houston. Cincinnati. Charleston.
Sandra Bland. Tamir Rice. Trayvon Martin. Michael Brown. Samuel Dubose. The Charleston Nine.
The towns and the names roll off our tongues so readily. We pray for them and mourn with those who survive. We abhor the systemic racism that pervades our world, wringing our hands and deploring our inability to do anything about it! We declare our support and solidarity with the injured and hurting, then drift back into our complacency and feelings of helplessness…until the next broadcast.
No longer! As Erin Hawkins, General Secretary of the General Commission on Religion and Race, has so movingly stated, “Enough is enough!” As United Methodists, we support the church and our communities with our prayers, our presence, our gifts, our service, and our witness. Not just on Sunday morning, but every day with our lives. This is the time for us to demonstrate publicly as a denomination that injustices, oppression, or inequities against anyone or group of people, are sins that must be confessed, repented of, and corrected in each United Methodist congregation and community in the Tennessee Conference.
So, I humbly urge all of you to join me in this work of social conscience and justice through a continuing time of prayer, sincere self-examination, confession, and commitment to work together relentlessly to move into God’s desired future of:
–No more violence and death because of the color of one’s skin.
–No more abuse of those who dare to speak out against the systems of oppression or who resist oppressive behaviors.
–No more dehumanization of those who have lost their lives or livelihood by suggesting that they deserved their fate because they weren’t perfect human beings.
Please join me in a prayer of confession for our failure to demonstrate our confessed belief in the sacred worth of all people on Sunday, October 4, 2015 as we observe World Communion Sunday in all Conference churches as a Day of Prayer! Resources especially created for this Conference-wide observance are attached to this letter, along with links to additional materials from the General Commission on Religion and Race and other UMC sources. These may be adapted for use in your congregation as necessary, keeping in mind the need for acknowledging and confessing our sins of omission and commission with regard to all our brothers and sisters.
Prayer and solidarity with those who are engaged in challenging the systemic injustices in our world are valuable, but they are not enough. Following the Day of Prayer on World Communion Sunday, materials leading to conversations within each congregation, neighborhood, district, and ultimately the Conference, will be distributed.
The goal is conversation, not confrontation; and constructive dialogues dealing with the hard issues stemming from decades of oppression, systemic disenfranchisement of large segments of our population, the continuing segregation of churches, schools, and neighborhoods by race and economics, and our failure in the United Methodist Church to witness boldly and actively to our faith. From these dialogues, we will build relationships that are accountable, inclusive, and courageous that reflect the love of Jesus Christ.
The time is now. Enough is enough! God IS with us!
William T. McAlilly, Bishop