In the aftermath of violent deaths this week in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; St. Paul, Minnesota; and Dallas, Texas, we speak to a nation that is overwhelmed with anger, grief, frustration, and despair. These deaths have left our hearts and voices crying for justice. The preliminary evidence and the shocking video images are a convincing reminder that we have work to do. The deaths of young black males in encounters with white police officers call for the need of a bi-partisan political and legal response, beyond (but including) the statements and prayers of the church. The subsequent deaths of police officers remind us of the honorable service of the great majority of these public servants and the destructive cycle of violence and retribution. We pray for each family in their profound loss and grief.
We call upon the people of the United Methodist Church to enter into the challenge and complexity of this present moment. We affirm that every person is created in the image of God. We acknowledge our complicity in the sin of institutional racism, which denies the inherently sacred nature of every person. We confess that we have often allowed our ideological differences to become more important than our unity in the One Body. We repent of our temptation to live in fear of one another and to seek security apart from God. We claim the essential need for all Christians of privilege to listen and seek deeper understanding when our brothers and sisters cry out for justice. We commit ourselves to speak on behalf of those who are denied justice. We support the difficult work of those in law enforcement and at the same time seek ways of moving toward better community engagement. We pledge to address the problem of mass incarceration of young black males in our society. We recognize the temptation to become numb in the face of persistent mass violence, and we hear the call as disciples of Jesus to move beyond lovers of peace to become peacemakers.
Let us together pray that God will work through us to bear witness to Christ’s call to bring healing to a fractured community and a broken world. When we cannot find the strength within ourselves, may we turn to you, for we know you call us to love our neighbor. Remind us O God that love casts out all fear. Make us a people of transformational change, of reconciliation, of justice and instruments of your peace. Even now and especially now – for we offer this prayer in the face of struggle, pain, tragedy and unrest, and yet with confidence in the power of your love – our God, our Redeemer, Healer, the prince of peace! We pray in our own time for the fulfillment of the prophecy given to Zechariah on the first Advent, even as we pray, “Come, Lord Jesus” and claim the promise of the gospel:
By the tender mercy of our God
the dawn from on high will break upon us,
to give light to those who sit in darkness
and in the shadow of death,
to guide our feet into the way of peace.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough, President
Council of Bishops
Issued on behalf of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church