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Act Now to End Racism ©

Recently we as a nation celebrated the ministry of Dr. Martin Luther King on the 50th Anniversary of his assassination. Last fall I asked the member churches of the Central Texas Conference to, in their own appropriate way, commemorate Dr. King’s prophetic Christian leadership and recommit to the struggle to “end racism now.”  The United Methodist Churches in Georgetown have led the way in an exemplary fashion!  More recently I nominated Rev. Ramon Smith, Pastor for Faith Development at Whites Chapel UMC, to represent our Jurisdiction at the national event “A.C.T. to End Racism Now” which he graciously agreed to do. I asked Rev. Smith to write a guest blog sharing is his impressions and insights. It follows. -Bishop Mike Lowry   Reflections on the April 3-5, 2018 ACT Now to End Racism event By Rev. Ramon Smith First, let me convey my deepest heartfelt appreciation to Bishops Mike Lowry, Janice Huie, and Cynthia Fierro Harvey for nominating me to represent our jurisdiction and the Council of Bishops at the April 2018 National Council of Churches A.C.T. to End Racism Now event in Washington D.C. I am also thankful to Drs. John McKellar and Todd Renner for their support and friendship. On April 4, just before dawn, a small group of us gathered around the Martin Luther King Jr. statue. Amid the darkness, lights illuminated the engraved words of King on the wall. "Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that." In that moment I witnessed the rising of the sun in the distance. It dawned on me that the whole point of our march, rally, and workshops was to be the light that drives out the darkness and to be the love that overcomes hate. That is what Jesus commands us to do. We walked to a nearby park to gather in preparation for the silent march. The gathering was ecumenical: Quakers, Moravians, Jews, Catholics, United Churches of Christ, Lutherans, Muslims, Franciscan Monks, Zoroastrians, Hindus, a huge group of Methodists, and various other Christians. There were just as many signs as faith traditions; the Methodists held signs that said, “Repent and Resist Racism,” and “United Methodist Stand for Justice.” As we marched silently from the King Memorial to the National Mall, I recalled my mother sharing with me her experience of marching with Dr. King. Now, I too was taking part in something historic. Young and old, of every walk of life, marched together as a beautiful tapestry of humanity. Each step was drawing us closer to the day when racism will be no more. When we reached the National Mall, there were tents adorning the right and left of the mall where religious and nonprofit institutions provided literature on how they are fighting racism. The speakers were diverse and included theologians like Jim Wallace and powerful preachers like Bishop Vashti McKenzie, civil rights activist DeRay McKesson, even celebrities such as Danny Glover. Their message was the same: Racism is evil and people of faith are called to end it now. Thousands of people sang together to Yolanda Adams’ gospel songs in a manner that was so awe-inspiring that many were moved to tears. As I looked upon the diverse crowd, I wondered if this is what heaven looks like. On April 5, I and about 200 other people gathered at the Historic Ebenezer United Methodist Church for training on practical ways to combat racism through public policy. The two that I found most helpful were ‘How to Do Effective Legislative Visits,’ and ‘Legislating Racism-Racism as a Systemic Problem in Our Laws.’ So, what can we do here in Central Texas? First, let’s celebrate our achievements; Bishop Lowry, the Cabinet, and Board of Ordained Ministry have received Intercultural Competency and Diversity Training and made cross-racial appointments, and actively recruiting talented minority seminarians. However, while the minority population within the bounds of the Central Texas Conference are growing, most of our churches are not becoming more diverse nor are most of our predominately minority churches growing. Secondly, I suggest starting a conversation at Annual Conference about ending racism and why that conversation is necessary. Also, I suggest committing the human capital and financial resources to creating new communities of faith that are representative of the minority population growth. Lastly, I suggest that we provide intercultural competency and diversity training in all of the districts. As a team, we can look for ways local churches from different backgrounds can partner together in missions. -Rev. Ramon Smith