A Statement After January Sixth
A Letter of Pastoral Guidance from the Board of Bishops
January 10, 2021.
A statement for Free Methodists following the January 6 events in the United States.
To Our Free Methodist Family:
Having prayerfully reflected upon the events of January 6 at the U.S. Capitol, we, your Board of Bishops offer this response to center us, unify us, call us to prayer, and to remind us of our role as disciples of Jesus Christ.
A Call to Prayer for Our Divided Nation and Church
First, and of primary importance, we call Free Methodists everywhere to a season of prayer and fasting. We are a nation divided and sadly acknowledge that many of our churches reflect that division. As each of us observes and experiences the turmoil in our nation, we will naturally respond in different ways due to different life experiences, different passions, and different visions of what our nation should be. We respect these differences but call on one another to humbly repent of attitudes and actions that are unpleasing to God and distance us from one another. Our hearts should be broken over the strife and division in our society and churches. May God help us to be repairers of the broken walls that exist all around us. “If my people, who are called by name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14).
A Call to Wisdom and Discernment
We recognize that the events of last week did not happen in a vacuum but were in many ways the culmination of the social and political unrest that swept our nation in 2020. This unrest was at times instigated or inflamed by growing trends that do not contribute to understanding and healing but rather leave division and destruction in their wake. We, therefore, call on Free Methodists everywhere to seek the Lord for wisdom regarding such trends, the courage to resist them, and the resolve to walk in His ways.
- LET US BE WISE paying close attention to unhealthy communication patterns inherent in most social media platforms. Let us be discerning and “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19).
- LET US BE WISE and resist the temptation to discuss controversial matters in the sterile environment of the digital universe rather than the relationally rich environment of authentic community.
- LET US BE WISE and refrain from responding to complex issues with simplistic soundbites that serve only to defend or strengthen already-held positions.
- LET US BE WISE about such things as the rhetoric of QAnon and other secretive groups that thrive on conspiracy theories and spread their beliefs in ways that stir fear and suspicion and demonize those who disagree.
- LET US BE WISE to the ways of extremist groups on both sides of the political landscape.
- LET US BE WISE to the deception of Christian nationalism that equates faithfulness to Jesus Christ with loyalty to a particular party.
A Call to Remind Us of Our Role as Disciples of Jesus Christ
The world we live in is being profoundly shaped by such forces that are not of Christ. In times like this, it is crucial that we heed the Apostle Paul’s exhortation, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). What does that mean for us as Free Methodists in the current context? We offer the following words of guidance and encouragement:
- LET US strengthen our unity as a Free Methodist family in love even as the world at large engages divisive ways. When we fail to do so, we put ourselves at risk of viewing one another as opponents or enemies rather than brothers and sisters in Christ. Without question, we must deal with our own sin and all the ways we have been conformed to this world, but we do so in love and with the spiritual resources of confession, repentance, and forgiveness.
- LET US remember that our true home is in a kingdom that is “not of this world” (John 18:36). It is not wrong to love our nation or to engage in it socially or politically, but we do so as “ambassadors” of another kingdom (2 Corinthians 5:20). Our mission is to always and everywhere represent the kingdom of God with the courage and boldness that comes only to those whose identity and security is found in Christ alone.
- LET US embrace the practice of speaking to specific political issues from a biblical perspective rather than speaking to them from the positions of political parties. To those who feel called of God to align with or operate within a specific political party, let us do so with the conviction that we must never allow loyalty to the party to supersede our loyalty to Jesus Christ or our devotion to the truth of God’s Word.
- LET US confess that we have largely neglected our true mission to make disciples in exchange for seeking to preserve Christian culture through political influence and power. Jesus set out to transform the world by making disciples who make disciples. May God use this season of turmoil to bring us to our knees and restore us to our mission.
A Call to Denounce National Sin and Separate Ourselves from any Participation in It
We respect the right of all U.S. citizens to participate in peaceful demonstrations and recognize that many protestors in the large crowd had no violent intentions and in fact did not storm the Capitol, nor do they support the violent and illegal acts that were committed. Nevertheless, we have a responsibility as Christians to speak boldly and prophetically to matters of sin. With regard to the events that occurred on the afternoon of January 6, 2020:
- WE DENOUNCE the violent and illegal acts with the same words we uttered last June in the midst of violent demonstrations across many of our cities, “While we support the right of every American to protest unjust acts or policies, we equally deplore the use of violence and call on Free Methodists to be agents of peace even as we stand boldly against every form of injustice.”
- WE DENOUNCE the inflammatory and divisive words and actions of President Donald Trump leading up to and on the morning of January 6. His continual touting of unsubstantiated claims coupled with his refusal to unequivocally denounce the violent and illegal acts in a timely manner contributed to the appalling events that occurred later that day.
- WE DENOUNCE the many signs, emblems, flags, and banners that were deployed by some protestors and paraded through our nation’s Capitol. We deplore such symbols that further the causes of racism, white supremacy, secret societies, and other ideologies that are entirely incongruent with the gospel. Most egregious were those symbols that politicized the gospel, and in some cases, Jesus Christ, Himself.
- Lest we fail to search our own hearts, we also renounce any personal involvement in such sin and turn to Christ for His Way, Truth, and Life.
It is God’s providence that we have just released The Free Methodist Way for such a time as this. Let us be people of Life-Giving Holiness, Love-Driven Justice, Christ-Compelled Multiplication, Cross-Cultural Collaboration, and God-Given Revelation. Let us cling to these now and always.
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