Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.
November 18, 2010
Dear United Methodists of the New York Annual Conference:
Greetings in the name of Jesus Christ our Savior and Redeemer, the Prince of shalom, Healer of our brokenness, and Hope of the world!
In response to the escalation of acts of violence around the world and in the United States, the Council of Bishops, at its most recent meeting in early November in Panama City, Panama, has adopted a statement, which contains these words: "We as people of faith are charged to build the beloved community because Christ has broken down the dividing walls and ended the hostilities between us. Yet we continue to build walls in the church and in the world, which separate us and cause our hearts to grieve.... In the United States, there has been an escalation of violence, related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religious preference. This escalation included personal attacks, bullying and vicious and criminal acts of violence to the mind, body and spirit of persons. These actions diminish life for the victims, the perpetrators and the total community. They are ultimately insidious and irreverent attacks on the sacredness of God given life."
Sadly, there's a trickle down of hate in our land. Our sharply divided political, cultural, and religious landscape, where hate-filled diatribes often substitute for civil and intelligent discussion of our differences, only encourages intolerance and contributes to the spread of hate-driven acts that we are witnessing. The reports in the news about the bullying of gay persons leading to their suicide and the torturing of three gay men in the Bronx are only but a few recent examples of the countless tragic consequences of hate and intolerance.
Nothing done out of hate and intolerance has any place in our society, let alone in our church. The gospel of Jesus Christ cannot accept or condone either the thought or the deed. Long before hateful thoughts become hateful words that become hateful deeds, the church must shout from the mountain tops: "Our God says 'no'!" With no uncertain terms, let the world know that hate crime is a crime against our God who created all people in God's own image.
Dear sisters and brothers in Christ, I ask you to offer prayers for all who have been victimized by hateful actions. I urge you to do whatever you can to stop the evils of bullying and hate crimes. Do whatever you can to give witness to the vision of the beloved community of hope, where all people are embraced as persons of sacred worth, affirmed for who they are and treated with respect and dignity.
The statement by the Council of Bishops starts with these words: "We the bishops of The United Methodist Church are compelled to pledge ourselves and to issue a call to the whole church for a renewed commitment to truly be the beloved community of Christ.... We commit to speak the truth in love in public and private discourse, to act with compassion, and to work for peace and justice in the world." And it ends with these words: "It is incumbent upon the bearers of this vision of a beloved community to do whatever we can today to hasten the day of a just world with peace. This is our hope, our prayer and our commitment."
Affirming it as my personal hope, my personal prayer, and my personal commitment, I repeat the famous words attributed to the reformer, Martin Luther: "Here I stand, I can do no other. God help me." Will you?
With you in Christ's Ministry,
Jeremiah J. Park