Episcopal and Anglican bishops from all over the world have weighed in on the Black Lives Matter protests taking place across the United States this week, as well as the use of St. John’s, Lafayette Square as a prop for a presidential photo. (See the Cafe’s previous coverage of the protests and reactions here, here, and here.) What follows is a collection of more statements from the past few days.
The Province III (covering dioceses in the mid-Atlantic) bishops write:
We write letters and make public statements. We hold vigils and pray for reform. We urge our clergy and people to become better educated concerning the realities of institutional racism and implicit bias. We reach out to black community leaders and express our sorrow and our solidarity.
Then, gradually, we get busy with other things, until the next murder, the next video, the next spasm of racial violence, when we repeat the cycle.
And nothing changes.
We are heartbroken and angered by this pattern, by our complicity in it, above all by the thought that we might let this moment pass us by without responding with vigor, zeal and persistence to its challenge.
We are determined, with God’s help, not to let this happen again. And yet, we need the participation of our communities in Christ to join in the movement of transforming our society with its sinful way of oppression, into Jesus’ loving, liberating and life-giving Way of Love. Our baptismal promises compel us to act.
The Province IV (covering dioceses in the southeast) bishops write:
As bishops in this region, we are well aware of the historic persistence of racism toward our black sisters and brothers. While such racism is not confined to our southern geography, its history with “Jim Crow” under its various guises over the years reminds us of the profound work left undone by our continued failure to fully address the sins of racism and white supremacy in our country.
Recent events are a shocking reminder of what we have left undone. The white vigilante murder of Ahmaud Arbery in Brunswick, Georgia; the unwarranted killing by police of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky while she was sleeping in her own bed; and now the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota also at the hands of police, scream out to us of our work left undone. Sadly, these racist murders are by no means the only ones, and they were not committed simply by a few bad actors. What we are seeing is the work of a conscious and unconscious system designed to deny dignity and safety to some of God’s children.
The demonstrations across our country indicate that people have had enough. We believe all people of good will and love of neighbor should insist that this behavior by police and white vigilantes end now. Their actions tarnish the reputations of the many wonderful women and men who serve as police officers. We need national leadership who will work to make the changes necessary in our justice system, so such brutality becomes a thing of the past.
The Rt. Rev. Carlye Hughes, bishop of the Diocese of Newark, wrote:
We had yet to get our bearings on the journey through pandemic when the violent slayings of Ahmaud Arbery and George Floyd thrust us suddenly on to a treacherous but familiar side road. The dangers of COVID-19 have not diminished. It has become even more clear in the last twelve weeks that African-Americans have a particular susceptibility to the virus. Theories abound about poverty and pre-existing conditions, but these theories do nothing to explain the death of young, healthy, professional African-Americans. Could it be the wear and tear of navigating racism adversely impacts the resiliency of African-Americans?
… The generational sin of racism embedded in our systems, experienced in overt ways to the point of death, remains a dangerous obstacle for every person. It may seem that racism is experienced only by black and brown people, yet the discord, disruption, and dulling of potential is felt by all people regardless of skin color. For Christians to ignore, diminish, or accept racism requires a sinful rejection of Christ’s greatest commandment: We are to love one another. Racism in any form demands walking away from Christ’s teaching. Further, racism removes God’s love from our encounters with each other. Politics is a poor substitute for God’s love and as of yet has not stopped the death toll paid by black and brown people.
The Financial Times reports that Rowan Williams, the former Archbishop of Canterbury, wrote in a newsletter:
Objectively [President Trump’s “photo op” in front of St. John’s] was an act of idolatry — standing somewhere else than in the truth, using the text that witnesses to God’s disruptive majesty as a prop in a personal drama. In a context where racial privilege itself has long been an idolatry, where long-unchallenged institutional violence has been a routine means for the self-defence of that privilege, the image of the president clinging to the Scriptures as if to an amulet is bizarre even by the standards of recent years.”
And, finally, a hopeful note from St. Paul’s in Richmond, Virginia, which will leave Black Lives Matter graffiti on its front steps for the time being:
Charlie Dupree, Rector of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church, said the graffiti, which reads things like “I can’t breathe,” and “George Floyd” is a reminder that change is needed. George Floyd died after a police officer knelt on his neck in Minnesota.
“I consider these memorials. They represent those people who have lost their lives to injustice,” Dupree said.
Dupree told 8News the spray painted messages will be staying put for now. “We don’t know how long, but we feel like to race to get rid of it, to rush to either spray wash off everything, just kind of sweeps the conversation under the rug and it’s a conversation that’s been swept under the rug for far too long,” he said.
The messages were left on the church’s front steps and on one of the church’s columns after protests in downtown Richmond Saturday night. Now, the graffiti has turned into a memorial. People have left flowers and cards on top of the messages.
“That’s another reason why I hate to remove these right now because I think people need to mourn and they need to do what they can to externalize their feelings,” said Dupree.