“I have often wondered what I would have done if I was a pastor during the Civil Rights Movement. Would I have fought to end racial discrimination and segregation like Rev. James Reeb who gave his life for the cause or would I have played it safe so that I wouldn’t make other white people uncomfortable. I can never know for sure since I was not alive during that time, but I do know that we are living in a similarly tumultuous time and that is why I feel it is important to say that Black Lives Matter. I know that I have friends who disagree with the statement and that doesn’t mean we cannot be friends, I hope that we will continue to be so, but it does mean that we disagree. If you disagree with this statement you can still call me up when you need a friend (a real friend, not just a Facebook friend) and I will assume that I can call on you as a friend as well unless you tell me differently.
While I unequivocally affirm that Black Lives matter, this doesn’t mean that I approve of every single thing someone says or does while proclaiming Black Lives Matter. I am absolutely opposed to violence, including violence against law enforcement, and I am especially opposed to violence against black people, indigenous people, people of color, and women because throughout history they have been on the receiving end of a disproportionate amount of violence in this country.
I don’t pretend to be faultless or blameless and I believe that as long as I am on this earth I am a work in progress and will continue to learn, to grow, and to try to do better. I hope wherever you are or whatever you believe that you continue to learn and to grow as well.
For me, saying Black Lives Matter is not a political statement; it is a deeply theological statement. I believe all people are made in God’s image and of sacred worth. I also believe that the God who brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt and sent Jesus to heal the sick, welcome the outcasts, and touch the untouchables has a preference for oppressed people, not because they are better than other people, but simply because they are oppressed. I affirm that Black Lives Matter because I believe that the sin of racism is still deeply rooted in our society and I pray for the day that I will no longer have to say Black Lives Matter because all people including black people, indigenous people, people of color, LGBTQ people, and women are fully treated as if their lives matter as much as any other person.
Four years ago my bishop laid hands on me and said “take authority as a deacon in the church” who is called to “serve all people, particularly the poor, the sick, and the oppressed.” So with my authority today I proclaim that Black Lives Matter and while I know that this statement alone will not end racism I do believe it is a necessary first step and I pray for the strength to continuing proclaiming this in word and deed until all lives truly do matter.”
Rev. Stephanie Dodge
Glendale United Methodist Church – Nashville