October 10, 2016
Dear brothers and sisters in Christ,
Each week, the news seems to proclaim another life lost due to tense interactions between police and the community. I have often felt at a loss for words and for action. As someone with a bias for action, I find myself perpetually confused and frustrated. As I have started this new role as Bishop for the Missouri Annual Conference, I have been trying to prayerfully discern about my responsibilities to respond, to lead and to shepherd. I wish I could say that I knew exactly what I need to be doing and saying when it comes to the great challenges of our time: chronic poverty; urban and rural decay; systemic racism; the cultures of violence, despair and fear that pervades our world. But, I don’t. I know that many of you, faithful disciples of Jesus Christ, feel similarly. There are others of you that have clearly discerned your role in transforming the world and for that I give God thanks.
Since my role in this great work is unclear to me, I am dedicating one day per month to be in intentional prayer in one of our communities standing on the cusp of these great social challenges. I’ll spend half the day praying in a local church with their leadership, and the rest of the day in conversation with leaders in that community listening to the experience of people of color in Missouri. Because I believe in this deeply, I am asking each of the members of the Missouri Cabinet to do the same. My hope is that you, the United Methodist Churches in Missouri, consider joining us. We will announce in advance when and where we will be each month. We encourage you to join us as you are able.
I do this because I am called to be a Bishop to all people, not just those who look or sound like me. I do this because there is no way I can possibly know the pain, grief and trauma that the color of one’s skin can bring.
Part of the burden of becoming Bishop is learning of other people’s burdens. Watching the pain of our black and brown brothers and sisters has become too much for me to bear. Witnessing our first responders face increased risk due to escalating tensions in many of our neighborhoods has weighed heavily upon me. I have often felt helpless, not knowing what I should do, but that isn’t true. I follow a God who is always on the side of those who are hurting. It is not enough to be non-racist. That is far too passive. As white people who follow Jesus Christ, we are called to be anti
-racist. We are people of action and of spirit. As Methodists, we are called to both social and personal holiness. We must be wary of what our founder, John Wesley called quietism. Faith without works, he said, was “the grand pest of Christianity.”
I invite you to explore anti-racism as a way of living out social holiness in the Wesleyan Way. What are you doing as part of your discipleship journey to proclaim that all people are handcrafted children of God? For the vast majority of Missouri United Methodists who are white, please consider joining me in making space in your busy schedules to serve your neighbors of color. Show them acts of love. Grieve with them. Pray for them. But be careful not to place your need for education in this area on them. It is not their job to educate white people on privilege and systemic racism. Explore some of the resources available to you through the Missouri Conference or the General Church. Get out into your communities and pray for your government leaders. Ask them what they are doing to protect the vulnerable, release the oppressed and provide opportunity for all citizens. Be in conversation in your local church about the lingering sin of racism in this country. Learn what you can do locally to bring about change. Be anti-racist because your faith in Jesus won’t let you be any other way. Always remember that God desperately loves you. And, God desperately loves the world. Disciples of Jesus Christ are called to be a bridge between the two.
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.
Bishop Robert Farr
Amy Thompson, Conference Lay Leader
Rev. Cody T. Collier, Dean of the Cabinet
Rev. Cindy Buhman, District Superintendent
Rev. Lynn Dyke, District Superintendent
Rev. Sherry Habben, District Superintendent
Rev. Linda Harris, District Superintendent
Rev. Fred Leist, District Superintendent
Rev. Steve Pinnell, District Superintendent
Rev. Jim Simpson, District Superintendent
Rev. Mark Statler, District Superintendent
Rev. Londia Granger Wright, District Superintendent