Photo courtesy VOA News.

Bishops, pastors respond to recent racial turmoil

Several Eastern PA Conference leaders are participating this week in peaceful local rallies to respond to the racial turmoil and violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend when white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members staged a “Take America Back” protest and clashed with counter-protesters in the streets. One man, a neo-Nazi, drove his car into a crowd, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Political and religious leaders, including many United Methodist pastors, have decried the racist views and increasingly open activities of white supremacists, while calling for racial tolerance, fervent prayers and peaceful public witness.

“White supremacist and neo-Nazi ideologies are abhorrent and entirely inconsistent with the Christian faith,” wrote Bishop Bruce Ough, President of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, in a statement issued Tuesday. “I pray that the shock, dismay and grief of Charlottesville will be a turning point for the U.S. and even our global United Methodist church. We share collective responsibility to turn our thin words into thick action. We share collective responsibility to break our silence…to create non-violent communities where people with different political and religious views respect each other. We share responsibility to articulate the vision of the Beloved Community where no person feels endangered on account of their social, racial or cultural identity.” Read his full statement.

Bishop Peggy Johnson e-mailed a statement to members Sunday evening, titled “Our terrorism: fears within, fightings without,” that called upon the church to engage in “prayer and witness” while celebrating and committing to its values of diversity, acceptance and love for all. She said racism is “born of a demented, demonic belief in white supremacy” and called it “beyond strange and deeply disturbing when some misguided malcontents feel racially superior but also fearful, and when they pose as strong and dominant to hide the inferiority and weakness of their world views that are doomed to extinction.”

The bishop attributed much of the cause for racial terrorism, especially the racial violence in Charlottesville, to “fear-induced rage: fear of the ‘other,’ fear of someone taking away something we value, or fear of false, perceived threats. Often, it’s fear of losing something that is already lost–indeed, something born of human hate and the enemy’s lies that was lost from the beginning.”

The Rev. Cynthia Skirpak, pastor of Yardley UMC, will speak at a candlelight solidarity vigil and rally at the Garden of Reflection in Lower Makefield, Bucks County, tonight at 7:30 PM. Its sponsor, One Bucks, a coalition agency formed this year to address racism, hate and intolerance, coordinates efforts among local faith communities, agencies and county officials. Learn more

The Rev. Andrea Brown, pastor of Grandview UMC in Lancaster, reportedly spoke at a rally in the downtown public square. Some church members may also attend a local YWCA community discussion on “White Supremacy, Rioting and Hate” tonight at 6 PM.

Women weave a loom of prayer at Wellspring United Methodist Church in Ferguson, Mo. The prayer loom was among the ways United Methodists across the United States addressed the violence in Charlottesville, Va. Photo courtesy of the Rev. F. Willis Johnson.

Meanwhile, the faith-based social action group POWER will gather clergy and laity in downtown Philadelphia Wednesday, August 16, at 7 PM, to “mourn for the freedom fighters injured and killed as they stood against white supremacy this weekend in Charlottesville.” Their march and rally under the banner of “Unmasking White Supremacy in Philadelphia” will address the “symbols and systems of white supremacy also at work in Philadelphia, the birthplace of American democracy.”

Beginning at Congregation Rodeph Shalom Synagogue (615 N. Broad Street), they will march down Broad Street and hold a rally at 8 PM inside Arch Street UMC at 55 N. Broad St. “We will present specific calls to action related to demands around criminal justice reform, public education funding, and living wages,” POWER’s leaders promise. “We will engage in a direct action campaign at the church calling on specific elected officials to do their part in dismantling institutionalized racism.”

Arch Street’s lead pastor, the Rev. Robin Hynicka, invites all conference members to attend and show their support.  Read POWER’s full statement. The Rev. Gregory Holston, pastor of Janes Memorial UMC, is POWER’s executive director.

As in our conference, “pastors across the U.S. scrambled to rewrite sermons and find other ways for their Sunday services to refute the racism on display in Charlottesville,” reports UM News Service. “The message across the denomination was clear: Christ calls disciples to reject white supremacy and work toward a just and loving world.” Learn more

Please tell us what you or your church is doing to offer a witness of faith, peace and racial reconciliation in the wake of Charlottesville’s violence.


Embrace love: Charlottesville

As your congregation gathers for worship this Sunday, congregants may be thinking and talking about the recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia. Be prepared to offer words of comfort, share details about the denomination’s stance to affirm all persons as equally valuable, and help church members find resources that will empower them to address racial justice issues in your community.

The United Methodist Church is advertising nationally to encourage a unified stand against racism, challenging people to learn how we all can be a force for good. A compilation of articles and denominational statements is available at Resources from across the connection are also available, including liturgies, discussion guides, videos to use in worship and on social media, and tips for talking to kids. Explore resources at

Related UMNS articles: