Missouri Conference of The United Methodist Church Statement Regarding Culture of Violence
In the aftermath of the horrific mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, I call upon United Methodists in Missouri to help end a culture of violence fueled by white supremacy, racism, xenophobia and fear of the “other.”
I commend to you the statements of Bishop Gregory Palmer and Bishop Earl Bledsoe in West Ohio and New Mexico/Northwest Texas respectively. These recent events remind us of other similar horrors in our country. Underneath much of the mass violence we are hearing about is a culture of white supremacy and a fear of immigrants (xenophobia). These are expressions of our sinful nature and deny the image of God that is in every person (Gen. 1).
But I also want to call us to attend to home-grown cycles of violence. Missouri has seen its share of violence in recent days. Last weekend, 25-year-old bystander Erin Langhofer was shot and killed after a fight broke out at First Fridays in Kansas City. She is the daughter of Church of Resurrection Recovery Ministries Pastor, Rev. Tom Langhofer. There have been 127 homicides in the Kansas City metro area in 2019. Six of the victims were children, 16 years of age or younger. St. Louis’s murder count is at least 115 for the year with 15 of those victims under the age of 19.
On this fifth anniversary of the Michael Brown, Jr. shooting, as complicated and heartbreaking as that was, we can no longer deny that much of the violence in our community results from racism. For Missouri United Methodists, addressing our own racism is important work and work that we will likely never complete. It is not enough to be non-racist. For those of us who are white people who follow Jesus Christ, we are called to be anti-racist. As Methodists, we are people of action and of spirit born out of Jesus’ teaching to love our neighbors. The Church must take a stand and demonstrate to the world how to love our neighbors in a culture of exponential change and growing alienation and isolation.
I invite you to look around and ask yourself, “do I see people in my community who are isolated, who appear lonely, who are on the fringes of our society?” Explore some of the resources available to you through the Missouri Conference. I invite you to read White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism by Robin DiAngelo. I find it uncomfortable and valuable. Get out into your communities, pray for your civic leaders and start building relationships with those who think and act differently than you. Extend invitations to be in relationship with those on the margins. Be in conversation in your local church about the lingering sin of racism in this country. Learn what you can do locally to bring about the change we all want for our world – regardless of your political affiliation. Always remember that God desperately loves you. And, God desperately loves the world. Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to be a bridge between the two.
Yours in Christ,
Robert D. Farr