The shootings last week in Charleston, SC, at Mother Emanuel AME Church were a horrible tragedy, and I join others in condemning the racially-motivated terrorism that was committed. I have been pleased to see so many other United Methodists from around the country, from individual churches to annual conferences to boards and agencies to the head of the Council of Bishops, join in expressions of grief and sympathy and calls for racial justice in the wake of these deaths.
I have also been pleased, though a bit surprised, to see European United Methodists doing the same, from official statements by the bishops of Germany and the Nordic-Baltic area, to Twitter support from the Bulgarian UMC.
My surprise at these responses comes not from any doubt in the Christian love of our European UMC sisters and brothers. Instead, I was a bit surprised because of how very American this tragedy seemed, in the racial factors driving the shooting and in the type of gun violence committed. While this may be a very American tragedy, it is also a tragedy felt around the world.
We Americans have some serious work to do around issues of race, and last week's shooting made that deadly clear. The response by the European United Methodists reminds us, though, that while Americans must ultimately do the work ourselves, we do so under the scrutiny of but with the support of others around the world. That should increase our motivation to and increase our hope in making progress on our country's long, troubled history of race relations.