Today, with deeply grieved hearts, Reconciling Ministries Network stands with our kindred in the African Methodist Episcopal Church (A.M.E.) in mourning the brutal shooting last night of nine persons attending a Wednesday night evening worship service. Yet again we see unchecked and unbridled racism as a young white male opened fire on these persons in Charleston, SC. Reportedly, witnesses who were present for what Charleston police chief has called a hate crime, heard the assailant announce his motivation for these fatal shots. These persons were attempting to dissuade the young white male from his inexorable course of faction when he declared, “I have to do it. You rape our women and you are taking over our country and you have to go.”
Without hesitation, and with every ounce of power available to us who claim the truth of the gospel in Christ Jesus, Reconciling Ministries Network boldly declares: #Blacklivesmatter. This most recent demonstration of the deeply embedded nature of white supremacy in our country demands that we, The United Methodist Church, commit ourselves to the healing of systemic, structural, and institutional racism that has nourished and produced this act. This hate crime against black people was committed in a country where the ongoing message continues to affirm that it is okay to brutalize black and brown bodies. In the Christian community, we name this together as individual and corporate sin against God and neighbor.
In The Cross and the Lynching Tree, black theologian and activist Dr. James Cone, speaks a word of truth about racism and the gospel:
“Though both the cross and the lynching tree are symbols of death, one represents a message of hope and salvation, while the other signifies the negation of that message by white supremacy.”
The legacy of slavery and the of lynching in this country continues to show up in acts like this one and continues to defy the gospel as Christ is hung upon the lynching tree again and again and again. The ongoing systemic denial of the beauty and value of black lives that headlines news reports every day is something in which white people are complicit and for which white people must confess and repent.
Repentance means more than grief alone. Repentance is a renunciation of the sin of complicity which corrupts us as individuals, as a church, and as a society. It is nothing less than a commitment to dismantling individual, systemic, and institutional racism and a course of action that works faithfully to build a world envisioned by the gospel – a world where black and brown bodies no longer need fear the lynching tree in whatever form it takes.