A More Perfect Union – A Guest Blog ©

In light of the jury verdict in the Derek Chauvin murder case, we are collectively feeling our way forward to a new future much like someone with impaired sight might grapple into a new building. Here in the Central Texas Conference, we are committed to work towards ending racism in our time. To help us along in our understanding, I have asked Rev. Julian Hobdy if I may share an open letter he penned to the student body of the Perkins School of Theology. Rev. Hobdy graciously granted permission to share his letter in this forum. 
Rev. Hobdy served the Central Texas Conference as a part of the Communications team for several year before receiving his Local Pastors License being appointed as an Associate Pastor at First Methodist Mansfield in July of 2019. Currently, he is working toward his Master of Divinity degree at Perkins School of Theology. With gratitude for his witness and ministry, I commend this thoughtful letter to your edification.

-  Bishop Mike Lowry
(moderators note: photo of Rev. Hobdy below was added and not part of the original open letter)
Open Letter to the Perkins Community
Rev. Julian Hobdy is the Justice in Action Chair for the Perkins Student Association and Worship Pastor for First Methodist Mansfield

Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Greetings, Perkins Student Body:
By the time you receive this, many of you will know that just after 4 PM (CDT) yesterday, April 20, 2021, Hennepin County Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict in the trial of Mr. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer. Mr. Chauvin was charged with the death of George Floyd and was found guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. George Floyd tragically died on May 25, 2020, and his death has spurred, arguably, the largest civil rights protest in decades. For the better part of a year that has languished in a global pandemic and constant civil unrest, today, for many, represented a moment to breathe deep. 
Sadly, less than 30 minutes before the verdict pronouncement, another fatal encounter with police took place. 16-year-old Ma'Khia Bryant of Columbus, Ohio is dead. Just over a week ago, Daunte Wright was shot and killed in an encounter with the police in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, just 10 miles from the courthouse where Derek Chauvin was on trial. The encounter began with a traffic stop initiated by a car freshener that hung from the rearview mirror.
For many, today may feel like a cause for celebration. The number of demonstrations and protest groups that have emerged and deployed as a result of the death of George Floyd points to a community that is hungry for justice. For several others, there is a feeling of what may best be described as joyless relief. As I sat today, breathlessly watching and waiting for the verdict to be read, a thought came to mind. I recalled the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution.
We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.
"… a more perfection Union." What does that mean? It may mean that whatever the U.S. is or could be, it will always be in pursuit of a progressively more perfect union. That may, on the surface, appear inspiring. Still, its inherent danger is that it can provide cover for the kinds of direct, cultural, and structural violences that perpetually haunt us as a society. The type of cover that says, "Yes, these events are tragic, but things are better today than they were 60 years ago, right? We're making progress." If we aren't careful, thoughtful, and intentional, progress will be our goal. To that end, please permit me to offer a counter-encouragement. Progress is not the goal; it's the medium. Justice is the true end to which our society must aspire. As a child, I played baseball. When I got old enough to play fast-pitch or kid's pitch, my coach taught us about base running. When we got a hit that seemed to be a single, we were told to run through the base as quickly as possible. The goal was always to get on base; it was never to run. Running was the means by which one achieved the true goal.
Similarly, we ought not to be contented when brutality meets accountability. That's the way things should be. That's just running with good form. Instead, we must continue to actively pursue greater approximations of justice. Justice, not progress, is our true goal. In his timely book, The Color of Compromise, Jemar Tisby writes, "The refusal to act in the midst of injustice is itself an act of injustice. Indifference to oppression perpetuates oppression." In his Letter from a Birmingham Jail, Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King similarly wrote that "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." I agree with both of these authors and thinkers. There's a sense in which we all understand justice to be related to doing what's right. I'd say, however, that doesn't quite go far enough. I think that justice isn't just doing what’s good or what’s right. Doing good must, necessarily, involve doing something about what’s wrong. As peacemakers, leaders, and shepherds who would seek to lift a prophetic witness in an often unjust society, our task is to be harbingers of justice. 
Breathe deep, brothers and sisters, friends and colleagues. Breathe for those who are still holding their breath. Breathe for those who can no longer breathe for themselves. Use your many breaths to propel your prophetic voice into the cacophony of injustice. Use your many breaths and be a symphony of harmonious voices crying out in the wilderness. Be convicted and compelled by these words from Dr. King. "We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly."[1]  Justice is our cause. Justice is our call. Justice, not progress, is our goal.
Yours in the pursuit of Justice and Freedom,
Rev. Julian Hobdy
Justice in Action Chair,
Perkins Student Association
[1] Martin Luther King, “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” n.d., 6.