WASHINGTON, D.C. — In light of recent decisions by grand juries in Missouri and New York, as well as concern of ongoing police violence in some communities, the General Board of Church and Society issues the following statement.

Christians are called to witness to the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ. United Methodists must be an example of social change by creating spaces of honest, faithful dialogue across differences and divides. We call on United Methodists to continue to seek racial reconciliation, to recognize and affirm the sacredness of all people. Further, we acknowledge the pain and death that black men and their families are suffering.

The Social Principles of The United Methodist Church affirm “those in rightful authority who serve the public, and we support their efforts to afford justice and equal opportunity for all people” (¶164F “Civil Obedience & Civil Disobedience,” Book of Discipline).


Recognizing the broken, wounded nature of our social systems, we urge United Methodists to advocate for the following in their communities, states and at the national level.

  1. Evaluate law enforcement practices and legal procedures.
    • Advocate for training of police forces that fosters public trust.
    • Eliminate militarization of local law enforcement agencies.
    • Urge local law enforcement officials to take steps to establish meaningful relationships in the community.
  2. Advocate for the establishment of independent citizen-review boards when deadly force is used by law enforcement against unarmed individuals. Such boards can help ensure transparency and trust between the government and the governed.
  3. Establish economic and social systems that ensure the welfare of all citizens by providing racial justice and equity. Accordingly, support the living-wage, tax-reform and educational policies that reduce racial inequalities.
  4. Work unceasingly for justice through prayer and strong non-violent direct action against injustice and institutional racism.

Retributive to restorative

Ultimately, we must change justice systems from retributive to restorative. A restorative system seeks the well-being of the whole community rather than retribution through punishment. Restorative justice, as our Social Principles emphasize, “seeks to repair the damage, right the wrong, and bring healing to all involved, including the victim, the offender, the families, and the community” (¶164H “Criminal & Restorative Justice”).

We confess to the transforming love and witness of Jesus Christ, that we are no longer subject necessarily to that cruel tyrant, violence. Rather, the Church as an agent of healing and systemic change is called to pursue communities of peace, reconciliation and well-being for all.

—The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe, General Secretary
General Board of Church & Society
The United Methodist Church
December 5, 2014

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.

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