Police incident stirs North Texas Conference

The North Texas Conference’s annual gathering got spun in another direction by a video showing a police officer manhandling black youth at a pool party dispute in McKinney, Texas.

The incident happened Friday, June 5. The video went viral over the weekend, just as clergy and laity began to meet at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, which like McKinney is a suburban city just north of Dallas.

Bishop Michael McKee spoke twice about the incident at the conference. Black clergy held a press conference and prayer gathering outside the McKinney police department immediately after the conference ended Tuesday afternoon.

Some white clergy and laity attended as well, including the Rev. Thomas Brumett, pastor of First United Methodist in McKinney.

By then, the fast-moving story had just taken another turn, with the resignation of the officer, Cpl. Eric Casebolt. McKinney Police Chief Greg Conley described Casebolt's conduct as "indefensible" and "out of control."

“I think (the resignation) is a good first step, but it’s not the end of the story,” said the Rev. Frances Cudjoe Waters, associate pastor of Hamilton Park United Methodist Church and president of the conference’s African American Clergy Fellowship.

Brumett noted that he’s a fan and friend of the McKinney police but joined Waters in calling on city officials to complete a full, transparent investigation of Casebolt’s actions.

“He resigned. That’s a good thing,” Brumett said. “We still need to pursue justice.”

Brumett added that the McKinney incident, the latest in a series of controversies across the country involving apparent police misconduct caught on video, should prompt broad soul-searching.

“Are we systemically healthy as churches, as police departments, as a community?” Brumett said. “This is an opportunity for us to seek justice in all areas.”

By Wednesday, June 10, Casebolt had gone beyond the resignation to offer an apology, delivered by his attorney. She noted that Casebolt had been feeling emotional distress the day of the incident, having worked a suicide and an attempted suicide soon before getting called to the pool party dispute.

Casebolt was among officers called to the police party in Stonebridge, a planned community within  McKinney. Accounts of what happened before and after differ, but a bystander’s video captured him pulling his gun on black youth and throwing one black teenage girl to the ground.

“When I saw the video, I thought about my daughter, who is 18,” said the Rev. Michael Bowie Jr., pastor of St. Luke Community United Methodist, a large predominantly African-American church in Dallas. “It just lets us know that we have a lot of work to do in America.”

McKee attended a Tuesday lunch meeting of black clergy in the conference. Later Tuesday, he told the full conference that he had decided this spring, after the Council of Bishops issued a pastoral letter on racism after allegations of police brutality against blacks in Baltimore and elsewhere, that the North Texas Conference must make race relations a focus.

“This is just another reason why,” McKee said of the McKinney incident.

McKee invited Waters, Brumett and the Rev. John McLarty, pastor of Stonebridge United Methodist Church, to address the conference. McLarty’s parishioners include McKinney Mayor Brian Loughmiller, and both McLarty and Brumett attended an ecumenical prayer meeting with Loughmiller and Conley.

McKee said he was grateful that Brumett, McLarty and black clergy of the conference had come together to respond.

“This is one reason why I love being a United Methodist,” McKee said.

Waters, a law school graduate before turning to ministry, described the video as clearly showing excessive force toward the black youth.

“We, the people of God, want all of God’s children to be treated well,” she said at the press conference.

Waters added that The United Methodist Church, as a large, integrated denomination with a long commitment to racial reconciliation, is well positioned to foster healthful dialog and press for improved policing.

She said she hopes that the North Texas Conference set a positive example.

“We don’t want to have a Baltimore or Ferguson in Dallas.”

Hodges, a United Methodist News Service writer, lives in Dallas. Contact him at (615) 742-5470 or [email protected]


Like what you're reading? Support the ministry of UM News! Your support ensures the latest denominational news, dynamic stories and informative articles will continue to connect our global community. Make a tax-deductible donation at ResourceUMC.org/GiveUMCom.

Sign up for our newsletter!

UMNEWS-SUBSCRIPTION
Local Church
Members of Centenary UMC in Metuchen, New Jersey, celebrate diversity and the love of God through service and community. Photo courtesy of Centenary United Methodist Church.

Ask The UMC: How may United Methodists observe Heritage Months?

Because most United Methodist congregations in the US are mono-ethnic, it's important for them to take care when observing history or heritage months of races and cultures different from theirs.
Mission and Ministry
Tim Tanton (center, in red), chief news and information officer for United Methodist Communications, shares updates with African communicators and other UMCom staff during the 2019 General Conference. World Press Freedom Day, observed May 3, commemorates journalists and highlights the difficulties they face while reporting truth. File photo by Kathleen Barry, UM News

World Press Freedom Day and the church

Tim Tanton with United Methodist News talks about giving voice to the voiceless and why freedom of information is essential not only for society but for the church.
Racism
A person reacts outside the Hennepin County Government Center in Minneapolis after the guilty verdict handed down April 20 in the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd. While expressing the sense that the verdict was just, United Methodist leaders urged continuing work toward dismantling widespread racism and systemic injustice against people of color. Photo by Carlos Barria, Reuters.

United Methodists react to Chauvin verdict

Church leaders praised the justice of the verdict against former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin in the killing of George Floyd, but cautioned that much work lies ahead to overcome systemic racism.