By Angela Pleasants
February 9, 2022
Over the past few years, I have had the honor of working alongside twenty-two individuals on the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Race and Equality Task Force. The purpose of our work is to ensure that the Global Methodist Church advances the cause of racial and ethnic truth, reconciliation, justice, and equality globally while remaining rooted in our Savior, Jesus Christ. The task team’s completed work began with a statement of remembering that we bear the divine image of God:
“The idea of our work rests in the gospel, in that the gospel is for all people at all times and in all places. This good news of God’s redemption for the world transcends every false boundary and definition that humanity has and might yet create, which would divide people based on appearance, custom, language, tribe, or nation. In truth, human beings bear the divine image of God, and in so doing, carry the immeasurable value which that entails.”
“From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Corinthians 5.16-17). In Christ, we are entrusted with the ministry of reconciliation. Sin created a divide between humanity and God. But, in the redemptive work of Christ, we are forgiven and restored. In our restoration, we are now ambassadors carrying the ministry of reconciliation.
I have difficulty comprehending how it is that although Jesus has completed the work of reconciliation, we still live divided. I stand amazed that the Bible teaches us how we are to live in reconciliation with one another. However, we still need policies to make sure we live in reconciliation with one another.
Jesus has completed the work of reconciliation on the cross. So, how can we live into the work Jesus has completed when we bring into relationships past experiences that formed preconceived notions of others?
At a community event, I met an older lady who had a fascinating name. I inquired about the origin of her last name. With great pride, she told me about her great-great grandparents traveling from Ireland to the United States. They changed the spelling of their name when they arrived in America.
After she exhausted herself with the most colorful stories of her family, she stared at me with soulful eyes. She touched my arm and lowered her voice, and said, “I am sure it must be difficult for you that you don’t know all of your family heritage.”
I smiled just as broadly, and with all the pride I could muster, I told her the stories of my great-great grandparents. I shared how my father’s family settled in the Richmond, Virginia area. They were freed slaves and later became entrepreneurs.
I shared the history of my mother’s family, who settled in Cleveland, Ohio. Some later moved to the Appalachian Mountains in North Carolina. They were Primitive Baptist and later became Missionary Baptist. They planted the Missionary Baptist Church in Ronda, North Carolina, where my cousin is the pastor today.
I continued sharing, again rather proudly; my heritage consists of Togolese, Moroccan, Ghanaian, Scots-Irish, British, and German.
After we shared our stories, the door opened for more conversations. Instead of differences, we began to focus on what we had in common. I shared what I learned in studying the history of Togo, and she shared some Irish stories.
I may never cross paths with my new friend again, but we both have a wonderful treasure. We were both changed for the better by the encounter. We will carry each other’s stories in our hearts.
What would it look like if this could happen in our local places of living and worship? To embrace our differences and appreciate our similarities. What would it look like to live into this scripture? “But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Ephesians 2.13-16).
As we prepare for the Global Methodist Church, we are committed to living as ambassadors of reconciliation. Being global means we will be ambassadors across continents where everyone will have equal voice and leadership. We will joyfully celebrate cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments. In the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline of the Global Methodist Church, annual conferences will prepare clergy and congregations for cross-racial and cross-cultural appointments through adequate training. There will be greater accountability as bishops will report on the specific steps taken to ensure that persons are considered for each appointment who are of diverse race, tribal or ethnic origin, gender, disability, marital status and age, and how the appointments made advanced the commitment to open itinerancy (See ¶ 509.5, 7 of the Transitional Book of Doctrines and Discipline of the Global Methodist Church).
During the appointment process, the Global Methodist Church has committed to open itinerancy and equitable and fair consideration of clergy of diverse races, tribal or ethnic origin, gender, disability, marital status, and age.
The Global Methodist Church longs for the fulfillment of the vision of Revelation: “After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, crying out with a loud voice, ‘Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Revelation 7.9-10)!
The Rev. Angela Pleasants is the Wesleyan Covenant Association’s Vice President for Clergy and Church Relations. She is based in Charlotte, North Carolina.