I am heartbroken by the events this week at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina. For too long, we have seen incidents which have inflamed our communities of color. Police shootings in Ferguson, Baltimore, Albuquerque, Salinas, and Dallas involving people of color have raised the level of awareness. As the Church, often, our response is quick and shallow. We feel as if we have far too many other issues to address.
Many of these issues are important issues, make no mistake about it. On the other hand, we have allowed the debate or discussion, or the celebration of these issues, to overshadow a much more needed dialogue.
We celebrate Imagine No Malaria and send millions of dollars overseas but ignore the epidemics of High Blood Pressure, Diabetes and HIV/AIDS that are decimating our communities of color in our own backyards.
We debate LGBTQ issues and speak of schism while allowing our local church leaders to make comments like “we would rather close our doors than allow those people in” when discussing the changing neighborhoods and demographics around dying churches.
We seek to change our church’s Judicial system but make no efforts to speak out against a criminal justice system that is broken and fraught with problems.
We have 6 white men suggest a restructure of the United Methodist Church that includes the elimination of the General Commission on Religion and Race as well as The General Commission on the Role and Status of Women. We give short shrift to the important role these Commissions play in creating systems and providing resources which strive to create equitable opportunities and systems in response to our own recognition of our history of racism and sexism.
We, as a denomination, continue to pay female clergy and ethnic clergy far less than their white male counterparts.
We can no longer afford to allow other issues to usurp attention away from the equally important issues of race and sexism. As our communities respond to the growing and rampant racism, may our churches respond in an appropriate manner. As the old spiritual states
There is balm in Gilead,
To make the wounded whole;
There’s power enough in heaven,
To cure a sin-sick soul.
It is time to spread the balm over our church now. It is time to address the issues of institutional racism in the church now. It is time to cure the church’s sin-sick soul.