The pandemic of COVID-19, the recent murders of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd, and the worldwide protests regarding racism and police brutality have compelled us, the leadership of Belmont Wesley Fellowship, to listen, pray, and now speak. We give thanks for the many other organizations who have issued statements, particularly the Wesley Foundation at the University of Memphis on whose statement we have patterned our own. Here are our thoughts and commitments.
The global pandemic of COVID-19 has highlighted the social and economic disparities within our societies and has helped exacerbate the realities of these inequities. The over 100,000 deaths in the US have disproportionately affected minority groups with African Americans having the highest mortality rate, and we recognize that this reality is unfortunately not a new pattern. Words cannot convey the scale of this current tragedy, but we would like to express our deep sadness and grief by the losses we universally face. As a community of faith we also want to acknowledge our belief that death and suffering are not God’s will. God is desperately aching for and with us, broken alongside of us right in the midst of our hurting. We further believe, though, that somehow, through it all, God will bring transformation and new life. This knowledge may not bring instant comfort, but God’s promise of life, even in the midst of death, is the hope on which we base everything.
As followers of Jesus, we feel called to be on the side against oppression. In Isaiah 1:17, the Lord calls us to “learn to do good, seek justice, and correct oppression.” These commands are fulfilled repeatedly in the actions of Jesus. He was a protester. He stormed the temple courts, confronted leadership about injustice, spoke publicly to the masses, and created followers who would work tirelessly for justice. Because of his leadership and teachings we feel compelled to actively work against racism and oppression and be known as advocates for love, equality, and understanding.
As a campus ministry connected with and supported by the United Methodist Church, Belmont Wesley Fellowship seeks to embody sacramental theology in our community. We strive to live out the words of the United Methodist Baptismal Covenant wherein promises are made to “resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.” Recognizing that both the power and command to resist evil come from God, we depend on God’s guidance in undertaking the work of antiracism. We also acknowledge our failure at living into these baptismal promises, and we confess our sins and seek forgiveness each week as a community which celebrates Holy Communion together. Our celebration of Holy Communion is open to all as we remember that Jesus turned no one away. Through sharing the body and blood of Christ with one another, we celebrate the unity brought about by the Holy Spirit and seek to live as one body with diverse members.
As Christians in America we possess a unique amount of privilege. Our society has come to conflate being Christian, being American, and being White in an incredibly dangerous way. We recognize the privilege we carry as it reflects in every facet of life — from the holidays our calendar elevates to the ways in which our politicians appeal to the Bible as a prop or a proof-text. We also recognize that our Black Christian siblings do not benefit from this privilege equally, as their faith communities have been used as targets for race-based terrorism. However, we firmly believe this conflation of White and American identities and Christianity which has led Christians in this nation to participate in unjust systems which do not lead to flourishing and life abundant for all God’s people is sinful. We place our faith in a brown-skinned man from Galilee who disrupted unjust systems, fellowshipped with the marginalized, preached and enacted healing and life, died in a state-sanctioned execution, and rose victorious to break all chains for all people who inherently bear God’s multi-faceted image. We commit to leveraging our Christian privilege to speak up against the sinful institution of racism, recognizing that our voice as Christians is often honored and heard in spaces where others are not. We commit to raising up the voices of the marginalized and sitting at the feet of diverse leaders to learn how to most effectively act against injustice as it appears in the Church. The prophet Amos called for justice to roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. May we allow those waters to rush over us and carry us forward toward God’s life-giving vision for the kin’dom.
As a community, we will continue our commitments of practicing antiracism in the following ways:
- One of our spring break immersion trips will involve a visit to the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, TN as well as discussions with leaders in antiracist work.
- We will focus a special service and events on the celebration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day and continue to discuss making his dream a reality.
- We will visit diverse, multiracial, and multiethnic churches and encourage students to participate in ministries which challenge segregation.
- We will continue to welcome everyone to the community of Belmont Wesley Fellowship and will commit new energy and resources to engaging with students of color.
- It is crucial to our mission of sharing community, communion, and Christ’s love with all that we openly call racism a sin and proclaim Black Lives Matter.
In Christ’s Love for All Creation,
The Belmont Wesley Fellowship Leadership Team
Here is a list of resources we believe will be helpful in your journey of antiracism: https://linktr.ee/belmontwesley