Skip Navigation

Heritage Sunday 2021

Featured Heritage Sunday 2021

Sunday, May 23, 2021
"Pride, Shame and Pain: Methodist History with Racism and Efforts to Dismantle It"

"Heritage Sunday shall be observed on Aldersgate Day (May 24), or the Sunday preceding that date. The day provides an opportunity for reflection on heritage, celebration of where the Church has been, how it understands itself as it shapes us today, and the meaning of Christian conferencing. Heritage Sunday calls the Church to remember the past by committing itself to the continuing call of God."
from 264.1, The Book of Discipline

On June 19, 2020, United Methodist bishops launched a campaign to Dismantle Racism. They called for all levels of the church to be engaged in this effort. Therefore, the theme for Heritage Sunday 2021 is "Pride, Shame and Pain: Methodist History with Racism and Efforts to Dismantle It." Like all of Methodist history, Methodists have been on all sides when it comes to dismantling and sustaining racism. Methodists have been staunch supporters of #BlackLivesMatter, Civil Rights, and abolition. They've also been founders of the KuKluxKlan, builders of the Central Jurisdiction, and owners of enslaved persons. Part of the work of dismantling racism necessitates an honest appraisal of one’s past with special attention given to one’s overt and covert racist actions. In 2021, we must examine the institutionalization of racism within our own ranks and the ways that sins from our past still linger among us. We also honor and celebrate the ways that Methodists have worked to dismantle systemic racism in the United States and around the globe.

This Heritage Sunday, we’re recommitting to sharing the full story. It won’t be easy to hear, and it shouldn’t be. Confronting and acknowledging a racist past and the ways that past creeps into the present is not easy work. It demands intention, humility, ownership, vulnerability, and, most of all, action. This story is not merely words or information—even though it is also that. It’s a call to be different, a call to act differently, a call to create a future where historians one hundred years from now will recognize this as the moment that United Methodists finally began to hear the full story.

At GCAH, we’ve published a new workbook which is meant to give us glimpses of our past. These glimpses are meant to be places to begin discussion, self-reflection, and action. They provide the basic historic information and are presented in hopes that you will be intrigued enough to look for more information. I’ve done my best to capture the narrative of anti-Black racism within United Methodism’s past, but there are dozens of books that, necessarily so, provide more detail and nuance to this narrative. I encourage you to design book studies around those larger Monographs, and GCAH would be more than happy to help you design these book studies. We’ve included well-known and lesser-known historical documents, presented with brief historic context. These are meant to help you engage directly with statements from our past, to wrestle with the language, and to digest these often previously unknown efforts to support, discern, or dismantle racism.

This is also not a complete story. There are many local churches who do not have a recorded historical narrative. This is why we’ve provided step-by-step instructions for those interested to begin to research the history of their congregations, to record that history, to present that history, and to create a more anti-racist future. I also ask that as you read through this narrative, as you examine the documents, and as you listen to the videos, if there are stories, documents, images, or videos that you think are missing and need to be a part of the larger narrative, please reach out to me personally. We recognize that this is a binary exploration of how racism has functioned and continues to function in our history and our institution. Racism extends far beyond the anti-Black racism that is accounted for in this first round of resources. Over the next few months, we are going to do our due diligence and extend the narrative to include other ethnic minority groups in order to complete our story. Write to us and help us construct this narrative for historians work better as teams as no single historian can provide the whole narrative.

As any and all efforts to do this work are never correctly accomplished alone, we thank the General Commission on Religion and Race, Discipleship Ministries, and United Methodist Women for their assistance in gathering these resources and their willingness to let us borrow some previously published resources.

Download and use these resources.

And stay tuned to this page for additional resources. They'll be released as they become available. 

Racsim logo (above) borrowed from the General Commission on Religion and Race. Kelly Fitzgerald, ed. Racism: The Church’s Unfinished Agenda, a Journal of the National Convocation on Racism (General Commission on Religion and Race, 1987).

RESOURCES:

WORKBOOK: (Click the book thumbnail below to open this book in a LightBox.)

WORKBOOK DOWNLOADS:

ENTIRE WORKBOOK

WORKBOOK: Cover

WORKBOOK: Historical Narrative

WORKBOOK: Liturgical Resources

WORKBOOK: Historical Documents

WORKBOOK: Research Resources

WORKBOOK: A/V Resources

NEW PODCAST: Un-Tied Methodism

Unraveling the past to make sense of today

Episode 1: Racism in the System

Episode 2: Methodism in DC

Episode 3: The Cross and Flame Logo

Episode 4: Wellspring UMC: A Local Church History

This podcast will continue beyond Heritage Sunday. Be sure to SUBSCRIBE to us on Spotify!

VIDEO: A Sermon by Bishop Ernest Lyght

DOWNLOAD VIDEO

POWERPOINT: A Visual Illustration

PowerPoint Presentation with Audio

PowerPoint Presentation (PPT File)

REFLECTIONS ON WHITE RACISM:

When my staff and I began our research on this year’s topic for Heritage Sunday, one of the first essays found was “Reflections on White Racism” written in 1973 by James L. Jones, former Associate Executive Secretary of the Commission on Religion and Race. As I read the first page, my immediate thought was, “Was this written yesterday?!” 

Towards the end of his essay, James L. Jones challenges the reader to “become serious about racism” if we want to “be the true Church of our Lord.” To do this we must “purge ourselves of both our conscious and unconscious racism” for “there can be no [inclusive] church as long as we refuse to deal with our racism.” It’s been fifty years since he wrote this essay—are we ready to become serious, yet?

Below are the original essay from James L. Jones. The second resource contains five reflections on this essay from Emily Jones, the Executive for Racial Justice at United Methodist Women; Bishop Sally Dyck, retired Bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference; Rev. Dr. Grace Pak, ordained elder in the New Jersey Annual Conference and founder of Shalom I.D.E.A.; Rev. Dr. Hilde Movafagh, rector at the Methodist Theological Seminary in Oslo, Norway and ordained elder in the Norway Annual Conference; and Liz Crouse, deaconess in the Tennessee Annual Conference.

Reflections on White Racism

Reflections on White Racism Round-Table

ACROSS THE CONNECTION: Resources from other UMC Agencies

United Methodist Women Racial Justice Toolkit: https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/racialjustice

United Methodist Women Racial Justice Timeline: https://www.unitedmethodistwomen.org/rjtimeline

General Commission on Religion and Race Resources: https://www.r2hub.org

General Commission on Religion and Race Article "Don't misuse 'Methodist' and 'Methodism': https://www.gcorr.org/news/um-heritage-sunday

Denominational Website "Stand Against Racism": https://www.umc.org/en/how-we-serve/advocating-for-justice/racial-justice/united-against-racism

Denominational Webinars: https://www.umc.org/en/how-we-serve/advocating-for-justice/racial-justice/dismantling-racism-panel-discussions