I confess, prior to attending a United Methodist school, I had never heard of the United Methodist Church. Further, prior to becoming United Methodist, I had never experienced racism in church. Let’s just say, my transition into the United Methodist ethos presented me with more questions than answers.
Thanks to Black Methodists for Church Renewal and my love of the Black Church, I have had the privilege of meeting men and women of faith, courage and deep moral convictions from across the connection. They have the capacity to love like Jesus, examine themselves and embrace change with power and intention.
I learned, at the time of the merger and dissolution of the Central Jurisdiction, these men and women created Black Methodists for Church Renewal giving Black Churches a mechanism for unifying, surviving and thriving in the newly created United Methodist Church. They faced opposition from Black bishops who remained tied to the status quo, complicit in their own oppression. Over fifty years later, we are seeking a do over. Once again, we are trying to purge white supremacy from the church. This time the Council of Bishops is leading the way.
While some of our white siblings are proclaiming Black Lives Matter and scrambling to figure out white fragility and white rage, we must not sit idly by. We must take this opportunity to educate ourselves about the deleterious effects this oppressive existence has had on our souls. Fighting evil requires wisdom and courage. God has given us the power to overcome. We must engage in spiritual warfare, spiritual growth and personal transformation. We must refrain from self-sabotage as we enter into a renewed hope of fully unifying the Body of Christ within the UMC.
The UMC reflects our country. Our affinity for divisions and quarrels over endless rules and regulations on top of endless meetings and committees has created a bureaucracy which functions similar to the government. It is challenging to figure out who does what or where to go to get timely information. But knowing the process, how to accomplish a desired task or putting a black face in a previously white space does not change “the system of white supremacy”.
The 1968 agreement to desegregate without a corresponding desire by the white majority to integrate has caused us harm and left our Black churches in the uncomfortable space between a rock and a hard place. We have abandoned many of the culturally competent systems, teachings and training methods that contributed to the rich heritage of the Black church. We have neglected our connection with one another by failing to understand we were our own best allies. Simply, putting faces in spaces was never the goal of those who created BMCR. We must purpose in our minds to be the ones for whom we have been waiting.
Have we lost our willingness to work for our own freedom? Frederick Douglass warned us “power concedes nothing without a demand.” Far too many want to reap personal benefits from positions but are unable or unwilling to work for the good of all Black people or speak truth to power. This behavior is particularly harmful within the context of the local church. Many of our churches have had to spend years languishing. Too many have yet to fully recover from bad appointments and deceptive and/or ungodly leadership. We must prepare ourselves and our churches for change and transition toward God’s preferred future. Surely if the world is willing to address change, the church can find a way to transform.
It is cowardly and without faith to cry that the situation will adjust itself...Our time under God is now! —Dr. Earnest A. Smith, 1968 Keynote
Trusting God to completion,
July 25, 2020
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