June 8, 2018

Indiana United Methodists Overwhelmingly Adopt UM Action Director’s Resolution Condemning Racism and Anti-Semitism

At part of its annual business session in Indianapolis this week, United Methodists in the denomination’s Indiana Annual Conference yesterday overwhelmingly adopted a resolution decrying recent acts of anti-Semitism and racism within Indiana and beyond.

The United Methodist Church is the second-largest Protestant denomination in America, and has a global membership of over 12.5 million. With over 1,000 congregations and nearly 200,000 clergy and lay members, the Indiana Conference is the denomination’s largest conference in the UMC’s North Central Jurisdiction.

In this resolution, Indiana United Methodists declared how their Christian faith drives them to absolutely condemn anti-Semitism and other forms of racism. They also expressed concern at reports showing recent rises in various hate crimes within the United States and in anti-Semitic incidents in Europe.

Some particular highlights of the resolution:

  • “as United Methodists in the United States, we mourn the sad history and ongoing problems of racism within both our nation and our denomination”;
  • “we see no conflict between our holding firmly to the truths of our Christian faith and wanting our Jewish, Muslim, atheist, or other neighbors who may believe differently, as well as fellow Christians, to be treated as we ourselves would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12)”;
  • “we declare our strong, unwavering belief that ALL people—women no less than men, and individuals of any age, ethnicity, background, or culture no less than those of any other—are equally created in the image of God and entitled to have their God-given dignity respected”; and
  • “we declare our commitment to the principle that our neighbors in our local communities of any faith or no faith should be free to lawfully follow their beliefs in peace and mutual respect with their neighbors, without facing threats, violence, or coercion from others”

I wrote and submitted this resolution as a member of the Indiana Annual Conference and one of the area’s duly elected General Conference delegates. (Most readers of this site know me better for my role as director of IRD’s UMAction program.)

I had actually submitted a similar version of this resolution to last year’s Indiana Annual Conference meeting, but that session ran out of time to consider it. To make a long story short, I ended up consulting with some Indiana Conference leaders, and revised the resolution to become more up-to-date and respond to some specific concerns that had been raised about some details.

I urged strong support for this passage as something Indiana United Methodists should be able to have consensus on, despite our disagreements on other issues.

Debate on the resolution focused on a single section in which I offered some guidelines for avoiding any hint of anti-Semitism in discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict:

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, for the sake of offering guidance to prevent discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict from being tainted with any hint of anti-Semitism, we urge avoidance of the following:

  • Echoing historic anti-Semitic rhetoric, stereotypes, or conspiracy theories in criticisms of Israelis; or
  • Singling out Israel, the world’s lone Jewish state, for condemnation, isolation, or punishment, according to a harsher standard of judgment than is used with the Palestinian leadership, Israel’s neighbors, or other nations; or
  • Dismissal of concerns about threats and violence against either Israelis or Palestinians; or
  • Any sort of broad, collective blaming of all Jews, all Israelis, all Palestinians, or all Muslims.

A couple of individuals who expressed strong sympathy with the Palestinian side of that region’s conflict attempted to remove the above-quoted section.

But I defended this section, pointing out that the resolution elsewhere made clear that it is okay to criticize the fallible Israeli government when the criticism is deserved, but criticisms of Israel should be kept within the boundaries outlined in this section, and that these basic moral boundaries should not be controversial.

In the end, the 2018 session of the Indiana Annual Conference voted overwhelmingly to keep the above-quoted section related to the Arab-Israeli conflict, and then voted even more overwhelmingly to adopt the entire motion.

It was beyond the scope of this resolution to get into details of how various principles might apply, beyond condemning egregious hate crimes. But I have sadly observed how some liberal United Methodist advocates for the Palestinian cause – particularly in the context of how some have urged that the world’s lone Jewish state be singled out for boycotts, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) – have at times been rather reckless in crossing some or all of the four lines in the bullet points above. So I hope that offering this statement of principles can constructively encourage United Methodists to think and speak more carefully about such matters.

To be clear, I am grateful to observe that this sort of advocacy by no means represents ALL liberal United Methodists. This is seen in the thanks expressed to me by a range of fellow Indiana Conference members as well as by the fact that the conference so overwhelmingly passed this resolution which, among other things, made clear that we should NOT give a free pass to anti-Semitism if it appears in the context of criticizing Israel.

Since there was no successful amendment, the proposed version of the resolution currently available here on the Indiana Conference’s website is the version that was overwhelmingly adopted.

For your convenience, I will also put the full text below of this now official declaration of the 2018 session of the Indiana Conference of the UMC:

 

Responding to Racism, Anti-Semitism, and Recent Acts of Hate

WHEREAS, anti-Semitism – targeting persons of Jewish faith and/or heritage for hatred, violence, or mistreatment – has been called one of the oldest forms of group prejudice; and

WHEREAS, any racism is a sin against the God in Whose image ALL people are lovingly created (Genesis 1:26-27, Acts 17:26); and

WHEREAS, as members of the wider body of Christ, we mourn the sad history of Christian mistreatment of Jewish people; and

WHEREAS, as United Methodists in the United States, we mourn the sad history and ongoing problems of racism within both our nation and our denomination; and

WHEREAS, we recognize the Jewish foundations of our Christian faith, the continuing importance of the Hebrew Scriptures for our Church, and the Jewishness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; and

WHEREAS, a February 2018 report from the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) noted “a trend of rising anti-Semitic attacks and more subtle forms of discrimination across the European continent” (https://www.adl.org/news/op-ed/europes-anti-semitism-problem-needs-a-reckoning); and

WHEREAS, another recent ADL report noted a 57 percent increase in documented anti-Semitic incidents in the United States last year, “the highest tally that the Jewish civil rights group has counted in more than two decades” (https://www.apnews.com/caf56960410f4422a8db19cb996365e9/Report:-Anti-Semitic-incidents-soar-by-57-percent-in-2017); and

WHEREAS, in the United States, Jewish people are no more than about two percent of the overall population (http://ajpp.brandeis.edu/), but the official hate crime statistics of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for recent years, including 2016 (the last year on record), has consistently found them to make up of the majority of all victims of hate crimes based on religious bias (https://ucr.fbi.gov/ucr-publications#Hate); and

WHEREAS, the FBI’s 2016 annual hate crime statistics, released in November 2017, found that reported hate crimes in 2016 in America rose for the second year in a row, with half of hate crimes driven by racial/ethnic bias targeting African Americans (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-hatecrime-fbi/u-s-hate-crimes-rise-for-second-straight-year-fbi-idUSKBN1DD2BA); and

WHEREAS, within Indiana, we have seen such incidents within the past two years as Ku Klux Klan flyers distributed around Monument Circle in Indianapolis on the first day of Black History Month in 2018 (https://www.indystar.com/story/news/2018/02/02/white-pride-flyers-found-monument-circle/1087731001/), as well as two separate bomb threats against the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis (http://fox59.com/2017/03/12/another-bomb-threat-targets-indy-jewish-community-center/) and a bullet being fired into the classroom of a synagogue, Adath B’Nai Israel Temple in Evansville (http://jewishjournal.com/news/nation/215840/gunshot-fired-classroom-window-indiana-synagogue/); and

WHEREAS, it would be irresponsible to either call all criticisms of the fallible Israeli government anti-Semitic (as all human governments need prophetic challenge at times) or to ignore anti-Semitism when it appears in criticism of the world’s only Jewish state; and

WHEREAS, we have valued, faithful members with diverse views on such political issues as the 2016 U.S. Presidential election and the Arab-Israeli conflict, but we can all unite in condemning such intolerant hatred; and

WHEREAS, we see no conflict between our holding firmly to the truths of our Christian faith and wanting our Jewish, Muslim, atheist, or other neighbors who may believe differently, as well as fellow Christians, to be treated as we ourselves would want to be treated (Matthew 7:12); and

WHEREAS, our Bishop Julius Trimble has a record of commendably speaking out against racism and anti-Semitism;

THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, that as the Indiana Annual Conference of The United Methodist Church we express our deep sadness over recent expressions of racism and anti-Semitism; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we declare our strong, unwavering belief that ALL people—women no less than men, and individuals of any age, ethnicity, background, or culture no less than those of any other—are equally created in the image of God and entitled to have their God-given dignity respected; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we stand together today to affirm our strong commitment to the statements in our United Methodist Social Principles that “We deplore acts of hate or violence against groups or persons based on race, color, national origin, ethnicity, age, gender, disability, status, economic condition, sexual orientation, gender identity, or religious affiliation” (2016 Discipline ¶162) and that “we recognize racism as sin and affirm the ultimate and temporal worth of all persons” (¶162.A); and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we declare our commitment to the principle that our neighbors in our local communities of any faith or no faith should be free to lawfully follow their beliefs in peace and mutual respect with their neighbors, without facing threats, violence, or coercion from others; and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, for the sake of offering guidance to prevent discussions of the Arab-Israeli conflict from being tainted with any hint of anti-Semitism, we urge avoidance of the following:

  • Echoing historic anti-Semitic rhetoric, stereotypes, or conspiracy theories in criticisms of Israelis; or
  • Singling out Israel, the world’s lone Jewish state, for condemnation, isolation, or punishment, according to a harsher standard of judgment than is used with the Palestinian leadership, Israel’s neighbors, or other nations; or
  • Dismissal of concerns about threats and violence against either Israelis or Palestinians; or
  • Any sort of broad, collective blaming of all Jews, all Israelis, all Palestinians, or all Muslims.

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that we encourage United Methodists within our annual conference to discuss this resolution with others in their congregations, to educate themselves about racism and anti-Semitism, to find opportunities to express their solidarity with victims of racism or anti-Semitism, to pray and work for a more just and welcoming society; and

FINALLY, BE IT RESOLVED, that we direct our conference secretary to arrange, within the next 30 days, to have this resolution posted on the Indiana Conference website and shared with the Jewish Community Center in Indianapolis, Adath B’Nai Israel Temple in Evansville, the Indianapolis Jewish Community Relations Council, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, the President and General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Church and Society, the President and General Secretary of the United Methodist General Board of Global Ministries, the President and General Secretary of the United Methodist Commission on Religion and Race, the President and Ecumenical Officer of the United Methodist Council of Bishops, as well as any other organization or leader deemed appropriate. 


One Response to Indiana United Methodists Overwhelmingly Adopt UM Action Director’s Resolution Condemning Racism and Anti-Semitism

  1. Bret Frymier says:

    It shouldn’t be hard!! You are right and I was glad to vote for it. Thank you for a job well done.

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