10 Simple Strategic Steps for Christians Seeking To Do Something Significant
A guest post by United Methodist Bishop, Frank J. Beard
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit the United States, I knew the right thing to do was to pass the mic to someone with the knowledge and experience to advise churches on what to do next.
In the days following the senseless murder of George Floyd, I knew I needed to once again pass the mic to people with the experience and knowledge to guide churches in where to go next.
The first voice I’m highlighting here is Bishop Frank J. Beard. Bishop Beard is the bishop of the Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church. He is also my former pastor and boss from Castleton United Methodist Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
When life gets tough, I always look for his voice. I’m thankful and humbled that he has agreed to lend his voice in this way.
Dealing with racism is not easy and it takes a lot of energy and forethought that will often move us into uncomfortable places.
Speaking up and out is important even though people often are scared to say anything because they worry that if they say the wrong thing, they might get in trouble or find themselves being labeled.
It is crucial for Christians to create safe sanctuaries where we can have difficult conversations about racism and other topics that promote injustice.
Where should we start and what is the expected outcome?
It is important to begin by addressing one’s own personal experiences and feelings regarding racism, prejudice, and discrimination. One’s background and familial experience contribute significantly to the way that they perceive issues related to race, class, and culture.
As a follower of Christ, start by recognizing the need to address injustice in all its forms, in every place that it exists, especially in the church.
A start can be as simple as making a personal refusal to participate in the use of racial slurs or the participation in telling ethnic jokes in private or in public. The long-range goal is to confront racism and to begin the process of removing racism from our systems in order that justice and fairness may be attained by all.
Christians can join in the call to address systemic injustice and discrimination by:
- Becoming aware of policies and practices that promote disparities based on race, ethnicity, stereotypes, or economic status.
- By employing the use of empathic listening that is engaging and helps with validating the feelings and personal experiences of persons of color, without being dismissive or making explanatory comments that seek to rationalize or soothe away their pain.
- Learn to recognize and understand your own privilege and experiences that are based on skin color and power.
- Share your own story as you engage in tough conversations about race and injustice. Your story will help foster deeper understanding for you and for others as you interact together.
- Recognize that America is NOT a “melting pot” but rather a “garden salad” containing a blend of unique colors and flavors meant to be experienced together. DO Not give in to the myth that you must be “color blind.”
- Seek to identify with those that are marginalized and who face the effects of a system that thrives and survives on racist behavior and practices.
- Use the power of your own personal finances by taking a stand with your money. Be aware of the practices of those you do business with.
- Create safe places for difficult conversations, utilizing people experienced in providing diversity training.
- Develop and foster relationships with people of color based on mutual respect and concern for each other’s well-being.
- As people of faith, pray for and with others, that Jesus’ prayer for unity would become a reality.
Bishop Frank J. Beard
Illinois Great Rivers Conference of the United Methodist Church
**In addition to this, please go read Bishop Beard’s powerful reflection on his conference website, “Tears from a bedside lament.“
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