Dear FMC Family,
Grace and peace to you in the Name of our Lord, Jesus Christ!
We, your Board of Bishops, are coming to you today amid the grief, sorrow, disbelief, and increasing rage that has gripped our nation following the murder of George Floyd. To our African American sisters and brothers, we mourn with you and share in your present suffering. We see you.
Though we have addressed you many times in recent days for a variety of reasons, the sincerity of today’s message cannot be overstated. We recognize the diversity of viewpoints, experiences and emotions among our family, but, though we may be vastly different, today we are asking you, our collective FMC family, to be of one mind – the mind of Christ.
We could remind you that we as a denomination affirm the dignity and worth of all persons and pledge ourselves to combat the evil of racism. We declare that the murder of George Floyd was an act of evil that vividly portrays the presence and perpetuation of systemic racism in our nation. We also acknowledge that the present crisis is not simply the result of one man’s death, but a cumulative pattern that must be named.
Several of our own African American leaders have posted eloquently, wisely and personally on social media and to the conferences they lead. Listen to them. Their voices must be heard in our denominational family, now more than ever.
We could also direct you to educational resources and ask you to join us as we strive to increase our knowledge of the subject. We value knowledge, and we must all refuse to remain ignorant regarding racism.
In the church, however, we are to relentlessly pursue unity. Jesus reminded us that a “house divided against itself cannot stand” (Matthew 12:28). He also prayed in His final moments on earth, “I pray that they will all be one, just as you and I are one—as you are in me, Father, and I am in you. And may they be in us so that the world will believe you sent me” (John 17:21 NLT). The hallmark of the church is oneness – unity – unbreakable bonds as we share in one Spirit, one Lord, one Faith, one Baptism.
In this critical moment of unrest, we call the people known as Free Methodist to love one another, carry one another’s burdens, and lavish the fruit of the Spirit on one another. We join Jesus in praying, “and lead us not into temptation” regarding all shades of hurt and harm as we speak to one another at this time.
Next, we ask you to bow before the Lord with a humble heart and offer yourself to Him to be part of the solution. Now is a time for corporate intercession for our land. Like Jehoshaphat we make this our prayer, “For we have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us. We do not know what to do, but our eyes are upon you” (2 Chronicles 20:12b). We ask that, in prayer, we all confess our inability to know exactly what to do at this moment, but fix our eyes upon Jesus and open our ears toward heaven. Let us consecrate ourselves to the Lord for this moment.
Let us be reminded of Paul’s words to the Ephesians: “For we are not fighting against flesh-and-blood enemies, but against evil rulers and authorities of the unseen world, against mighty powers in this dark world, and against evil spirits in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12 NLT). The battle in this world is raging, but we, the holy people of God, engage battle differently. We display our love for one another, we intercede in prayer and take authority in the Name of Jesus. We honor and dignify all people. We prophetically declare the truth of God to confront the lies of the enemy. We refuse to hate and relentlessly pursue unity.
Friends, let us work toward true and pervasive racial unity in our church, that the world will know that Jesus is our Lord. In the past eight months, we have begun this critical process at the denominational level through two task forces that are examining our current reality in the FMCUSA and proposing steps toward true diversity, equity and inclusivity in our family. Pray that real and lasting progress is made.
We call the whole church to the difficult work of true reconciliation. We call those among us who have closed their ears to the conversation, to open them anew and hear the lament of the black community. We call the church to set aside corrective language aimed at one another and exchange it for a unified voice of prayer with one another.
As we see the anguish being played out on the streets of our cities, we ask for peace. We ache for God’s shalom. We pray for an end to the violence and also an end to the divisions and injustices that have given rise to this painful eruption in our land. We lament the loss of life. We join our voices as one in crying for God’s kingdom to come, his will to be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Linda Adams, Keith Cowart and Matt Whitehead,
The Board of Bishops of the Free Methodist Church – USA
Hear Bishop Matt Whitehead Address the Church