The Church, our nation, an entire community and families lost faithful disciples and loving people today in Charleston, South Carolina. We grieve the loss of life, the desecration of a sacred space and the pain because of violence.
The nine people murdered in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church were young and old, lay and clergy, elected official and everyday citizens. They came together for prayer and Bible study. Rev. Clementa Pinckney, the pastor of the church was killed alongside other pastors, leaders and employees. They were gathered in a prayer meeting in an historic sacred space. Emanuel AME Church is one of the largest African American congregations south of Baltimore. The church has a long history of working toward racial justice. Its founders organized anti-slavery activism, it was visited by Booker T. Washington and it was frequented by Martin Luther King, Jr. and other civil rights leaders. In 1969, Coretta Scott King led marches on behalf of black hospital workers from the steps of the church through the streets of Charleston to stand for civil rights. It was a sacred space that was desecrated and a space that worked toward justice.
While this story is still unfolding, we do know that good people in a black church were murdered while gathered for prayer. While we do not know the state of mind of the individual who perpetrated this terrible act, there are indications that race played a part. We know that race divides our nation and the Church. We recognize that we can do better as a society, and as the Church we must strive to end hatred and division.
I am grateful for the people called United Methodists in Greater New Jersey who recently voted at our Annual Conference session to work together to continue to address discrimination and racism within the Church and society. I call for all Greater New Jersey United Methodists to join together to be witnesses to bring an end to violence and racism. I further call us to prayer. Our actions must be steeped in prayer and let us pray for the nine victims and their families. Let us pray for the Emanuel AME Church and their ministry. Let us pray for the community of Charleston. And let us pray that our words and actions will heal and unite the Church and our communities.
John Schol, Bishop
The United Methodist Church
Greater New Jersey