United Methodist Bishops Call for Prayers and Support Following Charleston Shooting

“May each church and each individual    Christ follower related to the Central Texas Conference set aside special time for prayer.”
 Bishop Mike Lowry


by Vance Morton* 

As the news continues to unfold following the tragic shooting deaths of nine people attending a Bible study at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., Bishops from around the connection are reaching out to their conferences as well as their colleague bishops in the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church with messages of prayer, support and healing. 
In a release to the press and members of the South Carolina Conference, Bishop Jonathan Holston reminded all of the reality that no one is unaffected in tragedies such as this. “I ask each of you to pray for the families of those killed, for the wounded, the witnesses and the whole congregation of Emmanuel AME Church. We are all impacted by the horror that occurred in the place of worship.”
In his letter, Bishop Holston repeatedly called on people of faith to come together to oppose gun violence and racism and for churches and their communities to work together to break down the dividing walls of hostility between individuals and groups. “Much prayer is needed in Charleston, in South Carolina and in our world,” writes Bishop Holston. “Praying together for understanding and peace is the pathway to healing.”
We must confess
When news of the shooting began to spread Thursday morning, Bishop Lowry issued a call for prayers of support and healing for Emanuel AME and all of Charleston. Later that afternoon, he posted a blog outlining his thoughts on “A Christian Response to Hate-driven Violence” echoing his earlier call for prayers.
“First, foremost, and always, let us all be a people who offer our pleas of hope and healing before God in trusting prayer,” writes Bishop Lowry. “May each church and each individual Christ follower related to the Central Texas Conference set aside special time for such prayer.”
Though prayers of support and healing are vital at this time, Bishop Lowry also stated that prayers of confession are also paramount in dealing with this situation. “We must confess that culturally we have worshiped at the altar of violence,” stated Bishop Lowry. “For too long and in too many ways, we have celebrated violence as a solution to our problems. Our Lord calls us instead to be a people of peace. ‘Peace I leave with you. My peace I give you. I give to you not as the world gives. Don’t be troubled or afraid’ (John 14:27).”
Bishop Lowry also shared his belief that we must add a second element of confession and confess our complicity in racially motivated hatred and misunderstanding. “Both social and personal holiness begin in prayers of petition and confession. The tragedy of the shootings at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina call us back to the center of our faith. We are challenged to live in a greater way the gospel of love and grace.”

Reaching out to our AME family
The United Methodist Council of Bishops also called upon United Methodists to support victims of violence and to work to end racism and hatred. Their message echoed that of a pastoral letter on racism issued by the Council to the people of The United Methodist Church in early May.
Bishop Warner H. Brown, Jr., president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, reached out to the bishops in the African Methodist Episcopal Church on behalf of all UMC bishops with the following message of prayer and healing.

Dear Bishop Bryant and colleague African Methodist Episcopal Bishops,
Grace and Peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, the Savior of our broken world.
Your sisters and brothers in the Council of Bishops and congregations of The United Methodist Church are in prayer with and for you in the wake of the racist murders and hateful violence at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. May the Holy Spirit endow you with a full measure of love, wisdom and courage as you lead the Church and witness to the world in this consequential time.
We join in mourning the tragic loss of Rev. Clementa Pinckney, and the other victims who were meeting with prayers offered to the One who is our hope.  We are all now a part of a global prayer meeting for these families and all families and communities deeply wounded by racism and violence.  We unite voices in proclaiming, "If God is for us, who can be against us? Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?...No! In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us!"  (Romans 8) 
As other recent events of violence and racism have compelled us to do, again we call on United Methodists and all people of good will to support the victims of this and all acts of violence, to work to end racism and hatred, to seek peace with justice, and to live the prayer that our Lord gave us, that God's "kingdom come, (and) will be done, on earth as it is in heaven."
We go forward with Wesley's assurance that "Best of all God is with us."

The United Methodist Church is in a full Communion relationship with the African Methodist Episcopal Church and the other member Methodist denominations of the Pan-Methodist Commission
*Vance is the director of Communications & IT for the CTC.  vance@ctcumc.org