Jan. 20 - Following the an extended hostage situation at a Jewish synagogue in Colleyville, Texas, Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr., the episcopal leader of the Central Texas Conference, issued the following letter to the clergy, laity and churches of the Conference calling for prayer and loving/grace-filled actions in ending violence and hatred in our communities, nation and world.
Greetings sisters and brothers of the Central Texas Conference. The grace of Jesus Christ be with your spirits.
The events surrounding the 11-hour hostage situation at Congregation Beth Israel in Colleyville last weekend have served as another reminder that we indeed live in a fallen world in desperate need of God’s healing and peace. What began as ordinary Shabbat services, quickly turned into what federal authorities describe as an act of terror, committed by a British man who traveled thousands of miles to demand the release of Aafia Siddiqui, who is serving an 86-year federal prison sentence in Fort Worth. Thankfully, by the Grace of God and some quick thinking and brave actions by Rabbi Charlie Cytron-Walker, all hostages escaped the ordeal without physical harm.
I know that the people and churches of the Central Texas Conference joined the interfaith community’s effort to bathe the standoff in prayer as it unfolded last Saturday.
While this situation was not an act of domestic, anti-Semitic terrorism, it was still a targeted act of violence against the Jewish community because they are Jewish. As disciples of Jesus Christ and United Methodists, we respect the inherent dignity of all persons and deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation (¶162 – UMC 2016 Book of Discipline).
In his opening comments during an ecumenical healing service for the Colleyville and Southlake communities graciously hosted by White’s Chapel UMC, Rabbi Cytron-Walker quipped that though he rarely gets the opportunity to speak in the White’s Chapel sanctuary, as a Jewish Rabbi, he always gets a big smile when he approaches the pulpit because of the ever-present note there that reminds the speaker to “show them Jesus!” While this was a humorous, tension-breaking moment from the rabbi, the ecumenical fellowship offered a hopeful glimpse of a vision of what the beloved community looks like, where everyone is cared for and where love and justice reigns.
Please continue to pray for the members of Congregation Beth Israel as this will be a long-healing process for them and their community. I also ask for continued prayers and loving and grace-filled actions that seek the end of violence and hatred in our communities, nation and world.
Ruben Saenz Jr.
Bishop, Central Texas Conference of The United Methodist Church