Five months ago, Bishops LaTrelle Easterling, Gregory Palmer and Mike McKee sat down for a conversation with cultural theologian Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber. The conversation was for their new podcast, The Unfinished Church.
Unbeknownst to them, their thoughts on gun violence, respecting differences and the work of anti-racism echoed into the future. The conversation will be released on Thursday, May 19, just days after the racially motivated shootings targeting the Asian community in Orange County, Calif. and Dallas, Texas, and the Black community in Buffalo, N.Y. shook the nation.
The bishops lament the shootings, calling on United Methodists to pray for all those who are suffering. They also hope that, in some small way, their podcast will open opportunities for discussion and action that lead the church to more fully address the sins of racism.
“This feeling of being threatened all the time that we have creates so much death and creates so much violence,” Bolz-Weber said in the first episode of The Unfinished Church. “I wonder what would happen in this country if we actually sat down as a people and did our work and just told some truths.”
In the same episode, the bishops called for a reframing of discipleship that empowers the church so that it opens itself up and works to overcome injustices and create Beloved Community.
With the shooting in Buffalo on May 15, “we witnessed hatred become violence again,” said Bishop Easterling, the resident bishop of the Baltimore-Washington and Peninsula-Delaware Conferences.
“Until we stand united against hatred of any kind. We are all enslaved, we are all imprisoned, we are all bound, we are all at risk. No one is free until we are all free,” Easterling said. “This is our common and corporate work. This is our universal and uniting call. We cannot pretend this is someone else’s responsibility — it is our responsibility.”
In the North Texas Annual Conference, where Bishop McKee is the episcopal leader, clergy unanimously approved a resolution Monday condemning the weekend’s violence and all hate crimes, “so that the world may know that Christ’s people are opposed to hate violence and so that the victims and their communities may know that we stand with them.”
“The church must continue to publicly affirm its commitment to anti-racism and step into this work together,” McKee said. “We must also equip our clergy and laity with the resources to build new relationships, have the difficult conversations and address the sin of racism head-on.”
In the West Ohio Conference, Bishop Gregory Palmer, an outspoken advocate for racial justice, offered words of prayer from a traditional United Methodist hymn, calling on the God who seeks only our good to “save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.”
“We must assume the vocation of prophetic peace-making that helps all to see the direct connection between our hatreds and the use of violence to reinforce them,” Palmer said. “Once we see, we can repent and seek reconciliation.”
The Unfinished Church podcast is for all who are ready to unite and build a world in which racial prejudice has no power.
Engage with The Unfinished Church podcast by hosting a listening party, or join others at The Unfinished Church’s Lunch & Listen every other Thursday via Zoom from 12:30-1:30 pm EDT starting on May 26, 2022. Register here.