As the people of Ferguson, Missouri, await the results of a grand jury deliberation, Bishop Gene Robinson fears for the outcome and Dean Mike Kinman offers suggestions as to what they can do when the decision to indict or not is made.
Robinson in the Daily Beast:
There’s not a lot of dread in my life. A few worries, to be sure, but not that cousin of depression and anxiety, dread. Oh, like everyone else I dread root canals, sitting in holiday traffic that delays a reunion with family, and waiting on the lab report from a biopsy. Dread is the feeling I get when something bad seems to be on the way, and I know that there’s not a damn thing I can do about it.
These days, I find myself heavy with dread over what looks to be coming down the pike in Ferguson, Missouri, in the next few days, and I feel powerless to stop it. And if indeed, as I fear, the grand jury in St. Louis County decides not to indict Darren Wilson, the cop who shot unarmed Michael Brown, Jr. in Ferguson this summer, what will I, as a white man, do about it?
Much as they did immediately after the shooting of Mike Brown and the demonstrations that followed, local police appear to be preparing for war, rather than keeping the peace. We saw how such provocative actions only inflamed passions and escalated the unrest. The use of military-style protective gear and combat vehicles purchased from the Pentagon, along with embattled attitudes that are appropriate to real war, if employed, will once again bring increased conflict, not peace in Ferguson. Its citizens will feel assaulted, not protected.
The grand jury process, managed by St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Robert McCulloch, has not inspired confidence. The point of a grand jury is quite simple, really: to determine if there is enough evidence pointing toward a crime having been committed to move forward with a trial. Its purpose is not to try the case, seek both sides of the argument, or weigh the relative merits of each. Its purpose is to answer one question: Is there enough evidence to warrant a trial?
Dean Kinman writes to his colleagues offering what can be done when the decision is announced.
As we get close to the grand jury decision, I am getting wonderful notes and emails from clergy colleagues all over the country expressing their love and support. I first want to say thank you. Thank you for your love. Thank you for your friendship. Thank you for your prayers.
Some of these notes say: “Let me know if there’s anything I can do.” I know you mean that. And so I’m going to tell you what you can do. It will take courage. And know that as you do this I will have your back every bit as much as you have had mine.
When the grand jury decision is announced and the national media eye turns to whatever will happen in St. Louis, here is what I need you to do:
Preach about it. I need you not to let your congregation pretend this has nothing to do with you. I need you, in your own words and with your own integrity from your own heart, to preach about race and privilege and the deep brokenness we have not just in Ferguson, not just in St. Louis, but all over our nation. To preach in a way that will make your congregation uncomfortable in the same way we at Christ Church Cathedral are uncomfortable right now. To preach in a way that doesn’t jump too quickly to peace and reconciliation but holds a mirror up to your own congregation and your own city. I need you to see what is happening in St. Louis and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ for your own congregation and your own community. And don’t just preach it once like it’s earning a merit badge but keep preaching it over and over again.
Find your young leaders. A gift of what is happening here is a group of young leaders that has come together on the streets of Ferguson. They are women and men who are strong, courageous and committed to militant, nonviolent love for the sake of justice. Their words and language is often harsh because the lives they are living have been harsh. I need you to find those young people in your community … and you will have to go out of your churches to do it. And when you find them, I need you not to preach to them but to listen to them and look for ways you can stand with them, ways you can amplify their voices. I need you to confess where the church has abandoned them and to be the church in ways that gets their trust back. I need you to stand in the breach with them and guard them from harm. I need you to let them lead you.
Move some money. I need you to have the conversations that matter in your own family, in your congregation and in your diocese. Where do you spend your money? Where do you invest your money? Do you support, encourage and invest in minority-owned businesses? Does your money go all over the country and the world looking for the highest rate of return or do you invest in community development in neighborhoods of poverty right where you are? This is work we are just at the very, very beginnings of starting in my own family, congregation and diocese. I need you to be in this with us. Talk is cheap. People of color have been left off the financial escalators our society has privileged white people with since the Emancipation Proclamation. I need you to work with us in helping everyone be able to have the capacity to thrive.
Pray. This is definitely “last but not least.” Pray for us and know that we are praying for you. Pray not for an easy peace but pray for transformation. Pray for courage. Pray for us not to fear and shrink from conflict but to let conflict drive us to transformation. Pray for God’s Holy Spirit to move us in ways that we scarcely believe possible. Pray that all of us — we here in St. Louis and you wherever you are — may use this moment in time as a great opportunity to show how deeply we trust in Jesus and the amazing things that Christ can do.
As you do these things, know that I am at your service. I will do all in my power to help you. It is up to you if Ferguson and St. Louis will just be the identified patient for American racism or whether this will spark a national movement for transformation, a movement that will not end until all people are treated as beloved images of God.
My inspiration is the young women and men who are literally putting their lives on the line for this movement of transformation. I know that the little I risk is truly the least I can do to stand with these who are willing to risk so much. What can you do for me? Stand with me and do the same. Thank you