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Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship

  • The Central Jurisdiction (a racially-segregated body of the Methodist Church from 1939 to 1968)
  • Massive Resistance in Farmville, Virginia
  • Bloody Monday, nonviolent protests and police brutality in Danville, Virginia in 1963

The Genesis of Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship

Call to Action

On May 29, 2020, Bishop Sharma Lewis asked the question, “When do we as children of God in the second largest annual conference in The United Methodist connection decide to have the crucial conversations and examine our own experiential and inherited stories of race and racism?” The Race and Race Relations Subgroup of the Bishop’s Cabinet began work to help answer that question.

Race and Race Relations Subgroup

Statement from Jeff Mickle, Dean of the Bishop’s Cabinet:

“When we were exploring possible alternatives for how to develop a resource to help the clergy and laity in our conference to engage this important and persisting matter of race relations, we looked at several resources that were being used by other annual conferences. The work done by the Missouri Conference appealed to us the most because it was indigenous to Missouri, created to connect with the people in their context, to meet them where they are so to speak. So, we adapted that approach and decided that we would try to create a resource that would be indigenous to Virginia. Once we started thinking about it, we realized that we have a surplus of possibilities to draw upon, across the history and the geography of Virginia. We were then off and running.”

A Living Document

This resource is a work in progress with three sessions included in the first document.  The co-writers and videographer continue working to complete and upload more videos and curriculum.  We invite interested clergy and laity to serve as focus groups for this initial offering and respond with questions or comments.  Contact information is listed after the appendix.  

The resource will include a participant’s guide, facilitator’s notes, a one-minute introductory video for each episode, and 12-14 videos when completed. An outline for the narrative arc of the resource is shown below.  

Each of us involved with the process has felt the power of the Holy Spirit at work.  We continue to discern God’s message for God’s people as we listen deeply in prayer and are faithful to know God’s will for this work at this time in our lives.

Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship

A video series designed to engage clergy and laity in authentic conversations  about race and reconciliation.  

The Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship curriculum is a first step to address racism in the Virginia Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church.  This series includes videos and interviews that acknowledge and document Virginia’s role in forming and continuing race prejudice and racial discrimination embedded in law, customs, and institutions, including the Church.

Our lived experiences shape the stories we tell about ourselves and others.  In this curriculum, videos expose and encompass narratives from the indigenous peoples in America to present-day migrant workers on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.  This guide unearths and acknowledges the stories of multi-ethnic and multi-racial voices in Virginia.  Their perspectives impact our acceptance of the Church’s role in racism in Virginia and racism’s effect on discipleship among members of the Virginia Annual Conference.

The small group study encourages participants to listen, learn, and engage in healthy dialogue about history, race, and discipleship. The goal is for all clergy and laity to acknowledge racism as a sin and take action to dismantle racism in our families, houses of worship, our community, and the workplace.


Welcome to the Virginia Roots, Race, and Discipleship curriculum.  We are on an adventure as learners. Our prayer is to increase knowledge, affirm our commitment to justice, and influence others to learn and grow as we make disciples for the transformation of the world. 

We give thanks to the participants and facilitators of this study.  You are co-learners and co-leaders together.  As members of the Body of Christ, we know, “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it” (1 Corinthians 12:26, NRSV).  This bond of mutual support will enrich conversations, carry us through difficult dialogue, and help honor the commandment of Jesus: “Just as I have loved you, so you also must love each other” (John 13:34, CEB).

Each video covers a period in Virginia history or the Methodist story.  Stories include Native Americans, European settlers, enslaved Africans, Southampton County, Virginia, Richmond during the Civil War, Jim Crow, Women’s Suffrage, and the Central Jurisdiction.  Stories of human rights include Massive Resistance, Nonviolence Movements, the Unite the Right Rally, Migrant Workers, and Asians in America.

Each person interviewed has a personal connection to the story or contributes expertise about the topic. 

So let us begin our journey to face history, to listen to our heart’s longing for a relationship with one another, and to heal the wounds from racism.  May the end of this initial journey be our beginning, a beginning where others “know that we are Christians by our love.”


According to the UMC’s General Commission on Race and Religion, “Small groups should create a covenant for the emotional and spiritual safety of each member and the group, along with concrete means of setting boundaries. Because of the sensitive nature of having conversations about racism, a group covenant becomes more important.” 

John Wesley’s three simple rules is a common framework.  Note your ideas of what this looks like in the space below.  

Do No Harm




Do Good




Stay In Love With God





(UMC Discipline, ❡162.A)

Language and vocabulary are vital to storytelling and relationship building.  For this study, we use definitions from the UMC’s Social Principles as shared language:

Racism is the combination of the power to dominate by one race over other races and a value system that assumes that the dominant race is innately superior to the others.

Personal racism is demonstrated through individual expressions, attitudes, and behaviors that accept the assumptions of a racist value system and maintain the benefits of this system.

Institutional racism is the established social pattern that supports implicitly or explicitly the racial value system.

Unearned Privileges-In many cultures; white persons are granted unearned privileges and benefits that are denied to persons of color.

Racial discrimination is disparate treatment and lack of full access and equity in resources, opportunities, and participation in the Church and society based on race or ethnicity.

Racism as Sin hinders our relationship with Christ, inasmuch as it is antithetical to the gospel itself.

Social Principles: The Social Community


Matthew Freeman
Matthew’s passion for racial equity and social justice has led him across the United States and overseas, helping people connect across difference and begin to address the challenges that divide them. Matthew has worked with members of Congress, the Federal Reserve system, as well as organizations of all sizes, from Fortune 500’s to small non-profits. With degrees in the sciences and in the humanities, Matthew appreciates the opportunities to bring that diverse educational background to bear on topics like unconscious bias- exploring what we know about how the brain functions and how that impacts our human interactions. He is the author of the book Overcoming Bias: Building Authentic Relationships Across Differences.

Audrey Cox Smith
Audrey is the lay leader of Chester UMC in Chester, Virginia.  She serves on DCOM, COSROW, and the Board of Ordained Ministry. In her role as Director of the Petersburg Project for the James River District, she facilitates conversations between community members, residents, and interfaith partners to build a resilient Petersburg.  Audrey is in the Soul of Leadership Program with Shalem Institute of Spiritual Formation and facilitates cohorts in group spiritual direction. She co-founded Chesterfield Innovative Academy for Girls and The Garden Schoolhouse after retiring as a public school educator.  She has degrees in music education and educational leadership. Email address: [email protected]


Video 1:  Larry Jent is the pastor of Grace (Hartwood) UMC, Rappahannock River District. He is “a pastor, teacher, musician, storyteller, and Native American advocate who has journeyed from the banks of the Mississippi and the Bay of Alaska to Carolina’s red clay tobacco fields, the suburbs of Washington D.C., and the beautiful community of Hartwood, Virginia.”  (

Video 2:  Judith Ledbetter has devoted a good part of the last 20 years to creating a reference library and archives called the Charles City County Richard M. Bowman Center for Local History.  She is a member of Memorial United Methodist Church and author of  “In This Place I Delivered My Soul, The Methodists of Charles City, Virginia.”  [email protected] 

Video 3:  Kimberly Young is a life-long Alexandrian and has served as an active lay-person in the United Methodist Church for most of her life. She is involved in the Alexandria District and has served as an Annual Conference delegate in recent years. She is a Certified Lay Servant and a member at Roberts Memorial UMC.  Kimberly is Director of Church and Community Engagement at Washington Street UMC in Alexandria, Virginia. [email protected].

Video 4: Mark Person is a direct descendant of John Person, founder of Persons UMC in Dreweryville, Virginia, located in Southampton County. He serves as trustee, treasurer, and historian of Persons established in 1838. Mark has been a family spokesperson with the donation of Nat Turner’s Bible to the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, DC. Also, Mark appeared on television shows documenting his family’s role in Nat Turner’s Bible history.

Video 5: Ben Campbell serves as Pastoral Associate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Richmond, Virginia.  Besides being a priest and known civil rights activist in Richmond, Ben is also a father; a husband; a twin; a seventh-generation Virginian; the author of “Richmond’s Unhealed History,” and the founder of Richmond Hill, a residential Christian community and spiritual retreat center in the Church Hill neighborhood of Richmond.  Bio: St. Paul’s Episcopal Church.

Video 6: Barbara Batson, a native of North Carolina, is a museum professional with experience in history museums. Since 1997, she has been the exhibitions coordinator at the Library of Virginia. Barbara also curated Freeing Art from Wood: The Sculpture of Leslie Garland Bolling, the first major exhibition and catalogue of this African American artist since the 1940s.
A lifelong Presbyterian, Barbara is a Second Presbyterian Church member in Richmond, where she sings in the choir and is a member of a committee examining Second’s relationship to Richmond’s Black community since 1845.

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