By Angela Pleasants and Keith Boyette
May 21, 2021
Down through the years, we have heard the declarations: The ground is level at the foot of the cross. God is no respecter of persons. “For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male and female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28).
Yet down through the ages societies and cultures around the world have heeded a different mantra, classifying people by the color of their skin, their tribal connections, their ethnicities, or other “distinguishing features.” The classifications are often used to empower some and disempower others, feeding bias, prejudice, and discrimination. At best, disempowered groups have been denied freedoms and opportunities afforded to others, and at worst, they have been enslaved, counted as less than human, and even killed by the millions. Classifying people by tribes, the color of their skin, and ethnicities shape judicial and economic systems, and create barriers to education and health care among other things.
This blight upon humanity is not confined to one nation; it is global in nature. Rooting out such anti-Christian systems requires fidelity to the full reading of the gospel and our constant vigilance in both word and deed.
Almost a year ago, in response to the call articulated in “Make Justice A Reality,” the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Global Council formed the Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equality. The task force was composed of 22 persons from Burundi, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, the Philippines, Romania, and the United States. Seven of the task force members were from countries outside the United States. The 15 persons who call the United States home were composed of an equal number of Asian Americans, Black Americans, Hispanic/Latino Americans, Native Americans, and Anglo Americans.
After meeting together for eight months, the task force recently shared its report with the WCA Global Council which unanimously affirmed the task force’s work. The report is a call to action and the council’s adoption of it must serve as an ever-present reminder and guide that as disciples of Jesus Christ we are called to constantly work for justice and equality. If we are to be true followers of Jesus we will make this work central to our mission as the Global Methodist Church.
In its report, the task force declares, “The gospel is for all people at all times and in all places. This good news of God’s redemption for the world transcends every false boundary and definition which humanity has and might yet create, which would divide people based on appearance, custom, language, tribe, or nation. In truth, human beings bear the divine image of God, and in so doing, carry the immeasurable value which that entails.”
Racial and tribal reconciliation and healing is not a bonus to the gospel. It is an essential part of the gospel. As Paul writes in Ephesians 2:14, “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us.” The task force emphasized that until we have reconciliation with God, we will not have reconciliation with one another.
The task force’s recommendations are divided into three broad areas:
- Educational training regarding our mission.
- Calling, Equipping, and mobilizing churches to reach all people.
- Building and communicating global connections.
In adopting the report, the WCA Global Council committed to work for the implementation of the task force’s recommendations so that they are woven into the very fabric of the Global Methodist Church.
Among the recommendations adopted:
- Educating laity about the authority they have to structure themselves to attract ethnic groups in their community.
- Celebrating diversity and the uniqueness of gifts present in the body of Christ while avoiding generalizations about people groups, cultures, and ethnicities.
- Creating visible opportunities for people to walk in relationship with one another and learn from one another across ethnic, racial, and socio-economic divides.
- Equipping leaders who are committed to God’s vision of a church expressed in Revelation 7:9 composed of every nation and tribe and people and language.
- Developing partnerships which intentionally overcome human constructs which divide and diminish.
- Communicating and living out the reality that racial reconciliation is not merely a bonus to the gospel, but an essential part of the gospel.
- Identifying and deploying multicultural leadership at every level of the church, not as a response to quotas, but as a genuine commitment to embrace the diversity God has created in the human family.
- Being accountable to one another to be a church that celebrates the intrinsic worth and gift of each person as a child of God.
Jesus calls us to be light, salt and leaven in a world that is being transformed. We are committed to being Christ-followers who embrace others as persons made in the image of God, who build faith communities that intentionally engage in the ministry of reconciliation, and who witness in word and action to the redemption we receive in Jesus Christ. We are dedicated to tearing down the walls of alienation, separation, and injustice too often present in our societies.
The WCA Global Council commended the task force’s report to the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church. The council fully acknowledges that creating a task force and receiving a report leaves it far from living out the gospel mandate to follow Jesus in his sacrificial love for the world and all its people. As followers of Jesus, we must daily accord all people their God-given dignity, defend their God-given rights, and see that justice is done for them as we expect it to be done for ourselves.
The Rev. Angela Pleasants is an elder in the Western North Carolina Annual Conference. She most recently served as pastor of South Tryon Community United Methodist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Rev. Pleasants served as chairwoman of the WCA Task Force on Racial and Ethnic Equality. The Rev. Keith Boyette is an elder in the Virginia Annual Conference. He is president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and chair of the Transitional Leadership Council of the Global Methodist Church.