Commit, Renew, Speak

8/17/2020

FROM THE BISHOP
R. LAWSON BRYAN 

Julian Edward Roosevelt Lewis, a 60-year-old Black man, was shot and killed by a Georgia State Patrol officer on Aug. 7. The officer has been fired by the department, arrested, and charged with felony murder and aggravated assault. The Georgia Department of Public Safety and the GBI have said that “the investigation supports the charges.” With the firing of the officer and his subsequent arrest, the legal system will now pursue this case. 

As United Methodist Christians who lament the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, we are now confronted with yet another death of a Black person at the hands of a white law enforcement officer. As you know, we have been coming to the table all summer to provide a sustained response to acts of racism and violence against people of color. This work is important, and I thank all those who are moving it forward.

This past Saturday, the 154th session of the South Georgia Annual Conference approved a motion calling us to a common commitment to understand, acknowledge, and address the reality of systemic racism. This motion challenges us to take three actions: Commit, Renew, and Speak. 

Commit ourselves in solidarity with our brothers and sisters of color to stand against
racism in all its forms, both overt and subtle.

Renew our commitment to live out our baptismal vows to:
renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of our sin, AND
accept the freedom and power God gives us to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves.

Speak with a united voice so that those who desire to excuse or ignore racism in any
form will find neither permission nor encouragement to do so in any congregation under our United Methodist umbrella … but will find United Methodist congregations working together to eradicate the ugly consequences of racism.

While we were acting on this motion, Rev. William Reaves was conducting the funeral service for Julian Lewis at Charlestown United Methodist Church near Sylvania in the Northeast District. I commend William for his pastoral response to the Lewis family. As pastor of the Charlestown/Mt. Zion/Springhead Circuit, he is also offering his witness for Jesus Christ in the larger community. I look forward to being part of a virtual worship service with William and these three congregations this Sunday morning. Through all the churches and pastors of that area we will continue to be present and engaged, not just in the present moment, but for the long-term future. 

Our Annual Conference session concluded with the announcement of our theme for this conference year, “Alive Together at The Table.” As churches, our role in our communities is to call everyone to the table so that God can work through us to bring about the confession and repentance that lead to justice and healing through Jesus Christ.

Let us Commit, Renew, and Speak,
R. Lawson Bryan