Journey Toward Justice
In our shared baptismal vows, professing and confessing members of the Body of Christ are asked:
"Do you renounce the spiritual forces of wickedness,
reject the evil powers of this world,
and repent of your sin?" and
"Do you accept the freedom and power God gives you
to resist evil, injustice, and oppression
in whatever forms they present themselves?"
Our response is "I do." We believe that now, more than ever, the church is called to be a force for good in the world. Not merely a neutral voice, but a voice that actively combats the wickedness of racism and the various way it presents itself in our world. This is spiritual work, because it involves us taking a self-reflective look in our own lives, but also in how this work invites us to live out our faith in bravery as we seek to grow in Christ's likeness. Our attention to systemic racism in the church forces our faith to become relevant, just as God become abundantly relevant when God became incarnate. The work before us is not easy and most of us are not entirely sure where to even begin. This page is a living document meant to provide tools and resources for further learning.
What is "Social Holiness"
The General Rule of Discipleship (To witness to Jesus Christ in the world, and to follow his teachings through acts of compassion, justice, worship, and devotion under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.) shapes the life and work of Covenant Discipleship groups, class leaders, and the congregation. It helps them live as witnesses to Jesus Christ in the world as they follow his teachings, summarized by him in Matthew 22:37-40
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest and first commandment. And a second is like it: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) and “You are my friends if you do what I command you” (John 15:14). The Christian life is shaped by obedience to Jesus’ teachings.
In the Baptismal Covenant we promise to “confess Jesus Christ as your Savior, put your whole trust in his grace, and promise to serve him as your Lord, in union with the church ….” The congregation, in turn, promises to proclaim the good news and live according to the example of Christ; to surround you with a community of love and forgiveness, that you may grow in your trust of God, and be found faithful in your service to others; to pray for you, that you may be a true disciple who walks in the way that leads to life. Living the Baptismal Covenant is how Christians embrace Jesus’ “new commandment”
I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another (John 13:34-35).
When Christians “watch over one another in love” and help cultivate each other's growth in holiness of heart and life they keep this new commandment. Congregations keep Jesus’ new commandment when they intentionally develop a path to discipleship that meets people where they are and provides guides along the way in the form of small groups and the guidance of seasoned disciples.
This is what John Wesley meant when he wrote:
"Solitary religion is not to be found there. 'Holy Solitaries' is a phrase no more consistent with the gospel than Holy Adulterers. The gospel of Christ knows of no religion, but social; no holiness but social holiness. Faith working by love, is the length and breadth and depth and height of Christian perfection."
The General Rule of Discipleship is a practical guide for Christians to love God and neighbor together. It makes social holiness possible insofar as it helps Christians center their life together in Jesus Christ. The rule points Christians, and the congregation, towards the risen Christ. It leads them to join in what he is up to in the world.
Holiness is social because God is social. God created human beings in God's divine image to be relational creatures. We become fully human when we share in the relationships God initiates with us through the people God places in our way.
Social holiness is the practice of embracing Jesus’ commandments to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, loving your neighbor as yourself, and loving one another as Christ loves. Not simply those in our congregation but all people!
When Wesley says that holiness is social he means that the depth of your love for God is revealed by the way you love whom God loves. The writer of 1 John describes the social nature of holiness:
"We love because he first loved us. Those who say, ‘I love God’, and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also" (1 John 4:19-21).
Truly loving God with our everything intrinsically entails loving our brothers and sisters in Christ AS WEL AS our neighbor. This requires us to be in relationships with the people God places alongside us in the church, and the people of your neighborhood, city, and the world. We need community, what Wesley called “society," for grace to nurture us into the persons God created us to be. The Baptismal Covenant describes the relationship between God, the baptized, and the Church. The General Rule of Discipleship provides the means for living the covenant and becoming agents of social holiness.
What is the Journey Toward Justice
The North Texas Conference of the United Methodist Church (the Conference FMUMC is a member to) launched a pilot program in January 2021 called the Journey Toward Justice. You can read more about HERE. Succinctly, this program seeks the helps local congregation's develop a lay-ministry team who then leads the congregation through a self-audit on institutional equity. The work includes these three guiding pillars:
- Vital Conversations, which call us to engage one another in conversations about racism, cultural diversity and institutional injustice in ways that are candid, respectful, holy and transformational.
- Intercultural Competence, which calls us to cultivate leaders with the skills and awareness to make disciples across cultures so that the North Texas Conference will be more diverse and better reflect our mission field.
- Institutional Equity, which calls us to build systems, policies and processes in the North Texas Conference that level the playing field for all people.
Over the next six months (Jan. - June 2021), our Social Holiness Team will be engaging in the work of self-reflection determing where FMUMC is both doing great work in terms of racial equity, as well as identifying areas in which we may require reform.
All are welcome in this work. All that is required is a sincere heart, an open mind, and the ability to engage in tough spiritual work.
To join the team or get more information, please Contact the Team Lead: Stephanie Coons
Please check back periodically for updates: