Bishops oppose racism, back immigration reform


2:00 P.M. EST Nov. 9, 2010 | PANAMA CITY, Panama (UMNS)

Bishop Robert Schnase<br/>
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
Bishop Robert Schnase
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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United Methodist bishops have called on Christians to overcome racism and other sources of animosity to recognize the sacredness of every human being.

“As people of faith, we are charged to build the beloved community because Christ has broken down the dividing walls and ended the hostilities between us,” says a pastoral letter approved at the Nov. 2-6 Council of Bishops meeting. “Yet, we continue to build walls in the church and in the world which separate us and cause our hearts to grieve.”

On the meeting’s final day, more than 80 active and retired bishops also agreed to a planned campaign for humane immigration reform in 2011.

The New Year’s Resolution Campaign 2011 calls on Christians to contact U.S. Congress members and pray daily for reform that “reunifies families and provides a pathway to legal status for undocumented immigrants.”

The campaign is sponsored by the U.S. Immigration Campaign of the Interfaith Immigration Coalition, with support from the National Council of the Churches and the United Methodist Board of Church and Society.

A call to civility

The bishops said they hope to encourage civil discourse with their statement on racism.

Wisconsin Area Bishop Linda Lee, a member of the council’s Task Force on Racism, said it was urgent that the Council of Bishops call for greater compassion in human relations because of intensifying rhetoric and violence against racial, ethnic and religious minorities around the globe.

“At this moment in history in the U.S. and elsewhere, our silence is a statement,” she said. “So if we don’t make a statement in writing, it could be seen as complicit with what is happening. ... We will have lost an opportunity to speak to our churches at a moment when they need to have an idea what we believe.”

Bishop Linda Lee<br/>
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
Bishop Linda Lee
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
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The far-reaching statement dealt with sources of animosity in the various regions of the world where United Methodists worship.

  • In the Philippines, the statement calls for “breaking down the barriers between mainline society and tribal peoples,” with equal rights in land possession and free education for all.
  • In Africa, the statement condemns the legacy of colonialism.
  • In Europe, racism is a growing problem “with political parties openly working against minority, ethnic and religious communities,” the document says.
  • In the United States, the document cites a “rapid escalation of violence related to race, ethnicity, sexual orientation and religious preference.”

The statement also denounced the rise of terrorism and “the religious persecution of various faith communities, including Christians.”

“The church is called to decisively and directly counter these acts and engender and empower a ‘perfect love that casts out all fear,’” the statement says, citing 1 John: 4:18.

Spreading the word

Missouri Area Bishop Robert C. Schnase told the bishops gathered that it is not enough for the statement to remain on a church website or blog.

“I would just suggest that the Council of Bishops can get more done by encouraging each other to speak about this in our own voice, in our own way and in our setting,” Schnase said.

Bishop Rosemarie Wenner of Germany agreed.

“This is a statement that helps us to speak up in our areas,” she said, “by taking the spirit and our common witness as a council to say that we as people of faith stand up against racism, which unfortunately is all over the world.”

*Hahn is a multimedia news reporter for United Methodist News Service.

News media contact: Heather Hahn, Nashville, Tenn., (615) 742-5470 or