Response: July/August 2016 Issue

Responsively Yours: Nurture Community

Responsively Yours: Nurture Community
Harriet Olson speaks at the 2016 United Methodist General Conference in Portland, Ore.

A year ago I was writing about a mass shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. Before that it was a shooting at a Jewish community center and one at a Sikh temple and an attack on an Amish schoolhouse. Now we are grieving and denouncing an attack on a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, that took place during a celebration of Pride and Latino/a/x heritage.

It is right and proper to denounce and grieve. These attacks have killed and wounded our brothers and sisters. They have torn at the fabric of families, communities and networks of friends. Each one is unique, unspeakably painful and creates ripples of fear.

However, as a society we must stop seeing them as isolated incidents and come to grips with the fact that the United States of today is a violent place. In the new resolution passed at General Conference 2016, Speaking Out for Compassion: Transforming the Context of Hate in the United States, United Methodist Women brought to The United Methodist Church a cry for the denomination to take a stand "challenging the climate of distrust, distortion of truth and fear, shifting the conversation to our common future."

Racism, economic stress, anger and disrespect have combined in ways that have turned us against each other in this country. The fear and rancor following each incident tempts us to retreat to a posture of self-protection rather than finding the hope and the conviction that is needed to galvanize new work for change.

The reality is that the shooters in all the places mentioned and in movie theaters and schools and Arizona parking lots and military bases and workplaces and elsewhere are also children of God. It's hard to remember this in the face of such violence and hate. We call them loners, terrorists, radicalized white supremacists, and a variety of other names that attempt to distinguish them from ourselves. These people are also our brothers. The shooters were also residents and citizens who needed mental health care, decent work, supportive community. They did not need access to high capacity assault weapons or to be empowered by culture that fosters hate.

The name-calling, line-drawing and blaming that has displaced discourse in our political arenas, our communities and even in some places in our church is toxic. These horrible massacres should wake us up. It is time to change. It's time to construct opportunities for real dialogue. Listen especially to persons who are not like us and who see the world differently. Eliminate access to high-capacity assault rifles. Provide affordable access to effective mental health care. Nurture community and persistently address every expression of racism and religious bigotry.

United Methodist Women, our work on the Charter of Racial Justice, and our work to resist growing income inequality and criminalization of communities of color is needed now more than ever. I implore you to participate in training opportunities, find resources on our website and in the Reading Program, work together to assess needs and find the next place where God is calling you to work in your communities and across the country. Throughout the life of our organization United Methodist Women members have risen to the challenge of some of our most difficult issues. This is still our call and God is able.

Harriett Jane Olson
General Secretary
United Methodist Women 

Posted or updated: 7/17/2016 11:00:00 PM

July/August 2016 cover of response

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