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Episcopal and Other Churches respond to Eric Garner grand jury

Episcopal and Other Churches respond to Eric Garner grand jury

Protests continued for a second night after a Staten Island grand jury refused to indict a New York City police officer after the death of Eric Garner. At one of the protests, the Episcopal Diocese of New York was visibly present including Bishop Andrew Dietsche.

Statement from the Diocese of New York:

A general call has been voiced for people to come today at 5:30 to Foley Square, that we may be together in our frustration, anger and grief. People will gather  for different reasons. I will be there to join again in the call for justice, to name before God our brother Eric Garner, and to recommit to the bonds of our shared humanity. Bonds of love. May we, in this hour, be graced to make the witness of our faith, and the love of God, before a city and a world and a people which so desperately needs to reclaim its hope.

Pictures on Facebook show the presence of Bishop Andrew Dietsche and other members of the Diocese at Foley Square last night.

The Journal-News interviewed the Rev. Owen Thompson, Rector of Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack, NY.

Owen Thompson’s boys are 4 and 8. Joan Grangenois-Thomas’ son is 19; her daughter is 23.

Both are helping their children navigate a world where race is a constant; both have fears and faith; and both offered their perspectives in the wake of Wednesday’s decision by a Staten Island grand jury not to indict a white police officer in the chokehold death of Eric Garner.

The Rev. Owen Thompson has already started the conversation with his older boy.

The rector at Grace Episcopal Church in Nyack has begun teaching Ridley, 8, that there is a way for him to behave at home and a way to behave in public. There is time before that talk will start with his younger son, Carter, 4.

Thompson describes how every African-American is “bipolar” in that “You’re yourself and then you’re your black self, your stereotyped self.”

“I know I’m the son of Herbert and Ruselle Thompson. My mother was an opera singer and my father was a bishop in the church. I know myself as that beloved son.”

“But I know that when I leave my home, when I’m in the supermarket, that I am suspect, that I am threat. And you carry that with you,” he said. “You’re always mindful when you walk past a car and you hear the car lock…. You are mindful of the woman who grabs her purse and holds its tighter when you walk by. Those are things that remind you that you are `the other.'”

“What’s sad is that, at 8 and 4, they are not aware of their own ‘otherness,'” Thompson said. “It breaks my heart having to tell them that they are ‘the other,’ that despite your best intentions and despite the depths of your heart and all the gifts we’ve instilled within you, you will always not necessarily be welcomed at some tables and will be viewed in this nature.”

RNS reports how even some white evangelical leaders, previously silent on matters of race, have begun to speak out.

“African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, in this country are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed.”

It’s the kind of statement that’s often cited by black clergy and civil rights activists. But hours after a grand jury on Wednesday (Dec. 3) chose not to indict the New York City police officer who put Eric Garner into a fatal choke hold on Staten Island, those words came from none other than white evangelical leader Russell Moore.

With back-to-back grand jury decisions that white police officers will not face charges in the deaths of unarmed black men, white Christians, including evangelicals, have grown more vocal in urging predominantly white churches to no longer turn a blind eye to injustice and to bridge the country’s racial divides.

“It’s time for us in Christian churches to not just talk about the gospel but live out the gospel by tearing down these dividing walls not only by learning and listening to one another but also by standing up and speaking out for one another,” said Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission.

Posted by Andrew Gerns.

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