Friends in Christ,
Justice is an attribute of God that flows out of God’s love for us. Scripture teaches us in the lessons of Nicodemus (John 3, 19) and the Woman at the Well (John 4) that God’s truth is found in the light of the day rather than in the dark of the night. Our role as disciples of Jesus Christ is to bring the cleansing power of God’s light to the parts of our world that we have tried to hide or to forget. Over the past year, our communities have grappled with the sin of racism and the ways that racism has permeated our American experience. Our past cannot be brushed under the rug. It must be dragged out into the light of day, the light of Truth.
The North Carolina General Assembly is currently examining a bill that is diametrically opposed to our Christian search to bring sin and darkness to the God’s light. House Bill 324 entitled “Ensuring Dignity & Nondiscrimination/Schools” is named deceptively. It does not ensure dignity. It is discriminatory. It seeks to trap our struggles with racism and with sexism in the dark. We have learned over the past year that not talking honestly about our history, culture, economy, and justice system does not heal our problems. Silence and darkness make them fester.
As proposed, HB 324 would have a negative impact on North Carolina children and educators because of the bill’s “bury our heads in the sand” approach to discussions of race and gender issues in our public schools. Specifically, the proposed bill could have a chilling impact on the teachers’ abilities to discuss the intersection of issues of race and gender with history and current events in the classroom. The bill would prohibit a school district to employ or contract with persons who promote anti-racist viewpoints. School districts would be prohibited from hiring diversity trainers, consultants, or speakers who advocate for anti-racist and anti-sexist programs or policies. In essence, HB 324 bans the “concept” of anti-racism from being discussed or promoted in our public schools.
The sins of our past and present will become the sins of our future if they are not brought into the light and discussed openly and honestly. For Christian disciples, this is the practice of repentance. And friends, we repent of sins that we have committed on purpose or by accident. We repent of sins that have caused harm even when that harm was not our intention. We repent of sins that are our own and that are the sins of our community. Not only does our faith call us to repentance, but our Methodist way of life calls us to repentance. From our founder John Wesley forward through the ages to the guidance of our General Board of Church and Society and our Council of Bishops, the people called Methodists have been seeking dignity for all people. Sometimes that dignity can only be obtained through repentance by those who have caused harm. We do not sweep harm under the rug, hiding it from the light of day. We confront the truth with the Truth of God’s love and justice, with our repentance and the Holy Spirit’s guidance.
The Board of Church and Society of the North Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church urges the laity and clergy of our Conference to examine and pray over proposed House Bill 324 currently before the North Carolina General Assembly. The text of the bill may be found at ncleg.gov for your examination.
We urge you to contact your state legislators to make the message of justice, of Truth, and of repentance visible. Be witnesses to God’s light in North Carolina!
The NC Conference Board of Church & Society
Hope Morgan Ward
Bishop (Raleigh Area)
Director of Congregations For Children (C4C)
Friends in Christ,