We are richly blessed in Wisconsin with the gift of diversity. We celebrate the diversity of faiths, cultures, races, lifestyles, and a rich tapestry of geographic diversity. Across our Conference, we find urban centers and rural towns offering God’s presence to people whose lives are enriched and challenged by the dynamics of the society.
We gathered in Milwaukee on January 14th for the 6th annual celebration of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. During this service, we examined today’s world, and witnessed our stand for justice, mercy and truth. This year we were blessed with Bishop Melvin Talbert’s prophetic witness. I was deeply inspired and moved by the stories he shared. In 1967, Bishop Talbert spent three days and nights in the same jail cell with Dr. King; and with nonviolent witness, he was impacted by Kings’ legacy until today. Now is the time to embrace the legacy of Dr. King.
At this point in time, there may be no more important task, no more critical need, than to address racism and violent discrimination in all its forms. Without denying all the progress that has been made in race relations in our recent history, it is imperative that we honestly and accurately identify the forms of bias, bigotry and prejudice that lead to hostility, violence, and institutionalized injustice.
Our culture and world needs to understand “Black Lives Matter;” and our actions speak much more loudly than our words. We must make our neighborhoods, communities, and cities safe for black men and women, young and old. We must meet this challenge on many fronts. In our churches, we must pray; and we must educate; and we must get involved. I want to challenge all of the predominantly white churches in our Wisconsin Conference to study together such books as Blindspot, Another Day in the Death of America, Fear of the Other, or Stamped from the Beginning – or any of dozens of the studies of racism and the current trends of unjust violence against minorities, especially blacks, in our country and world.
I will continue to call us to pray for an end to racial discrimination and violence. I also challenge all of our clergy and laity leaders to build relationships with social and community agencies and causes fighting against racism and racial division. We need more opportunities to meet together, to talk together, and to work together to make a difference.
Grace and Peace,
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung
Bishop Hee-Soo Jung has served as resident bishop of the Wisconsin Annual Conference since September of 2012. Prior to leading the Wisconsin Conference UMC, Bishop Jung served eight years as bishop of the Northern Illinois Conference (Chicago area).