Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr. has issued the following statement regarding the shooting deaths of spa workers in Atlanta.
Download a printable version of the statement.
Dear Sisters and Brothers of the Great Plains Conference,
Grace and peace to you in the name of Jesus Christ, who by the baptism of his suffering, death, and resurrection gave birth to the church and opened it up to people of all ages, nations, and races.
Our Great Plains Conference counts a total of 41 Asian clergy — 36 from South Korea, one from the Philippines, one from Singapore, two from India, and one from Pakistan. They are valued members of our conference who faithfully serve our congregations throughout the states of Kansas and Nebraska. It is with open arms, open hearts, and open doors that we receive them, their families, and all the gifts they have and bring to offer us and our communities. We are blessed and thankful for their presence among us, and we stand with them and their communities as our country processes the March 16 shootings that killed eight women, six of them of Asian descent.
I urge our clergy and our congregations, especially those served by our Asian pastors, to join in supporting them and their families with appreciation for their ministries and care for their well-being. We can show care for our Asian pastors and their families by speaking out or intervening to defend them when we witness them harassed, discriminated against, hear derogatory language about them, or whenever we see them targeted because of their race, language, or gender. We can report a hate crime if we witness a person demonstrating objectional behavior against them. We can take this shooting tragedy as the Spirit’s invitation to learn about discrimination against Asian-Americans in the United States over the past 150 years. We can seek ways to become more self-aware of how racialization distorts our own identity as God’s children and the identity we create for others also created in the image of God. Finally, we can reach out and show support and hospitality to our Asian parishioners and fellow citizens in our communities who may be feeling fear for their well-being in this moment.
Our country continues to struggle with stereotyping, fear of immigrants, discrimination, and hatred associated with ethnicity, skin color, language, histories, culture, and other factors associated with race. The death of George Floyd put a spotlight on the pervasiveness of racism in May 2020. Racially denigrating rhetoric associated with the coronavirus pandemic fueled anti-Asian sentiment in the U.S. last year. Name-calling, shunning, and assault were among 3,800 hate incidents reported against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders nationwide in 2020, according to Stop AAPI Hate, a center that tracks and responds to incidents of hate, violence, harassment, discrimination, shunning, and child bullying against Asian-Americans and Pacific Islanders in the United States.
We have not been immune in the Great Plains Conference. Some of our Asian clergy have reported racist remarks and acts of racism made against them and/or their families since the onset of COVID-19. As Christians and United Methodists, we are called to model and live into the new humanity made possible through the cross of Jesus Christ that reconciles people and puts to death hostilities between them (Ephesians 2:15b-16). Our Social Principles state: “Racism, manifested as sin, plagues and hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself. We rejoice in the gifts that particular ethnic histories and cultures bring to our total life.”
Please join me in actively opposing hate and racism in whatever forms it presents itself and in praying for the hastening of the day when people of every nation from all tribes and peoples and languages will live in harmony and peace on earth as it is in heaven (Revelation 7:9-10).
Bishop Ruben Saenz Jr.