Thursdays in Black ambassadors: “we cannot be silent” about gender-based violence in faith communities

In a joint message on gender-based violence, sexual abuse, and faith communities, 26 World Council of Churches (WCC) Thursdays in Black ambassadors lament that the scourge of sexual and gender-based violence continues unabated—and call on faith communities to prevent such violence in their own spaces.

Communities and individuals of all faiths and none are invited to make a powerful, international statement of their commitment to end rape and violence through contributing to a large tapestry exhibit being developed by the World Council of Churches for its Assembly, 31 August-8 September 2022. The tapestry is designed as a waterfall with messages and images from around the world. In addition to the WCC Assembly, it is intended to be displayed at other prominent locations, from the Ecumenical Centre in Geneva to the United Nations in New York, Photo: Marcelo Schneider/WCC

“As ambassadors for Thursdays in Black, and in our various leadership capacities, we have witnessed the increase in domestic and gender-based violence, including child marriage, in many countries during the COVID-19 pandemic, arising out of necessary movement restrictions and economic uncertainty,” reads the statement. “With the rise of digital communication, there is increased online sexual abuse and harassment with devastating effects on individuals, families and communities.”

The statement urges us all not to be silent. “We lament that far too many times, those who bravely come forward to share their stories are not believed, are shamed, are blamed, or are ignored,” the text reads. “Too many times we have seen victims silenced and perpetrators unpunished.”

The ambassadors note that they are heartened by the global growth of the Thursdays in Black movement and the visible solidarity shared across faith traditions to overcome rape and violence.

“We call on our faith communities to take the next step in practical action to ensure such violence does not happen in our own spaces,” the statement reads. “Following the WCC central committee recommendation, we invite all faith communities to state their commitment to overcoming sexual and gender-based violence, clearly and publicly, including the policies and steps they will take when abuse is reported.”

Access to support and justice for survivors must be integrated in our responses, the ambassadors urge.

“We welcome religious and theological reflection and education which interrogates our holy scriptures on the relationships between men and women and masculinities and femininities, our understandings of gender and gender identity, and our relationships with all people as part of humanity, the text concludes. “We encourage all people of faith to join us in Thursdays in Black to raise awareness and advocate for a world without rape and violence.”

Read the full statement

STATEMENT ON THE ST. FRANCIS CATHOLIC CHURCH MASSACRE IN OWO, NIGERIA

The World Methodist Council (WMC) joined religious leaders, civil society organizations, and
governments in condemning the coordinated attack on worshippers at St. Francis Catholic Church.
According to the latest reports, as many as 50 may be dead, including children, and scores are wounded.


Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the WMC, said: “Gunning down innocent people
celebrating the Feast of Pentecost is a cowardly and sacrilegious deed.” He further expressed
condolences to the bereaved families and called for prayers for those wounded in the attack.


The WMC notes the increased number of attacks and kidnappings by armed groups, especially in the
northeast of Nigeria, where more than 40,000 have been killed and more than a million people
displaced.


We urge the Nigerian authorities to act decisively in apprehending the perpetrators to see that
justice is done through the courts


Prayers answered, Nigerian Methodists released

Bishop Michael Stephen of the World Methodist Council Steering Committee and former Archbishop of the Methodist Church Nigeria shares the following from the latest news of the kidnapping of the Prelate alongside the Bishop of Owerri Diocese Dennis Mark and the Prelate’s Chaplain, The Very Rev. Shittu, which was received with great shock and sadness when it happened.  

“We are thankful that God heard the prayers of the people that went out across the country. After about 24 hours, the news of their release rent the airwaves. 

We all are thankful to God for his intervention. This incident points to the state of insecurity that has enveloped our country and the need to request the prayers of the people of God all over the world for divine intervention in the affairs of Nigeria. 

We are grateful for the prompt statements and concerns from the World Methodist Council, Africa Methodist Council and other Ecumenical partners.”

President of the World Methodist Council, the Rev. Dr. JC Park, added, “Let’s praise God who rescued the beloved Prelate just as King David praised God when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies. ‘I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, so I shall be saved from my enemies.’ (Psalm 18:3) We want to join the joyful praise of our Nigerian people called Methodists: Worthy is the Lamb!”

 

Statement on mass shooting – Uvalde, Texas

The General Secretary of the World Methodist Council called on Methodists to join prayers with the
community of Uvalde, Texas. He expressed his deepest condolences with the bereaved families and
those injured in the shooting rampage at Robb Elementary School.

According to the Washington Post more than 311,00 students experienced gun violence at school since
the 1999 massacre at Columbine High School.

The shooting on Tuesday comes only 10 days after 10 people were killed in a hate crime in Buffalo, New
York. (See statement of AME – Council of Bishops) Abrahams called for “decisive action to protect the
innocent and curb gun-violence”.

The World Methodist Council join with all people of goodwill calling for an end to violence, especially against children.

Put away violence and destruction, and practice justice and righteousness

              Ezekiel 45:9

Council of Bishops Statement on the Shooting at Tops Friendly Supermarket in Buffalo, New York

The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church stands in solidarity with the families of the Buffalo 10 and the grieving community as we raise your lament and demand justice. We are outraged. We are grieved. As we move out of Easter, into the Ascension, and onward to Pentecost, we will not continue to be snuffed out in silence. Things must change.

Once more, the Black community in the United States has been the target of murderous terror. On May 14, 2022, a hate-filled man set out to execute a premeditated white supremacist plot to “shoot all Blacks” at the Tops Friendly Markets grocery store on Jefferson Avenue in Buffalo. Before he was apprehended, this man killed ten people: Aaron Salter, Katherine “Kat” Massey, Pearly Young, Heyward Patterson, Celestine Cheyney, Roberta Drury, Margus D. Morrison, Andre Mackneil, Geraldine Talley, and Ruth Whitfield. Ruth Whitfield was a former member of Union AME Church, Warwick, New York before moving to Buffalo, New York.   Gunfire and the direct aftermath of this rampage injured three others: Zaire Goodman, Jennifer Warrington, and Christopher Braden.

Today, we pray that the families of those killed, the Buffalo community, those ministering directly to the community in this season, and all of us now grieving would be comforted. We thank the members of the Connectional African Methodist Episcopal Church who have supported Bishop Julius McAllister and Presiding Elder Paul Thomas. Since Monday, the Connectional Health Commission, the Bishop Henry McNeil Turner Connectional Chaplains Association, and the Council of Bishops have provided ground support, counseling, medicine, and other provisions for the residents of Buffalo.

While we express our heartfelt condolences to the families of those massacred, we also grieve, sharing in the deep sorrow and anger of the families and the Buffalo community that are changed forever through this horrific act of violence. This despicable act causes us to relive our collective pain of the massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Given the killer’s detailed preparation and documentation, we know that all of us who are “Blacks” by his standards would have been suitable targets. We also know that this killer acted according to a virulent form of white supremacy rapidly shapeshifting to remain endemic and meet white Americans’ interests. Consequently, we respond to this violence as those who are under attack. Therefore, today, we pray that God will dismantle every act of antiblackness in whatever form it may come and give us the wisdom and courage to fight and win in this cause.

As we gird ourselves for this cause, we highlight the following aspects of the Tops massacre:

  • The shooting took place in Buffalo, a city that was a beacon of light for that fleeing enslavement before the Civil War and lynchings and economic exploitation in the 20th Century through the Great Migration. 
  • The internet provided the shooter with a radicalizing white supremacist community; the shooter publicized his hateful beliefs and actions using public platforms. The shooter is one of a growing number of people in the United States who believe in a conspiracy called ‘the great replacement theory.’  

Finally, we call on anyone with a moral conscience to respond to this call to acknowledge and dismantle white supremacy. We no longer live in a time when it is considered shameful to be racist. White supremacist fringe groups have risen to the mainstream of the Republican Party, and media outlets have normalized hate. Certain parts of the “Christian” church have been used to promote a so-called Christian Nationalism or Supremacy that promotes hatred in the name of God and suggests that a concern for the least of these is antithetical to the gospel. The time is now and must be used creatively to do right and tear down the cathedrals built for the worship of antiblackness and all forms of hatred.

The Council of Bishops
Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield, President of the Council of Bishops and Chair of the Social Action Commission
Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Senior Bishop
Bishop Paul J. M. Kawimbe, President of the General Board
Bishop Francine A. Brookins, Chair of the Public Statement Committee
Mrs. Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director/Consultant of Social Action 

Statement on COVID-19 crisis in the DPRK

On behalf of the World Methodist Council I wholeheartedly endorse the WCC acting general secretary
Rev. Prof. Dr. Ioan Sauca’s Statement on COVID-19 crisis in the DPRK.

  1. The WMC endorses the WCC’s call for urgent humanitarian response by the international
    community commensurate with the gravity of the crisis; in particular, newly developed
    antivirals, such as Paxlovid, must be provided as a matter of urgency, as well as diagnostics,
    ventilators, personal protective equipment, vaccines and other medical needs, as well as
    essential food supplies.
  2. The WMC also endorses the WCC’s call for a centralized and coordinated approach to the
    international response, through the UN, and for any obstacles presented to this response by
    the current sanctions against the DPRK to be lifted as a matter of fundamental ethical and
    humanitarian responsibility.
  3. The WMC strongly calls for a peacemaking summit between President Biden and President
    Yun on May 20, 2022. Korea in particular and East Asia in general need real peace, not a
    new Cold War and even a ‘hot peace’ which wages war in the name of peace. The WMC
    reaffirms its commitment to the Roundtable for the Peace on the Korean Peninsula and will
    continue to work together in solidarity with Ecumenical Forum for Peace, Reunification and
    Development Cooperation on the Korean Peninsula.

Grace and peace in Christ.
JC Park,
President of the World Methodist Council

World Methodist Council Statement on Floods in South Africa

The World Methodist Council expresses its sincere condolences to the families of flood
victims in KwaZulu-Natal Province, South Africa. As mop-up operations continue after a
week of heavy rainfall and flooding, the death toll reached 433. Scores of people are still
missing and thousands displaced.


Bishop Ivan Abrahams, the General Secretary, is deeply saddened by the loss of life
and devastation and expressed prayers for a speedy recovery for those injured. He concurred with
climate scientists that we will continue to see extreme weather patterns due to global
warming. Abrahams appealed to Methodist relief agencies to assist those affected.

Raging brown flood waters of a river in flood near Swellendam, South Africa
Photo 27956088 / Flood South Africa © Andre Van Der Veen | Dreamstime.com

Ash Wednesday Statement on Russian Ukrainian conflict by Bishop Ivan Abrahams

Seven days after Russian troops crossed into Ukraine, we gather with ecumenical partners and all people of goodwill to remember political leaders, soldiers, and civilians caught up in the current conflict. We pray that God may “guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:79)

The World Methodist Council supports Pope Francis’s peace initiative to mediate the conflict between Russia and Ukraine after recent talks failed to lead to a ceasefire. We note that the Pontiff called on leaders of both countries “to examine their consciences seriously before God, who is the God of peace and not of war.” 

Methodists are committed to peacebuilding and have a long tradition of solidarity with all who challenge violence and injustice.

May we read the signs of the times and interpret them in the light of the gospel.

 

 

Photo Credit:  242395288 / Ukraine © Anyaivanova | Dreamstime.com

 

Ukraine: Christian World Communions condemn assault, call for peace, invite to prayer

Photo: Sunguk Kim/Unsplash

“Peace must prevail,” say four global Christian communions who will host online prayer service on Ash Wednesday

 

Four Christian World Communions are strongly condemning the advance of the Russian military into Ukraine and the assault that began on the night of 24 February 2022. They call for Russian troops to be brought back to Russia and an immediate end to the conflict. “Peace must prevail,” they insist. 

The Lutheran World Federation (LWF), the World Communion of Reformed Churches (WCRC), the Conference of European Churches (CEC), and the World Methodist Council (WMC) are calling for prayers of peace for the people of Ukraine and the region.  

They have issued an invitation to an online prayer service on Ash Wednesday, 2 March at 17.00 CET. The service will bring together Christians from Ukraine and other parts of the world, seeking peace and an end to the ongoing conflict.  

“Jesus calls us to be messengers of hope who work for peace. As Christian churches we, therefore, call for an immediate de-escalation of this conflict, so that the lives, human rights, and dignity of people in Ukraine are protected,” said LWF General Secretary Rev. Anne Burghardt. 

“This is a time for churches in Europe and globally to form a strong alliance of solidarity with people who fear the impact of war in Ukraine. This is a time to gather in prayer for people who possess the power to make decisions that will save lives and make peace possible,” said CEC General Secretary Dr Jørgen Skov Sørensen. 

“As the Scriptures encourage us to turn away from evil and do good, to seek peace and pursue it (1 Peter 3:11), we consider such an unprovoked attack as evil, and strive to do all we can to stand against it—while also preparing to assist those impacted by it,” said the WCRC Collegial General Secretariat (composed of Hanns Lessing, Philip Peacock, and Phil Tanis). 

“Despite what is happening in Ukraine, I still believe that the international community can make a difference as we collectively work for peace in the region,” said Bishop Ivan Abrahams, General Secretary of the World Methodist Council. 

In the call to prayer for the people of Ukraine and the region, the four Christian communions note the military assault threatens the lives of Ukrainians, as well as peace throughout Europe and beyond. “The crisis is urgent and requires the attention and solidarity of the global Christian community.” 

The LWF brings together 148 Lutheran churches representing over 77 million Christians across the globe. The WCRC is comprised of more than 230 Congregational, Presbyterian, Reformed, United, Uniting, and Waldensian member churches representing 100 million Christians. The Conference of European Churches is a fellowship of 114 churches from Orthodox, Protestant and Anglican traditions from across Europe. The WMC encompasses 80-member Methodist, Wesleyan, and Uniting churches on six continents with more than 80 million members.

World Methodist Council Statement on Ukraine/Russia

The World Methodist Council (WMC) views with deep concern reports of mounting tension on the borders of Ukraine and Russia, including the threat of a buildup of armed forces on both sides. Many political commentators consider the recent events “a new Cold War” and “a threat to global peace.”

The Council calls on ‘the people called Methodists,” and those who respect human life, rights, and dignity to pursue a “just peace” for all in the war threatened region. 

The Council recognizes the region’s long and complex history but is concerned only suffering and destruction would result from armed conflict. 

The Council is committed to promoting peace, reconciliation, and justice. It believes that intentional diplomacy, dialogue, and negotiations are the only paths to peace. It encourages all parties to de-escalate this dangerous situation. 

The Council encourages prayer for the people of Ukraine and the Ukrainian Orthodox Church. It especially remembers Bishop Eduard Khegay of the Eurasia Central Conference of The United Methodist Church and all local and regional church leaders as they minister against a backdrop of an armed standoff. 

While the Council is cognizant that Methodists and other Christians are on each side of this potential conflict, it prays that they may all be peacemakers.