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Kelly Gallagher: Ferguson Verdict and Sacred Conversations on Race
America is at a crossroads. #BlackLivesMatter is trending strong on Twitter. Courageous non-violent protesters are in the streets. However, our system of “justice”, our system of policing, our habits and patterns of friendship, and the openness of our hearts to embrace all God’s children – all these need profound reexamination and reform. We need to examine as well the efforts of our congregations to fulfill our denomination’s commitment to multi-racial, multi-cultural inclusivity.
I condemn the repeated killings of unarmed black men by police officers who are supposed to protect and serve – and I ask you to join me by taking a stand and discussing this in your churches and in your circles of influence. I join the Collegium and the New York Conference Minister (see their statement below) in crying out for justice in our land plagued with racism. I affirm their reminder of the important words that have been declared before, when we have faced other crossroads: silence in the face of injustice is not an option. And I am grateful that they lift up the relentless hope that is ours as a people of faith – an Advent Hope that we can become different people, and our transformation can help fuel the systemic reforms for which our sisters and brothers in the streets are crying.
Statement from the United Church of Christ National Officers and the Conference Minister of the New York Conference of the UCC:It is an inexplicable travesty that the same words used to express our dismay and anger over last week's Ferguson verdict are now applicable, verbatim, in New York.
We affirm the anger and grief of all people of good conscience who are committed to justice and peace. We stand in solidarity with all African Americans who continue to live in fear of the ignorant, innate, institutional racism that threatens the lives of young black men, women and children every day. These are our sons and daughters, our brothers and sisters, our fathers and mothers, our precious children — our family in Christ.
We pray for nonviolent demonstration and official response to the outrage that is now being experienced and conveyed. Violence is not the path to justice — it is the root of all injustice. Silence in the face of injustice is not an option. We therefore cry out with a loud voice for justice in our land plagued with racism.
We are in agreement with Mayor de Blasio's statement: "Anyone who believes in the values of this country should feel called to action right now." As leaders of the United Church of Christ in New York and throughout the nation, we stand in solidarity with those bearing witness through prayer, protest, and vigil. We call for a national examination of our judicial system and other institutions spiritually perverted by racism.
Even under clouds of despair, we affirm the relentless hope that is ours as a people of faith. May this hope empower us to speak boldly and loudly to shed light on the systematic racism that daily threatens our Beloved Community.
We cannot move forward faithfully until there is honest reform to systems that institutionalize and legitimize racist practices.
The Rev. David Gaewski
New York UCC Conference Minister
The Rev. Geoffrey Black
UCC General Minister and President
The Rev. Linda Jaramillo
UCC Executive Minister for Justice and Witness Ministries
The Rev. J. Bennett Guess
UCC Executive Minister for Local Church Ministries
The Rev. James Moos
UCC Executive Minister for Wider Church Ministries
This statement can be found here.
Jim Antal is a denominational leader, activist and public theologian. He led the 360 churches of the Massachusetts Conference United Church of Christ from 2006 to his retirement in 2018. An environmental activist from the first Earth Day in 1970, ...