August 13, 2017

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
 
The news from Charlottesville, Virginia should come as no surprise to Missourians. We know better than to dismiss the actions of white nationalists and supremacists as something that happens elsewhere.
 
Less than two weeks ago, the NAACP issued a travel advisory for our state due to the escalation of discriminatory incidents and racist attacks. During my own travels across our state, I have seen the signs and symbols of hate and fear being promoted on private lands. I have personally witnessed black and Hispanic colleagues and friends suffer implicit and explicit forms of aggression simply because of the color of their skin. We know that hate, bigotry, bias and prejudice are not new to the American landscape. Nazi rhetoric is not new either. My father-in-law, Susan’s father, fought with millions of others from around the world to stop an ideology based on fear and hatred. The promotion of Nazi symbols is evil and antithetical to Holy Scripture which expressly states that, “God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27).
                                            
Christians have a special role to play when we witness overt acts of evil and wickedness in our world. Our shared baptismal covenant has been on my heart:
 
Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness, reject the evil powers of this world, and repent of your sin?
 
Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you to resist evil, injustice, and oppression in whatever forms they present themselves?
 
Do you confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the Church which Christ has opened to people of all ages, nations, and races?
 
These questions presume that we will do more than resist evil within our own hearts and homes. Rather, these questions imply that we will actively resist this wickedness. Last fall, I shared that it is not enough to be non-racist. As followers of Jesus Christ, we are called to be anti-racist. We are called to action through prayer, standing in solidarity with those being persecuted, preaching and teaching love, and denouncing acts borne out of hatred. As Methodists, we are called to both personal and social holiness. This isn’t a multiple choice test. We are called to do both.
 
Jesus said: “Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other” John 13:35-37 (MSG). Hate speech and violence makes one unrecognizable as a disciple of Jesus. Fellow disciples, let us resist and name evil, confess the hardness of our own hearts, and demonstrate love for one another.
 
We, as The United Methodist Church, are called for more. We must witness to others what prayer can do in times of fear and hate. We must demonstrate what action can do in the resistance of evil. Pray for the loss of life and the injured. Pray for those acting out of hate. Pray for the restoration of civil order for the community of Charlottesville. Pray for the strength to resist evil present in all our communities. Pray that God will heal us and build his kingdom here. In the words of Rend Collective’s song, Build Your Kingdom Here, let us call upon God to:
 
Build Your kingdom here
Let the darkness fear
Show Your mighty hand
Heal our streets and land
Set Your church on fire
Win this nation back
Change the atmosphere
Build Your kingdom here,
We pray.
 
In closing, I ask you to be in prayer for me, your District Superintendents, and your colleagues in ministry as we offer spiritual leadership during a time such as this.
 
In Christ,

Bishop Robert Farr