There’s several official resources out that offer some content and starters for clergy and congregations who are choosing to preach or teach or organize on an upcoming Sunday on the topic of Ferguson and the killing of Mike Brown.
- First, the General Board of Discipleship has released a document “Preaching about the Shooting of Michael Brown” that offers points of contact between the lectionary passage (Romans 12:9-21) and these current events.
- Second, the General Commission on Religion and Race, in addition to their President’s letter, published “Injustice in Ferguson: Resources for Annual Conferences, Clergy” which offers prayers, hymns, and outlets for action.
- Third, the General Board of Church and Society, while it hasn’t spoken directly about Ferguson, has two categories of racial justice and racial discrimination in addition to their promotion of the section on race relations in our Book of Discipline.
- Finally, the always epic Rethink Church twitter feed and Facebook page offers many forms of commentary and engagement.
Together, these should be helpful for a congregation willing to engage the topic, and I appreciate our United Methodist agencies being relevant to the issues at hand.
Naming the Reality?
That said, I gotta say that there’s a distinct chasm between the two documents specifically about Ferguson from the GBOD and the GCORR.
- The GBOD document mentions race only once, plus mentioning the composition of the police department and targeting of minorities. We’ll call that 3 mentions of racial issues, while mentioning acts of vengeance (looting and violence) an equal number of times.
- The GCORR document mentions race nine times, plus many more mentions and articulations are in the linked documents (especially Rev. Dr. Pamela Lightsey’s at UM Insight).
I’ll let you decide which one is speaking more about the hard truths of the situation.
I believe preachers are called to name the reality and to build a narrative that links reality, Scripture, and the hearers’ own narratives.
While the preaching document is more about bringing up topics for preachers to consider, the bulk of the article hinges on the people’s response to injustice instead of naming the reality of the greater unjust system or systemic racism. Preaching about hospitality is an act of justice, yes, but dancing around that the hearer likely benefits from a racist society isn’t helping seeking justice, in my opinion.
As the preaching document concludes:
How do we advocate for all involved and support just resolution and not supporting acts of vengeance, while at the same time not abandoning God’s call upon us to care for the lost and the least?
I think we’ll do better advocacy and lack of abandonment by starting with the systemic inequality rather than starting with how the people have responded to it. Charitably, though, for any preacher, holding in tension both justice and mercy is a tricky one, isn’t it?
Like we said on Thursday, we cannot ignore the topic, no matter our social justice cred in other areas. If you have any other specifically United Methodist resources to share, please leave them in the comments and I’ll update this post as appropriate.