Civil-rights story is not complete

One of the things I love most about being a United Methodist is our denomination's commitment to social justice. Despite The United Methodist Church's mixed history in the struggle for civil rights, I take pride in knowing that United Methodists before me were part of that historic struggle, and that social justice continues to be integral to our faith.

Mass incarceration image

(Picture from General Commission on Religion & Race, “Vital Conversations: Mass Incarceration”)

This month, we commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, one of the darkest moments in U.S. history. In 2015, we also celebrate five decades worth of progress on civil rights.

But we must acknowledge that the story is not complete: We still judge individuals more on the color of their skin than by the content of their character.

A powerful reminder of this came when American singer-songwriters John Legend and Common, in accepting their Oscar for the song “Selma,” dedicated their award to the continued struggle for civil rights in America:

We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today than were under slavery in 1850.

Strong correlation

Just as we know that a strong correlation exists between poverty, race and incarceration, we also know that longstanding mistrust, anger, fear and divisions still exist in our local communities. As Christians — both the white majority community and communities of color — we must work together in faith toward solutions.

But how do we do that?

Supporting vital conversations such as these is central to the United Methodist General Commission on Religion & Race’s work. This month, we're so pleased to share new resources that support the denomination’s efforts to talk about important topics like racism and mass incarceration, as well as help United Methodist leaders work toward meaningful change.


This vital congregations link will take you to a variety of multimedia resources such as:

We hope these examples and suggestions will empower you to have this vital conversation in your annual conference, in your local community, in your seminary, etc.

As always, we welcome your resources on this topic. We are glad to add them to our website resource repository.

Editor's note: Barbara Michelman is Communication Strategist at the General Commission on Religion & Race, which was created by The United Methodist Church in 1968 to be a vehicle through which the denomination invited white people and people of color to a common table to tackle institutional racism, engage in new conversations about what a truly desegregated and global church could look like, and chart a course for living out the Gospel of Jesus Christ in a more authentic and all-people-embracing way.

Letter to the Editor