by Aaron Gray
Wheat Ridge United Methodist Church
I am an African American male serving a predominately Anglo congregation and sharing our facility with an Hispanic fellowship in Wheat Ridge, Colorado. Wheat Ridge is a small community of 30,000, which is in transition and trying to find its identity. The Town of Wheat Ridge has invited the pastors of the various churches here to be apart of these discussions. I have participated as I just believe that this is the nature of the United Methodist Church.
But after the recent Supreme Court deccision on the Voting Rights Act, and in my opinion, the gutting of the Voting Rights Act, I feel that the United Methodist Church has been quiet and that is sad. We have publicly stated that what we stand for is opposed to so much of what is happening around us.
I am referring to our Social Principles which has this powerful statement in regards to race-part of the whole section on the Rights of Racial and Ethnic Persons. These words seem to have particular value at this moment. ” We further assert the right of members of racial and ethnic groups to equal opportunities in employment and promotion; to education and training of the highest quality; to nondiscrimination in voting”
There is that old expression, we must practice what we preach. Why is this so important? Again in my opinion, our Supreme Court is now another activist and, I would dare say, political body. the gutting of The Voting Rights Act was a political action and we can see the results already as some states are banning early voting or requiring a political ID to vote. Other examples are gerrymandering, which has the greatest impact on communties of color, eliminating voting on Sunday which was a practice in the Black Church in the deep south to go to worship, and then head to the polls together to vote.
These are all political moves now supported by a politically active Supreme court. We know that our current Congress has the lowest standing in history, but we can save this for another conversation about the failure of collaboration and its impact on the world. For now, my concern is the right to vote and, if this a politicaical moment, let us recall our history and the marches led by Congressman John Lewis and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
It is not grandstanding to say that people were beaten and killed while advocating for many civil rights which included the right to vote. Some of our most respected political figures feared signing on to the movement of civil rights, and the demands that in every part of our nation, people of all races would have equal access to the voting booth. But the pressure they received was not only political, but also that it was morally and ethically right.
My generation recieved the benefit of the sacrifices of so many others. Sadly now, a new generation may know more of the past than the present, and may face battles that were for this right, which is now threatened. The Church was at the forefront of the voting for this right which is now threatened. The Church was at the forefront of the voting rights initiative and truly to be quiet at this time, is running the risk of being irrelevant.
I do not expect everyone to agree, in fact I hope there are some who do not. We could then model what conversation and dialogue are really about, and out of this struggle will come a process which can give leadership at this crucial time. All of this feels much better than simply letting the world pass us by and being safe in our comfort zones.
“We can be keepers of the aquarium rather than fishers of men and women”. We often use this expression in regards to church growth, but it applies in so many other ways. Any thoughts?
Rev. Aaron M. Gray
Pastor Wheat Ridge United Methodist Church
Wheat Ridge, Colorado