August 11-12 in Charlottesville, Virginia we began to witness images of white nationalism, protests, counter-protests, violence, death, and tragedy.
I denounce any behavior couched as Christian that dehumanizes people and elevates one group over another. Our doctrine as Christians and history as Wesleyans in particular compels us not to be silent or inactive, but to engage in love. I call on all Wesleyan Churches to pray for our nation, Charlottesville, and for pastors and community leaders on the front lines risking their safety there.
I also encourage all Christians to grow in their discipleship by forming relationships across ethnic lines. In my own life I have found these relationships to grow my own soul, and also grow my perspective and empathy for how others experience these matters. God uses these relationships, and our discipleship becomes more holistic if we reach across such lines.
The actions of a few in Charlottesville are horrific, and the white supremacy of entire crowds is likewise troubling. But, it is also concerning when we look the other way, or wait for a more opportune moment to speak truth–a wait that at times never comes to fruition with action. We choose to actively listen instead, and appropriately speak into the tension with love.
Tony Schiavone is the pastor of Cornerstone Community Church, a Wesleyan congregation in Charlottesville, Virginia, and he is doing just this locally, following the lead of other courageous leaders in that community, across ethnic lines. In speaking with us on the phone Saturday (August 12) Pastor Tony told us, “Thank you for your prayers as I meet and pray with other local pastors and leaders. This is an opportunity for local churches to come together in order to reach our city with the love and healing power of Jesus Christ.”
The Wesleyan Church already has its statement on racial reconciliation and just last summer I felt I should speak out in response to the violence that gripped our nation in July 2016. However, tensions continue to increase to this day.
I am encouraged to see that people are gathering to pray and show their support for one another, in particular across the very racial and ethnic divisions white supremacists seek to deepen. Instead of their agenda, Jesus Christ will advance his own: building bridges across the divide.
-Wayne Schmidt, General Superintendent, The Wesleyan Church