Posted June 6, 2020
Posted June 6, 2020
Dear Laity and Clergy of the Florida Annual Conference:
Below you will find a statement from our cabinet. We realize it has been eleven days since the death of George Floyd. We have responded on social media and in clergy meetings and we felt like a more formal statement was important at this time. We also commend the statement of the SEJ College of Bishops, which was released today. We know you will find ways to address this in worship and you may choose to use these statements in some way. To our Black clergy colleagues, we see you, we hear you and we stand with you at this time. We are asking our White clergy to fully engage with this. We are working on actionable steps including training in the fall and the creation of an Anti-Racism Task Force. If you have input to this work, please communicate at this time with Alex Shanks at [email protected] You can also find a list of resources for this work here.
The Peace of the Lord,
The Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference
Cabinet Statement in Response to Racial Injustice
From the Cabinet of the Florida Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church
We join in the outrage expressed by multiple groups and leaders within our connection. The outrage is not only over the death of George Floyd (and countless others) but over the way in which systemic racism and white supremacy are imbedded in the history of our nation and of our church. This act of violence was perpetrated at the hands of those charged with protecting citizens and maintaining the peace. Racism is not new. White supremacy, xenophobia, and white privilege are interwoven within our social, political, and religious structures. Racism is a sin and is blatantly incompatible with Christian teaching.
As Jesus’ people we begin with the knowledge that all persons are created in the image of God. We believe all lives won’t matter until black lives matter.
We seek to name the injustices within the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church and work toward healing and unity. We acknowledge our complicity and our collective need to develop greater self-awareness. We repent of our individual and collective sins of omission and commission, particularly our silence and when we have not actively worked for racial justice.
We commit to listening. We commit to peace with justice. We commit to the urgency of educating ourselves. We commit to change. We commit to further training of our clergy and resourcing local churches in order to create heart transformation for all Florida United Methodists. We encourage Florida United Methodists to work toward eliminating obstacles to voting. We ask people to move towards one another and build new relationships.
We join you in prayer with a commitment to build a future with hope. The truth of this statement will be made known as we witness these words put into action.
The Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church
450 Martin L King Jr Ave, Lakeland, FL 33815
Posted June 4, 2020
During the last week we have watched an incredible outpouring of emotion across our nation. In conversation with friends and clergy of color we have heard pain, fear, sadness, anger, and more. We too have wrestled with those same feelings. The reality is that George Floyd’s death is the most recent example of how black lives are so quickly taken in our society. The uneven effects of COVID, the deaths of Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, the threat against Christian Cooper, the killing by and of Tony McDade locally, and countless personal stories we will never hear have left so many of our human family feeling deeply vulnerable and downright unsafe. People are clamoring for answers, many are filing into the streets across the country, and our community has joined the widespread outcry and call for change.
We offer you a pastoral word and call to lament in this moment. Many of the people who receive this communication do not live with the day to day reality of social interactions that could take our lives. For your pastors, the COVID pandemic is the longest stretch of our lives where we have had to deal with the deep fear and anxiety of not knowing if walking down the street or into the store may result in our death. This is but a glimpse into what many of our brothers and sisters of color regularly live with. We know when discomfort and uncertainty wells up inside us about how to respond or what to do in the face of our family’s pain, this story is not about us. Sitting in the discomfort we feel is a choice we must make, because we have a choice to make. Working through our uncertainty in this moment is a sign of God’s grace and equips us to better support our family.
Lamentations are part of our Christian tradition, passed down through the great cloud of witnesses to our faith from Abraham’s doubt, to Ruth’s prose, in Jesus’ tears, Wesley’s uncertainty, and Martin’s dream. We find comfort and peace in our grief thanks to God’s grace. We also find strength, together. While we must lament we must also act. Something simple to do in this moment is show love for your neighbor and check on your friends, particularly your friends of color. Let them know you care and you’re ready to listen. You don’t have to have answers or solutions, nor is this the time for lots of questions. Just sit with them, listen, engage when asked, and acknowledge the experiences they share.
Another step is to reflect on what you are doing to move God’s Kingdom forward with honor and respect for the wonderful diversity of Creation. Like the old children’s song goes, “red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight,” God’s love is for everyone. You can Google antiracism resources and start some research. We’ve also included a reflection from one of our member’s, Walli Beall, with this message to serve as a guidepost for all our journeys. We can do a better job of confronting our own biases and pray for the grace to do it without harm.
Finally, if you are called to act, we encourage you to be safe. There are demonstrations happening almost daily. There is one tonight. People will gather at 7pm at the Capitol and walk to Cascades Park. Our mayor, city commission, police chief, city manager and assistant city manager, as well as several clergy made a public statement on Monday of this week supporting and encouraging peaceful demonstration. We echo their sentiment and ask that you also remember we are in the middle of a community-wide pandemic response.
We Love Being Your Pastors,
Dr. Wayne, Rev. Neal, and Dr. Nick