Petition 80281

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Grieving and Repenting from Acts of Hate and Violence (80281-C2-R9999)

Delete current resolutions #182 and 183 and replace with the following:
Violence permeates our society, perpetrated by those who hurt others because of the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, their religious identity, or no reason at all. Violence exists as persons and groups from around the world have lashed out in anger and fear, persecuting those whom they see as different. These acts of hate include actions such as "ethnic cleansing," deportations, torture, tyrannical rulers, religious intolerance and persecution, church burnings, rape, war, and civil unrest that scar the lives of millions and have resulted in despicable acts of murder and genocide.  
One particularly deplorable form of violence is hate crimes. Hate crimes result from the intentional selection of victims or property as the object of violence because of the actual or perceived race, color, religion, national origin, class, ethnicity, gender, disability, or sexual orientation of the individual victim or owners of the property.  Currently we have seen how hate-mongers have targeted immigrants and all racial, ethnic, and religious groups.
It is not just organized hate groups who perpetrate such crimes. According to a study by the American Psychological Association, "most hate crimes are carried out by otherwise law-abiding young people who see little wrong with their actions. Alcohol and drugs sometimes help fuel these crimes, but the main determinant appears to be personal prejudice . . . such prejudice is most likely rooted in an environment that disdains someone who is 'different' or sees that difference as threatening."  
According to The White House Conference on Hate Crimes report, "teenagers and young adults account for a significant proportion of the country's hate crimes—both as perpetrators and victims." Children are not born with hatred; they are taught hatred. The United Methodist Church must be proactive in resisting hate and teaching all members how to live in our diverse social world without passively accepting the rise of hate and bigotry. Silence in the presence of  hate language or horrifying atrocities, makes us co-participants in the social systems that support hate.
Assaults against people perceived to be gay or lesbian are increasing at alarming rates and are characterized by particular viciousness. According to the 2004 Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics, hate crimes based on sexual orientation constituted the third highest category reported (and made up 15.5 percent of all reported hate crimes). Although The United Methodist Church is in conflict over the role and place of gay and lesbian people in the church, there is a wide agreement in the Church as well as in the larger society that, sexual orientation is not grounds for revoking people’s civil and human rights. In the "Social Principles" our church has stated  that "certain basic human rights and civil liberties are due all persons. We are committed to supporting those rights and liberties for homosexual persons.  . . Moreover, we support efforts to stop violence and other forms of coercion against gays and lesbians" (ΒΆ 162H).
The United Methodist Church deeply regrets  this violence. We urge United Methodist congregations, youth and campus ministries and church agencies to promote opportunities where we may be a witness to a grieving nation, helping to heal wounds of violence in our communities, witnessing through work groups, Bible studies, community missional outreach, prayer and involvement in ecumenical and interfaith groups.  
We as The United Methodist Church grieve as God grieved when Cain killed Abel and Abel’s blood cried out to the Lord from the ground (Genesis 4:10). We as United Methodists grieve as God grieves over the oppression and enslavement of his people as he saw their misery, heard their cries, and was concerned for their suffering (Exodus 3:7). We  grieve as Jesus grieved over Jerusalem who killed and stoned the prophets sent by God to proclaim his word to them (Matthew 23:34-37). Yet, in each of these passages God does not meet violence with violence. Instead, he offers the option of repentance to those who perpetuate violence and hate.  
Therefore, we, as part of the global community, seek to reconcile the violence found within our own hearts, we seek forgiveness for the injustices we have committed against each other, our friends and family, and the global community. Whether it be our actions or our thoughts, our words or our deeds, our voice or our silence, where we have done wrong, we seek forgiveness. We pray for mercy as we seek to walk more humbly with our God, with our families and friends, with our communities, and with ourselves.
We express our grief for the broken covenants of the church, both in The United Methodist Church and the church universal. We define a broken covenant as being actions that we may have committed in the name of faith that have locked persons out of relationships with Jesus Christ and the church, whether it be because of differences, prejudices, or through ignorance. We seek forgiveness for acts of hate and violence committed in the name of faith.
Yet, our grief is only the first step towards what God desires for humanity. “For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation and brings no regret” (2 Corinthians 7:10a). Repentance entails a turning away from sin, from actions and attitudes of hate and violence and a turning to acceptance, compassion, hospitality, and love. Jesus requires all of his followers to deny themselves, take up  their cross and follow him (Matthew 16:24). Therefore, repentance must lead to redemptive action and social change. Violence, hate, and civil rights violations go against the grain of our  Methodist heritage of commitment to justice for all persons. Today, it is increasingly apparent that such commitment must be translated into action in new ways for Jesus has called us to rise up and minister to a broken world that it may be healed and that we may one day live in a world free from violence where “there will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away” (Revelation 21:4).
Therefore, we urge that United Methodists all around the world, with assistance from the appropriate boards, agencies, and annual conferences continue to educate:
  children and youth on the sins of hate and bigotry;

  • seminary students and clergy on the trends of hate in the world and how the church can faithfully prevent and respond to acts of hate; and
  • all persons in The United Methodist Church about the sins of hatred and bigotry that have been committed in our United Methodist Church against our members and against those with whom we seek to minister.
        We also urge  that the members of our Churches:
  • be active participants in civic or religious organizations that promote unity and diversity and work to eradicate acts of hate;
  • take strong nonviolent action in opposition to hate groups;
  • develop support group(s) for persons active in antiracism strategies and for persons ministering to victims of hate crimes.
  • evangelize those individuals who would choose to be a part of hate groups or who commit acts of hate and violence individually and show them the compassion and saving grace of Jesus Christ;
  • promote diversity dialogue and programs in all churches, annual conferences, central conferences, general agencies, campus ministry units, and any other place where The United Methodist Church has a witness;
  • support a restorative-justice response to hate crimes, which aims at dialogue, accountability, and healing between victims and offenders rather than at adding more punishment of offenders if their crime was motivated by hate; and  
  • speak up when you are a victim of hate crimes. If you are subject to an act of bigotry or racial violence, tell someone. Tell your family, your friends, neighbors, the church; seek support for yourself. Report the incident to police. Insist that the crime be reported as a "hate crime."
        Be it resolved  that through the appropriate agencies of the Church we move to implement the following recommendations:
  • encourage law-enforcement personnel to maintain records on hate crimes and to bring to justice the perpetrators of such violence and intimidation;
  • support hearings on hate crimes, particularly in those states where statistics reveal an increase in the activity of the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups;
  • support congressional hearings when there are allegations of government involvement or negligence exacerbating such violence; and
  • the General Board of Church and Society should advocate for legislation that prevents hate crimes  against gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered persons, ethnic groups, people with disabilities, religious minorities, class, national origin, and gender.
        See Social Principles 162.A