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Since moving to Nashville, Lesleigh and I have been attending McKendree UMC. It is a racially and socioeconomically diverse church in the heart of the city. The violence that occurred in Charleston this week has affected our community deeply, and I want to convey the power that was present worshiping this morning with our brothers and sisters of all colors.

This important letter was shared with the congregation today before a candlelight vigil in memoriam of those who died this week in South Carolina.


“We, the people of the Tennessee Conference of the United Methodist Church, are shocked and saddened at the violent acts perpetrated upon our brothers and sisters at Emmanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. While any form of violence against any person or people for any reason is unacceptable, we are further grieved that racial prejudice appears to be the motivation for the attack. Our Social Principles state that “racism plagues and cripples our growth in Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself” (Book of Discipline, paragraph 162).

We are told in scripture that all people are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27), and that in the fully realized state of humanity made known to us in Jesus Christ, all of the categories we use to divide ourselves, including race, gender, and socio-economic status all fall away, and we become one as God intended (Galatians 3:28).

We urge all people to pray for the nine victims of this shooting and their families, for the people of Emmanuel AME Church, for the shooter and his family, and for the Charleston community. We renew our commitment to stand against the evils of racism and prejudice in all forms. We look forward to the day that violence, hatred, and death will be no more when God’s Kingdom is fully realized on earth.” Signed,

Bishop William T. McAlilly, Nashville Episcopal Area Rev. Stephen Handy Chair, African American Church Strategic Team Dr. Beverly B. Madron, Chair, Tennessee Conference Commission on Religion and Race Rev. Matthew L. Kelley, Chair, Conference Committee on Church and Society


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