(RNS) — United Methodist bishops are calling members of the global denomination to “take a stand against the oppression and injustice that is killing persons of color” after the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and other black people.
In a written statement released Monday (June 8), bishops called all United Methodists to name racism and white supremacy as sins and to act to end them.
“It is time to use our voices, our pens, our feet and our heart for change,” according to the statement, signed by Bishop Cynthia Fierro Harvey, president of the United Methodist Council of Bishops.
Bishops encouraged United Methodists to act by spending eight minutes and 46 seconds in prayer at 8:46 a.m. and 8:46 p.m. each day for at least the next 30 days. Floyd was killed on May 25 when a police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes and 46 seconds in a Minneapolis street.
“Pray for all persons of color who suffer at the hands of injustice and oppression. Pray for our church as we take a stand against racism,” the statement reads. “Imagine the power of a concert of prayer heard around the world.”
Bishops also encouraged United Methodists to act by reading books and listening to podcasts on anti-racism and engaging in conversations about the subject with both children and adults.
And they affirmed the peaceful protests over the past few weeks that have been sparked by Floyd’s death as “a means of giving voice where it is needed most.”
“The time is now,” Bishop LaTrelle Easterling, head of the United Methodists’ Baltimore-Washington Conference, said in the written statement.
“Dismantle the architecture of whiteness and white supremacy; stop creating, implementing and supporting policies that perpetuate economic injustice; stop the dog-whistle political maneuverings which incite violence against people of color; commit to being an anti-racist; stop over-policing Black and brown bodies; stop using deadly force in ordinary police interactions with Black and brown people. Stop killing us.”
The United Methodist Church isn’t the only denomination speaking out against racism amid protests and calls for action.
On Tuesday, J.D. Greear, head of the Southern Baptist Convention, declared “black lives matter” in an online address offered as the evangelical denomination canceled its annual meeting. The SBC is the only Protestant denomination larger than the United Methodist Church in the United States.
The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, the largest Lutheran denomination in the U.S., reaffirmed its commitment to combat racism and white supremacy. Last summer, the denomination’s churchwide assembly approved a resolution condemning white supremacy.
Episcopal Church leaders have been outspoken in support of protesters, especially after police expelled demonstrators from the patio of St. John’s Episcopal Church in Washington, D.C., and the surrounding area before President Donald Trump took a photo with a Bible in front of the church. Several clergy and volunteers from the Episcopal Diocese of Washington had been ministering to the protesters.
And the African Methodist Episcopal Church released a statement not only backing those statements by Episcopal leaders, but also urging its members to support protesters; stay focused on the arrest, upcoming trial and potential conviction of the four officers involved in Floyd’s death; call for the demilitarization of police and redirection of some funds from police budgets to communities harmed by racist policing; and rebuild businesses that have been damaged.