The Christian imperative to respond to hate crimes

Resolution for the 2010 New York Annual Conference

Whereas, the example of Jesus’s ministry compels us to welcome and defend the poor, the marginalized and the oppressed; and we therefore have an obligation to work for a society and a world in which all people are welcome and safe; and

Whereas, hate crimes in the United States are on the rise; FBI statistics report 7,783 hate crime incidents for 2008, with 51.3% of them racially motivated, 19.5% motivated by religious bias, 16.7% by sexual-orientation bias, 11.5% by bias based on ethnicity or national origin, and 1% motivated by disability bias; and

Whereas, a 2008 resolution passed at the UMC General Conference notes, “the United Methodist Church must be proactive in resisting hate and teaching all members how to live in our diverse social world without passively accepting the rise of hate and bigotry. When church members do nothing about hate language or horrifying atrocities, we participate in the social support of hate” (Book of Resolutions 3421); and 

Whereas racially motivated hate crimes are the product of a long history and present reality in the U.S. of systemic racism and white privilege that too often continues to be the norm in U.S. society, including the UMC’s leadership structures, clergy formation, and polity; the UMC’s official positions abhorring racism have yet to adequately bear fruit in the concrete actions of local congregations and the daily lives of individual United Methodists; and

Whereas hate crimes targeting people because of their ethnicity or national origin are frequently the violent expression of anti-immigrant racism and economic scapegoating; and these crimes have recently increased as a result of anti-immigrant laws and public indifference, creating marginalized, exploited, and disenfranchised segments of our communities who are more vulnerable to crime, domestic violence, workplace discrimination and exploitation of all kinds, such as slave-like labor practices, because they cannot access the protection of the courts or the police for fear of deportation; and as people following in the Way of Jesus we are called by our holy scriptures to welcome the stranger and the outcast, to remember that our fathers and mothers were once “wandering Arameans,” to treat all people as our neighbors; and

Whereas, in the case of gay men and lesbians, the UMC’s official prejudice and discrimination help fuel anti-gay bias and violence; its official position that “homosexuality is incompatible with Christian teaching” in a nation in which the vast majority of people identify as Christians has contributed to a hostile and dangerous environment for LGBT people; and hate crimes against LGBT people have risen faster than all others; and

Whereas, the church ought to be in the forefront of efforts to combat hate violence, holding up the sacred worth of all people and bringing together different communities afflicted by the same type of violence to affirm their common humanity and our common obligation to speak and act; and

Whereas, the UMC has specifically resolved that the church “with assistance from the appropriate boards, agencies, and local churches continue to educate children and youth on the sins of hate and bigotry; seminary students and clergy on the trends of hate in the world and how the church can faithfully prevent and respond to acts of hate; and all persons in the United Methodist Church about the sins of hatred and bigotry that have been committed in our United Methodist Church against our members and against those with whom we seek to minister”; and it has resolved that members of the UMC  “promote diversity dialogue and programs in all churches, annual conferences, central conferences, general agencies, campus ministry units, and any other place where The United Methodist Church has a witness” (2008 Book of Resolutions  3421); therefore be it

Resolved, that the New York Annual Conference commit itself to an active ministry opposing bigotry, hatred and violence in all its forms; and be it further

Resolved, that our clergy preach and teach about the sins of hate and bigotry and the Christian imperative to respond; and that they lift up the common humanity of victims of hate crimes, whether targeted for their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, religion, sex, economic status, immigration status, disability, or any other characteristic; and be it further

Resolved, that our churches seek out coalitions with local groups working to educate the public, fight bigotry and document bias and hate crimes and support them in their work; and join or initiate organized efforts to respond to individual incidents of hate violence.

Passed June 11, 2010

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