Agency Urges Vigilance in Wake of Church Fires


General Board of Church & Society
Burning sacred havens: We must be vigilant against unspeakable acts of hatred


The events of the past weeks have highlighted the worst and the best of the American spirit. The worst: unbearable, unspeakable acts of hatred. The best: acts of openness, forgiveness, bravery, moral courage and acceptance.

The burning of many black churches in recent weeks reminds us of our need to be ever vigilant against acts of hate and racism. Historic black churches are central to the life of communities, sacred sites of praise and refuge, homes for those often faced with discrimination and segregation, and centers of outreach into the world.

How should Christians who claim a Methodist heritage respond in these days?

  1. Affirm unequivocally non-violent resistance. Acts of hatred have no place in this world, especially against sacred havens.
  2. Express Christian love in solidarity and friendship with neighboring communities and churches. Commit to being unified in the out-reaching love of Jesus Christ.
  3. Provide solace and refuge to all communities suffering acts of hatred. I am reminded of the gestures of hospitality extended by the Muslim community in Egypt when its members protectively surrounded the Coptic Christians who faced religious persecution. May we as United Methodists be equally as vigilant and active in our hospitality and love.
  4. Ensure that the Church Arson Prevention Act of 1996 and other legal protections are enforced. Goodness, equity and justice cannot be fully legislated, but acts of vicious hatred demand that we uphold laws intended to protect all in society.
  5. Insist on the removal of symbols from public display that for too long have represented hatred and bigotry. These do not represent long-lost gallant causes or some ill-conceived notion of laudable heritage as some have mistakenly asserted.
  6. Remember the forgiveness expressed and lived into by the Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal witnesses to the forgiving love in Jesus Christ.

A Night Prayer of St Augustine

Watch, O Lord, with those who wake, or watch, or weep tonight, and give Your angels and saints charge over those who sleep.
Tend Your sick ones, O Lord Christ.
Rest Your weary ones.
Bless Your dying ones.
Soothe Your suffering ones.
Pity Your afflicted ones.
Shield Your joyous ones, and all for Your love's sake.

— The Rev. Dr. Susan Henry-Crowe
General Secretary
General Board of Church & Society
The United Methodist Church

July 2, 2015

The General Board of Church & Society is one of four international general program boards of The United Methodist Church. Prime responsibility of the board is to seek implementation of the Social Principles and other policy statements on Christian social concerns of the General Conference, the denomination’s highest policy-making body. The board’s primary areas of ministry are Advocacy, Education & Leadership Formation, United Nations & International Affairs, and resourcing these areas for the denomination. It has offices on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., and at the Church Center for the United Nations in New York City.