Bishop L. Jonathan Holston, resident bishop of the South Carolina Conference of The United Methodist Church, released this statement regarding violence that followed peaceful protests in South Carolina:
When we witness inexplicable injustice, anger is understandable, protest is appropriate, and action is vital. Violence and destruction, though, is never the answer.
We are encouraged to see people flood the streets to peacefully call for justice and an end to oppression. This is faith in action – the bedrock of our commitment to social justice as United Methodists and followers of Christ.
Unfortunately, the good works of the many are too often overshadowed by the malicious action of the few.
Our nation, our state and our communities continue to express outrage over the killing of George Floyd, an African-American man who was in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Thousands of protesters lifted their voices as one across South Carolina on Saturday. The majority of those did not result in violence.
But violence erupted in Columbia and Charleston after the planned events, resulting in injury to police officers and bystanders, as well as vandalism and destruction of both public property and businesses.
As South Carolinians have shown over the years, this is not who we are. This was evident in how our state reacted responsibly and peaceably in 2015 to both the shooting death of Walter Scott and the mass shooting that took the lives of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston.
Again, violence is not the answer – but we cannot stop there.
As United Methodists, we must seek constructive ways to stay in conversation in spite of racial tensions. We must work to build bridges of racial reconciliation. We must look for opportunities to directly address the economic and social desperation of so many – a plight exacerbated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and its impact on our economy.
As people of faith, we must refocus ourselves and our churches on our “why” so we can live with purpose rather than being impulsive. We must show up, we must witness, we must serve, and we must pray.
In the weeks and months to come, I pledge to engage South Carolina United Methodists in both conversation and action to achieve this clarity of purpose.
Moving forward, let our protest be peaceful, let our strength be our unity, and let our actions reflect the glory of the Lord.
Grace and peace,
L. Jonathan Holston