A Pastoral Letter on Bullying -- Sharon Watkins

I decided to share this important word to the Disciples of Christ community on the subject of bullying.  It comes in the form of a Pastoral Letter from the General Minister and President of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Rev. Dr. Sharon Watkins.  I believe it is a word we need to hear, whether we're Disciples or not.


“How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”   - I John 3:17-18

Dear Disciples,

The wave of publicity has passed regarding bullying and suicide, but the problem has not gone away. In this New Year, families and friends of those who died are feeling the loss deeply.

In my own community, two young people died last year by suicide as a result of bullying at school. These are two we know about – there may be others. Bullying involves a repeated pattern of aggressive, unwanted, negative actions and an imbalance of power. It can take place wherever people gather…. at school, church, or in the workplace.

Many whose deaths brought this issue to public attention were gay; bullied because of their sexual orientation until they thought life wasn’t worth living. Other young people are bullied because they don’t speak English well, they are from a minority or because they are smart. Sometimes it’s adults that get involved in their children’s issues and bully, anonymously via social media. Sometimes bullying is part of hazing.

Bullying is always wrong and followers of Christ should say so.

Christians who call ourselves Disciples of Christ are called to speak ‘love in truth and action” by standing up for all God’s children – especially those who attract the attention of bullies, whether they are gay or immigrants or just unpopular. Let’s be sure these children of God know they are not alone – that life is worth living.

US Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and US Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan say the most promising anti-bullying approaches are those that “get entire communities involved. When principals, teachers, school nurses, pediatricians, social workers, faith leaders, law enforcement agents, and parents all have the information they need to recognize bullying and respond to it, bullies get a clear message that their behavior is unacceptable.”1 Disciples pastor, Glenn Wilkerson adds, “Most bullies ‘play the crowd,’ and if the crowd has the courage and compassion to say, ‘Stop that!’ ‘That’s not funny!’ ‘That’s cruel!’ we’ll put an end to the bulk of it.”2

Unfortunately, according to a Public Religion Research Institute poll, two thirds of Americans believe that messages coming from churches contribute to the suicide of gay teens.3 We need to convey a different message. We are Disciples of Christ, of Jesus Christ. He welcomed children, ate with tax collectors and chatted with women – shocking in his time. But Jesus came to show that God loved the world (John 3:16) – the whole world.

We are Disciples of Christ, a movement for wholeness. Our mission is to be and to share the Good News of Jesus Christ. We extend God’s wholeness by reaching out in word and deed to the bully and the bullied alike, showing God’s love.

As Christian people, let’s be clear that bullying is not ok. In your community, let’s be sure people know that Disciples of Christ “love in truth and action.” Let’s not have families mourning the loss of promising young people to tragic death. Instead, let’s help all God’s children know they are loved and valued!

Sharon E. Watkins

General Minister and President, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)

1.  Kathleen Sebelius and Arne Duncan. Houston Chronicle / San Diego Union Tribune / St. Paul Pioneer Press, October 9, 2010 http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/editorial/outlook/7239697.html

2. The Reverend Glenn Wilkerson, founder and President of ARK (Adults Relating to Kids) October edition of the online ARK Newsletter.

3.  http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2010/10/21/churches-contribute-to-gay-suicides-most-americans-believe/


Anonymous said…
I wonder why these people that are so against bullying because it is wrong, have nothing to say against sexual perversion? It's wrong too.
David said…
This Gary?

Anonymous said…
I suppose that's part of the reason. But the bigger reason people like Sharon Watkins won't say anything negative about sexual perversion is because they don't believe it is perversion. They think homosexuality is good and natural, even though God has said it is evil and unnatural.
John said…
I am glad to see Sharon Watkins circulating pastoral letters. It should happen more often. However, as she points out the subject is not particularly in the public consciousness right now, while so many other subjects of overwhelming importance are, e. g., the Tucson shootings, civility in politics, the political disturbances in the Middle East., etc. I am finding hard to understand why from a pastoral level this particular subject received attention when more current issues are not being addressed.

Anyway, I hope we see more such communications from our General Minister ini the future.

John said…

What is unnatural and certainly perverse is your obsession with other peoples sexuality!

Most of us have enough to do with dealing with our own problems that we just don't have the time or energy to obsess over how other people live their lives.

Anonymous said…

If you pay any attention to what goes on in public, and in politics, it is impossible to get away from the subject of homosexuality. On Tuesday, in a town near me, a group of "clergy", so-called, held a meeting for the purpose of promoting homosexuality in that town. At least four members of that town's council have agreed to make changes to the city policies to favor the perverts(sexual, moral and theological).

Enabling and promoting sexual perverts is at or near the top of the list of things to do for the religious and political left. Sadly, they have already succeeded in much of their and your wicked agenda. It is my hope that I can offer some resistance to that agenda.
John said…

But what do you have to say about bullying?

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