In December 2020, the Minnesota Conference Appointive Cabinet released a statement on racial justice and reconciliation that lists specific commitments and actions members will take to acknowledge the sins of racism and injustice and work to transform our Church, our Conference, our communities, and our world into the “beloved” community. Below is a prologue from Bishop Bruce R. Ough introducing the statement, followed by the statement itself.
We are entering an Advent season like most of us have not previously seen. The coronavirus pandemic surges out of control. Millions of people are unemployed and go hungry. The common good is forfeited by political division. The anti-racism movement, ignited by George Floyd’s killing, is precariously close to becoming an afterthought.
Yet, the advent of Advent is marked by the prophet’s clarion voice crying out:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord,
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill made low;
the uneven ground shall become level, the rough places plain.
Then the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together,
for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40:3-5, NRSV)
And Mary, the mother of Jesus, sings praises to God who has scattered the proud, brought down the powerful, lifted up the lowly, filled the hungry with good things, and sent the rich away empty. Mary’s servant posture reminds us that our souls can also magnify the Lord. Mary reminds us that when we, too, give our accent to the Lord’s word in our lives we become mothers of God, bearing to the world the Christ that inaugurates the kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven.
I do not know anyone who has truly surrendered their life to Christ that does not embrace this vision of the kingdom articulated by Isaiah and Mary. We believe that “being the church is about pursuing the commonwealth of God, the reign of heaven, for all people…This harmony is the result of divine vision for creation, even for the universe” (Vance P. Ross in “I’m Black. I’m Christian. I’m Methodist.” page 136).
Yet all too often, our witness is ambiguous in tone and action. We say the right things but avoid the action. We start down the path of justice but turn aside when opposition and barriers appear. Our hearts desire for us to be bold, spiritual leaders, but our courage is tempered by personal or institutional concerns. We want to be mothers of God—bearing Christ to the world—but we fail to fully embrace, as Mary did, that nothing is impossible with God.
The ambiguity, timidity, and focus on our personal preferences or institutional concerns, rather than kingdom vision and purposes, is often most evident in response to racism and white privilege. The very notion of racial superiority stands in stark contradiction to the kingdom vision. This false idea infects humanity and even the Church of Jesus Christ. And, when it does, we stand outside our stated mission and Jesus’ gospel imperatives.
I am so very encouraged and proud of the many ways and places that Minnesota United Methodists have embraced anti-racism activities since the death of George Floyd in the heart of Minneapolis. We are a long way from the kingdom of heaven and the kingdom on earth becoming one on the matter of race. But we have begun.
The Minnesota Appointive Cabinet has embarked on this journey as well. Our journey of listening, study, and prayer has resulted in a Statement of Values on Racial Justice and Reconciliation (see below). The Cabinet is committed to this being more than platitudes, avoidance phrases, or a hollow “Magnificat.” It is a commitment to lead the Minnesota Conference toward “making straight in the desert a highway for our Lord.” It is an invitation to all Minnesota United Methodists to fully engage in becoming anti-racist and to build the “beloved” community of God. It is a call to let our souls and our actions magnify the Lord.
Bishop Bruce R. Ough
Resident Bishop, Dakotas-Minnesota Area of The United Methodist Church
Click on each heading below to see the various sections of the Cabinet statement.
As the Appointive Cabinet, we commit to live into these values:
We admit that we don’t have it all figured out, but we are committed to work toward a more just Annual Conference. Based on these values, these are the steps that we believe we are called to and that we are committed to lead:
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church