Pastoral Letter to Bethany

June 4, 2020

To the saints at Bethany Presbyterian Church:  
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, our Lord.
In this very painful time in America, as ministers of the Gospel, we add our determined and deeply grieved voices to all those crying out for justice. We lament the historic and disturbing treatment of people of color in this nation. Abuse and violence against black and brown bodies are part of a historical pattern of injustice, hatred and racism embedded in our institutions across this land. The brutal killing of George Floyd, along with the deaths of Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery have simply left us gasping: “I cannot breathe,” and asking, “How long, Lord?”
Like many of you, we also find ourselves asking, “what is God calling us to do?” We invite you, as fellow travelers with Jesus, to join in three Christian practices in response to God’s mandate to be people of justice. Come join us in these practices – not just for this month, but for the long haul.

  • The practice of listening.  “I have observed the misery of my people who are in Egypt; I have heard their cry on account of their taskmasters.” (Exodus 3:7, NRSV) Our salvation story begins with God listening to the cries of the people. How could we do less? We must not be derailed by so-called leaders who try to distract us from hearing the voices of people crying for liberation from an abusive system. We, too, grieve the violence in our own city this week. However, we believe God calls us to care for human lives, which cannot be replaced, more than broken windows which can. God is asking your pastors to listen with empathy to the voices of our black siblings. Will you join us?
  • The practice of praying.  “Bring in your kingdom so that your will is done on earth as it’s done in heaven.” (Matthew 6:10, CEB) We join Jesus in imploring God to make things right in this hurting world. We know from scripture that God hears our laments and petitions. The evil of racism is not only in human hearts, but within the systems and powers of our society. We are in a struggle not just with individual racists, but with the principalities and powers that refuse to die easily. We cry “Jesus, help us.” Will you join us?
  • The practice of effort.  “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”(Amos 5:24, NRSV) We feel called to bring our sweat to the Holy Spirit’s life-giving work. Maybe that looks like writing government leaders, campaigning for police reform, participating in a protest, or donating money. We all must seek to grow in our own knowledge and understanding. As two white persons soaked in the whiteness of our culture, we have committed ourselves to do the work of learning – not by pestering our exhausted sisters and brothers of color with questions, but by using our own energy to examine the history of disrepair in our country, our institutions, and our theology. Bethany’s page lists several books and resources that many of you have found helpful. We invite you to join us, as together we live into the direction Session discerned last year that God was calling us to “Incarnate Kingdom justice by understanding the privileges we have inherited as a predominantly white church as well as the systems of institutional racism that surround us and practicing antiracism through compassionate and informed action.

Your pastors are in this for the long haul. We do so with strong hope in the God of Israel who establishes justice and equity. Martin Luther King Jr. reminds us: “the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”
In the peace of Christ,
Doug Kelly, Senior Pastor, Head of Staff
Danielle Merseles, Associate Pastor of Youth and Young Adults

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