On behalf of the Council of Bishops of The United Methodist Church, I greet you in the name of Jesus the Christ in whom “all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven….” (Colossians 1:19-20, NRSV)
On this, the occasion of the tenth anniversary of the tragedy of September 11, 2001, I call upon United Methodists and all people of faith to a renewed commitment to ministry of reconciliation, and to being witnesses of God’s love and grace for and in the whole world. As people of faith, we approach this anniversary with the gift of both memory and hope.
None of us who watched in shock and horror as the events unfolded on that fateful day in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC will ever forget the images. We remember the innocent lives that were lost on that day. We remember the first responders who put their lives on the line to provide assistance in the midst of the devastation. We remember the ways in which the world reached out to embrace us in our pain and grief. And we remember the generous outpouring of more than $20 million through the United Methodist Committee on Relief and our “Love in the Midst of Tragedy” special offerings.
Even as we recall all of these events of a decade ago, we are also a people whose faith and hope in Christ Jesus turn our hearts and lives toward the future. We proclaim the Resurrection message that the future belongs to God’s reconciled new creation, and we live toward that time when the dividing walls of hostility will come down and God will wipe away every tear, and death will be no more. In a world of violence and revenge, of suspicion and fear, of mistrust and hatred, we dare to proclaim an alternative vision known throughout Scriptures as God’s Shalom. We believe that God works for good in all things, and that the goodness and mercy of God can overcome even the most tragic events and experiences in this world.
In the days and weeks ahead, communities will be marking this anniversary in a variety of ways, and we urge our churches to lead in planning for and providing services of worship and prayer. Let us build bridges of trust and reconciliation through these services by inviting and encouraging people of all faiths to come together for prayer. Let us work for personal and social holiness by practicing John Wesley’s General Rules for the people called Methodist, especially to do no harm and to do good. Let us seek to restore a sense of hope for the future by praying for and working for the healing of broken relationships. Let us remember that day of pain, suffering, and grief; but let us also seek to bind up the wounds and renew our efforts to work for peace with justice.
Above all else, let us live as faithful followers of the Prince of Peace and, in the words of the author of the Letter to the Colossians: “As God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other….” (Colossians 3:12-13, NRSV) May our memory and our hope unite to move all of us toward peace and inspire us to live with compassion, confidence and courage.
Larry M. Goodpaster
President, Council of Bishops
The United Methodist Church