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Superintendent's Letter

June 2020

“A Christian is one who is striving for liberation” (James Cone)

“The Methodist Church believes that racism is a denial of the gospel”
(Standing Order 013B, CPD)

Dear friends,

Like people throughout the world we have been shocked at the brutal murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. This murder has led to an international outpouring of emotion by people confronted daily with the reality of racism, including systemic racism, and all who stand in solidarity. Recent events have illuminated the legacy of the slave trade as part of British history which usually receives little attention.

I spoke about these matters with some leaders of churches in my pastoral oversight last week. One steward said I needed to prepare for a tsunami if I opened a discussion of racism because every black person will have personal experiences to recount. I know that I do not experience racism as many of you do; I must listen to your experiences of racism to gain a greater understanding and be able to empathise. I hope that when we can gather we create spaces where it is possible to share our experiences of racism, listen to one another and consider how we need to respond personally and collectively. I am not sure where this significant work will lead us but I pray it will enable us to be liberated to become antiracist and to liberate others in the name of Christ. A steward shared this powerful message with me following last Sunday’s YouTube service: “I have grown up with this (racism) and I don’t want to see my children and their children continue to suffer. I need to see a change before I leave this world.” I hope we can all add our “Amen!”

In challenging racism we can be guided by the definition of the inclusive church adopted by the Methodist Council and which identifies four key features. An inclusive church:
1. Welcomes all
2. Is disciplined in the face of discrimination
3. Celebrates diversity
4. Represents its diversity through its life and structures

I believe this valuable definition will be helpful to everyone in church and circuit leadership by providing a standard towards which we can aspire in the strength of God’s grace.

During the past few months I have valued the space for more reading. I want to share four books which I have found moving and challenging and commend them to you:

David Olusoga (2016). Black and British: A Forgotten History. PanBooks, London.

Ibram Kendi (2019). How to be an Antiracist. The Bodley Head,London.

Reni Eddo-Lodge (2018). Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. Bloomsbury Publishing, London.

Amelia Gentleman (2019). The Windrush Betrayal: Exposing the Hostile Environment. Guardian Faber, London.

I conclude with the words of a hymn which formed part of the resources for Racial Justice Sunday this year. I hope you find the words meaningful.
God bless,

Christian love is not romantic,
Not soft-focussed, twee or sweet,
Christian love’s not ‘likes’, nor dating,
Far more real than text or tweet.
Christian love means life-long struggle;
Lived-out kindness ev’rywhere.
Christian love must echo Jesus:
Selfless, soulful, steeped in prayer.

Christian love respects the other,
Seeks to understand, not judge;
Takes delight in mutual learning
Doesn’t force and doesn’t fudge.
Christian love’s an arduous journey,
Finding self by giving all;
Serving, sharing, helping, caring;
Full response to Jesus’ call.

Christian love cries out for justice
Wheresoever it’s denied;
Joins the struggle, makes the protest,
Stays the course, eyes open wide.
Christian love rejects what’s racist,
Sexist, ageist, prejudiced,
Turns against each nurtured bias,
Learning daily to resist.

Christian love is learned from Jesus,
Walks his way and bears his cross;
Self-surrenders, like our Saviour;
Gains much more than what is lost.
Christian love is so persistent,
It outlasts all other things;
By its hope, its faith, its struggle,
It’s the song all heaven sings!

John Campbell © Kevin Mayhew Ltd.
Used by permission