From Andrew de Ville, Southampton District Chair:
The events surrounding the death of George Floyd in America continue to highlight, and remind us, of the injustice which is part of our world, community and church. It should make us more determined to fight for justice for all people and I was pleased to read the President of Conference's statement which we have shown here:
A personal message from the President of the Methodist Conference, the Revd Dr Barbara Glasson
It is with outrage and deep sorrow that we have witnessed the recent brutal killing of George Floyd in the United States.
But outrage and sorrow are not a sufficient response to racism and inequality in society. How to begin a process of change? It starts with self-examination and listening to the people whose lives are affected by discrimination and hate.
This week I received these words from a Methodist living in south London:
“The young people whom I have worked with for over the last 15 years have felt the impact of racism in every institution they have been part of from schools, to university, to various work places, and other than local support and informal church networks they have not found the Methodist Church as a place that speaks up for them.”
As your President, I start by saying I am sorry. Sorry for being silent when we should have spoken out against the everyday injustices that affect BAME communities. I am sorry that, despite our efforts, we have not done enough for those who feel excluded and we need to do better. We know this includes people of all ages from the Windrush generation to the very young. I am sorry when we have not listened carefully enough and not challenged the assumptions of white privilege and bias.
Repentance can lead us to change, to embody a gracious, loving spirit of inclusion and understanding. There is no excuse for racism. All people are made in God’s image. We are one body in Christ Jesus.
I hope we can listen more carefully to the voices of BAME members, especially younger people, who face racism, discrimination and violence on a daily basis. Then our Church must be brave, speak out, speak up and challenge racism wherever we find it, especially when we find it in ourselves.
I have been in contact with the Vice-President who joins me in supporting this statement.
The Revd Dr Barbara Glasson, President of the Methodist Conference
The Methodist Church ‘believes that racism is a denial of the Gospel’ - standing orders, SO 013B.
The Methodist Council is undertaking a substantial piece of work to shape the Methodist Church to be an inclusive church. More details of the background and measurable proposals to bring about attitudinal, cultural and systemic change are available here.
I also have permission to share the following poem and prayer written by the Chairs of our London District which, for me, say something of the feelings that I have and which I find hard to articulate.
He lay there, needing to be free,
Deprived of oxygen.
He cried out
His brain needing air
They ignored him.
George Floyd died.
A slow death.
In excruciating pain.
They chose to do nothing.
This was a lynching unwarranted,
Senseless, callous & brutal!
Passers-by begged for mercy,
Begged for care & compassion,
Their cries fell on deaf ears.
We will stand up for George Floyd
We will not be silent anymore
We join his family in their pain;
Black lives matter too,
We will be silent no more!
Revd Dr Jongi Zihle
God of the persecuted and the bereaved,
pour Your love upon Your sorrowing servants.
In the sickening and devastating acts of human intent,
pour out your power we pray,
that we may be given hope
and an assurance of Your presence in these tumultuous times.
Open your hand of grace dear God to all the people of the USA
Enable them to find common ground, to yield to justice and to find peace.
Empower them to have compassion through the presence of your Holy Spirit.
Forgive our failing hearts as we allow these tragic events to overtake us,
Forgive our anger as we allow senseless killings to control us
And forgive our fearfulness in remaining silent and doing nothing.
Give us O Lord a glimpse of a hopeful future,
through the presence and life affirming power of Jesus Christ our Lord,
Who reigns with You in the power of the Holy Spirit, now and always, amen.
May justice, peace and love be a symbol of our unstinting solidarity;
The District Chairs,
Jongi, Nigel & Micky.
You will also find that there are a number of resources to help in our reflection of the call to justice available from the Methodist Church (under Equality, Diversity and Inclusion: https://www.methodist.org.uk/for-churches/guidance-for-churches/equality-diversity-and-inclusion/ ).