A Letter from Superintendent Rhodes on Charlottesville
Dear Friends in Christ:
In recent days, white supremacism as expressed in the sin of racism has once again raised its ugly head in America causing racial tension, violence and death. I wish to be clear that we reject all forms of racism as being antithetical to the Gospel of Christ.
First and foremost, we follow Jesus who taught us to love our neighbors. In the story of the Good Samaritan, Jesus clearly implied that our neighbor represents people that are dissimilar to us. Throughout the Gospels, Jesus fleshed out what love really looked like when he reached out to people of all races and ethnic backgrounds and invited them into His Kingdom. Certainly, anyone who claims to love and follow Jesus must do what he did. Followers of Jesus must be the most loving people in the world. And out of the strength of that love, we must repudiate hatred and bigotry in all of its forms as a matter of Christian conscience.
In addition to love, the gospel of Jesus is also a gospel of truth. When existing systems and structures discriminate, marginalize and treat people unjustly, we must not only stand with those negatively impacted but we must advocate for them and work together in order to bring justice. If the church ever loses it concern and voice for justice we will set ourselves adrift from the transformative power of the Gospel.
Despite all that Jesus clearly taught on the matter, it is clear that the early church needed the ongoing leadership and revelation of the Spirit in order to fully come to terms with their own racial preferences and to be delivered from them. The Apostle Peter is probably one of the best examples of this truth, where in Acts chapter 10 he entered into the house of a “Gentile” (something that was against Jewish custom) and was astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit was poured out upon non-Jewish people just as it was the Jews on the day of Pentecost. This paradigm shift in the heart of Peter led to the continual growth of the church. As Peter came to terms with his own racial bias he said: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts men from every nation who fear him and do what is right.” Acts 10:34
The mostly white congregations and leaders that comprise the Southern Michigan Conference need to remain open to the on-going paradigm shifts that the Holy Spirit wishes to reveal to us about race issues in America.
- That happens when we acknowledge the clear sin of racism and begin to recognize how it is empowered in the systems and structures of our own society.
- It happens when we open our own hearts to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth.
- It happens when we intentionally build bridges of relationships with people of various races and ethnic groups.
We urge all of those who claim to be Free Methodist Christ followers to fully live out these powerful truths so that as our own hearts are liberated we can bear witness to the liberating message of love and truth for others who are hated and discriminated against in our world today.
Whatever race or ethnicity you identify yourself with, the Free Methodist Church values, welcomes and embraces you. We are grieved by the cancer of white supremacy which was heinously on display in Charlottesville. We stand in solidarity together as we affirm the rights and dignity of all people regardless of race, creed, ethnicity or gender. We reaffirm the roots that are central to our history as a Christian movement. These abolitionist roots recognize and affirm that all people are equally valuable and possess intrinsic worth because they are created in the image of God.
As such, we are privileged to join together alongside of you in the mission of Jesus as we seek to reach and welcome all people into the Jesus community. This community will be finally and fully realized in its rich diversity when we worship Jesus saying:
You are worthy to take the scroll and to open its seals, because you were slain, and with your blood you purchased men for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God, and they will reign upon the earth. Rev. 5:9,10
We long for the day when the divisions and hostility of this fallen world will give way to a united diversity of people under the leadership of a Good and Great God. Hallelujah! Until that time, let us seek to be people who have been fully liberated by love and fully transformed by truth so that we can liberate others.
Come Lord Jesus!
Bruce D. Rhodes