West End United Methodist Church

In the first chapter of Genesis, God creates all of humankind in God’s image. At West End United Methodist Church, one of our foundational Bedrock Beliefs is, “God loves everyone unconditionally.” We believe that all people are children of God, equally loved, gifted, and inspired by the Holy Spirit. 

Jesus told a parable about a shepherd who left ninety-nine sheep in the field in order to find one sheep who was lost. (Matthew 18:12-14) As followers of Jesus we are called to seek out and stand with those in our communities who are hurting, oppressed, and crying out. We are grieved by the horror of the deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and many other People of Color killed at the hands of unjust people and policies. Our Bedrock Belief calls us in this moment to stand against racism and white supremacy, and to proclaim that the lives of our Black siblings, neighbors, friends, colleagues, family and church members not only matter but are worthy, beautiful, valued, and beloved by God. 

Racism is a sin against God and neighbor. As we seek to uproot racism, we must first name it, repent of our past, lament the injustices of today, and work together in hope for the beautiful kin-dom of God to be realized among us.

As we at West End move into God’s future, it is important for us to name the sins in our history. Naming the sin of racism in our past is a vital step in healing and moving forward. 

The sin of racism has been at the very root of our cultural institutions--even the church--for over 400 years. The White American Church has a history of complicity in the sin of racism, both through its most recent silence as well as its history of violence against Black and Indigenous People of Color.

Our congregation was established by the Methodist Episcopal Church South. The divide in the Northern and Southern branches of The Methodist Church stemmed from a decision to allow bishops and pastors to own enslaved persons. And in 1940 when the sanctuary of West End was opened and dedicated for the first time, servants and People of Color were only allowed in the balcony. 

We recognize that the past has shaped our present. We are a predominantly White congregation in a denomination with few mechanisms in place to address the inherent imbalances in resources and opportunities in our system. We confess this injustice and commit to actions that lead to a more just future for all. 

God’s love calls us to individual and systemic change. It is not enough to point out the racism of our neighbor; we must see the “log in our own eye.” (Matthew 7:3) We must commit each day, not just to being “not racist,” but instead to the active pursuit of “anti-racism” in thought, word, and deed.   

To that end, we covenant together with one another as a church to:

  1. To examine actively and humbly our own hearts, attitudes, and assumptions. Knowing that only God can change a human heart through the power of the Holy Spirit, we will lead the church in prayer and in practicing the spiritual disciplines that cultivate time and space for the Spirit’s work. We will encourage one another to grow in humility and love, trusting that the Holy Spirit will work within us to banish racist attitudes and make us more like Christ. The Spirit will also spur us to action, compelling us to work together to abolish institutional and systemic racism.  
  2. To listen deeply. We must seek out the narratives, truths, and counsel of People of Color, including those within our congregation. 
  3. To engage resources that help us explore the history of racial oppression in White culture and in our own attitudes. We take responsibility for our own education. Those of us who are White must realize that we participate in a racist system and have received benefits from this system even if unintentionally.
  4. To make anti-racism a commitment of the whole church at every age and stage of life.
  5. To require all church staff to complete anti-racism training and to offer similar training to laity. 
  6. To make clear to the Bishop and Cabinet that we invite a cross-cultural appointment of clergy at West End UMC.
  7. To recognize the intersectionality of injustice (e.g. discrimination based on things beyond  race such as economic status, sexual orientation, gender identity, physical ability) and to root out these injustices in all of our institutions from education, criminal justice, housing, and food to the one we have most investment in: the church.
  8. To partner with local leadership already doing this work. 
  9. To continue the formation of relationships with historically Black congregations and congregations of color, such as Gordon Memorial UMC, Clark Memorial UMC, and others.
         a. Continue our Racial Justice Journey series when possible.
         b. Engage in dialogue through book studies, pulpit swaps, and relationship-building.
  10. To support more businesses owned by People of Color. 
  11. To work with leaders and organizations that seek to eliminate racial bias in our justice system.
  12. To work within our own Tennessee-Western Kentucky Annual Conference with ministries such as Black Methodists for Church Renewal, the General Council on Religion and Race, MARCHA and others to de-center Whiteness and dismantle white supremacy. 
  13. To work with local, state, and national advocacy efforts to support policies and practices in the public sphere which dismantle institutional racism in every aspect of our society.

We will not be perfect in this work, but we commit to taking the next right step and to being held accountable.