Below the fold is a statement from the Bishop of the Great Plains Annual Conference issued August 15, 2017. It is not short, but it is worth your time.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am sure you, like me, have been deeply troubled since hearing or reading about the events stemming from deplorable racism displayed last weekend by white nationalists and supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia. The circumstances there that led directly to the death of Heather D. Heyer, the indirect deaths of two law enforcement officers, and injuries to 34 people serve as yet another reminder that the United States has not put racial tensions behind it – not even close.
The protest to oppose a plan by local officials to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from Emancipation Park was a hate rally organized and titled, “Unite the Right.” The protesters were met by counter-protesters bravely standing up for the inherent dignity, rights, and equal protections for all persons. Angry shouts reportedly turned into shoving, shoving into brawling, and then a young man used a vehicle as a weapon by driving into a crowd of counter protesters.
What happened in Virginia is a senseless act of blatant racism that is increasingly reemerging as a normal state of affairs in our society. This “Unite the Right” protest sought to drive a wedge further between people based on color and religion. It was not civil. It was not American. And it most certainly was not Christian.
Racism is a sin. It is antithetical to the gospel of Jesus Christ. As Christians and United Methodists, we affirm all persons as equally valuable in the sight of God. We vehemently deplore personal and institutional racism enacted through attitudes of inherent superiority over others, acts of hate, and violence toward groups or persons because of race, color, national origin, and ethnicity (BOD ¶ 162).
Brothers and sisters, Christ is our peace. Through the cross, Christ has broken down the dividing walls of hostility between peoples, reconciled us to God, and created a new humanity (Ephesians 2:11-21). We believe that Christ can overcome violence by transforming and healing sin-sick human minds and hearts.
I ask that you continue to remember the people of Charlottesville, Virginia in your prayers. Please continue to pray and work for an end to the insidious persistence of deplorable racism in our country. Never tire of working for a more just world and for the dignity of all people. Make a positive contribution toward peace according to your particular opportunities and responsibilities. As Christians, let us ask Christ in prayer to see others with his eyes; as brothers and sisters, not rivals, statistics, and opponents. Let us transform our divided world by working to build bridges of peace, not walls of hostility.
Pray that the grace of the Holy Spirit will bring healing, reconciliation, and peace in people’s hearts and in our nation. The journey is long, but Christ goes before us,
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.