Taking a walk early on Sunday morning during Annual Conference Session is a 16-year tradition for the United Women in Faith, formerly United Methodist Women. They sell T-shirts associated with the walk and give the proceeds to the mission.
This year the walk was on the Katy Trail in historic downtown St. Charles, just over a mile from where Annual Conference Session was taking place. The group began the event by reflecting on the Charter for Racial Justice.
Mai Gray, the first African American woman to be president of United Methodist Women, was dedicated to the Methodist tradition and fighting segregation. Gray worked with her husband, a Methodist pastor, to build a coalition of leadership in the Central Jurisdiction. This racially segregated administrative division existed from 1939 until The United Methodist Church was formed in 1968.
In 1976 she became president of the Women’s Division and served until 1980. One of her crowning accomplishments was the creation of the organization’s Charter for Racial Justice, which emphasized eliminating institutional racism in the church and the world. It was adopted by United Methodist Women in 1978 and by the denomination as a whole in 1980.
Leaders in the group took turns reading the statement of belief from the Charter. Because we believe:
- That God is the Creator of all people and all are God’s children in one family;
- That racism is a rejection of the teachings of Jesus Christ;
- That racism denies the redemption and reconciliation of Jesus Christ;
- That racism robs all human beings of their wholeness and is used as a justification for social, economic, environmental, and political exploitation;
- That we must declare before God and before one another that we have sinned against our sisters and brothers of other races in thought, in word, and deed;
- That in our common humanity in creation, all women and men are made in God’s image, and all persons are equally valuable in the sight of God;
- That our strength lies in our racial and cultural diversity and that we must work toward a world in which each person’s value is respected and nurtured;
- Our struggle for justice must be based on new attitudes, new understandings, and new relationships and must be reflected in the laws, policies, structures, and practices of both church and state.
Following the statement of belief, they read the poem Freedom by Langston Hughes.