Prayerfully stands with people of Ferguson awaiting grand jury decision

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The General Board of Church & Society, as an advocate for justice and peace in the United Methodist connection, prayerfully stands with the people of Ferguson, Mo., the Missouri Annual Conference, the state of Missouri, and the nation as we await the grand jury decision concerning the shooting death of Michael Brown.

We pray for Michael Brown’s family as it undergoes this trying situation. And, we also pray for police officer Darren Wilson and his family.

We believe “there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (John 4:18). In the spirit of love, we denounce any actions or words that pander to fear and division in advance of a grand jury decision on the circumstances surrounding Michael Brown’s death.

As our denomination’s Social Principles advise, we also offer our prayers “for 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”).

Institutional racism

Nonetheless, Michael Brown and innumerable others who have been victimized by violence call us to confess the ways our systems of government, law and education perpetuate the sin of institutional racism in the United States. As our Social Principles declare, under the established racist value system privileges and benefits are “unfairly denied persons of color” (¶162A “Rights of Racial & Ethnic Groups”).

Governments and laws should serve all citizens. If in good conscience individuals deem the law is discriminately enforced, our Social Principles recognize their right of nonviolent resistance without fear of violent reprisal (¶164A “Basic Freedoms & Human Rights”).

We commend the many who have extended acts of mercy in Ferguson. Many United Methodists in Missouri and around the world have offered their time and gifts, such as toiletries, clothing and funds, as acts of solidarity, hope and support for this beleaguered community.

We are also called to witness to the reconciling love of God in Jesus Christ. We 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 within the Church and in the world.

Call to advocacy

Recognizing the broken, wounded nature of our social systems, we urge United Methodists to advocate for the following:

  1. Demilitarization of local law-enforcement agencies. There must be an end to the overuse of military tactics and equipment to secure local communities.
  2. Independent citizen-review boards. Such boards can help ensure transparency and trust between the government and the governed.
  3. Economic and social systems that ensure the welfare of all citizens by providing racial justice and equity. Accordingly, we support raising the minimum wage, tax reform and educational policies that reduce racial inequalities.

Ultimately, we must change the U.S. justice system 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 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.

—General Board of Church & Society
The United Methodist Church
November 17, 2014

Leave a Reply