“In those days I will pour out my spirit on all flesh.”
Across Florida and the nation, protests are welling up in response to the murders of African Americans. The horrific video of the killing of George Floyd, while he and bystanders plead for mercy, lays on the conscience of every decent human being. His death was no accident, nor were the thousand other deaths by law enforcement over the last year. Police killed African Americans three times more often than Euro-Americans. This killing has a long history back to 1619 when the first slave ship landed in Virginia. In the past the public’s attention has wavered quickly. This summer must be different. Society stands before a moment of transformation. The Florida Council of Churches fully embraces the statement of the African Methodist Episcopal Church; to quote:
Our position is that the international agenda of colonial white supremacy: to dominate, divide, and destroy people of color is no longer acceptable. We declare this day, silence in the face of evil and wrongdoing is violence.
We urge all of our ecumenical partners, brothers and sisters in the struggle to join us and our members and sisters in:
1. Supporting the strong statements of Christ-like correction given by Bishops Michael Curry and Mariann Budde of the Episcopal Church.
2. Staying focused on the arrest, trial, and, hopefully, conviction of all four of the officers involved in George Floyd’s murder in Minneapolis.
3. Calling for the demilitarization of and cuts in all police budgets. Redirecting funds to empower communities that have been historically abused by racist policing practices.
4. Making sure that businesses that were harmed during the uprisings are rebuilt, restored, and renewed.
5. Partnering in your local community to be counted in the 2020 Census.
6. Organizing all local communities, churches, and faith-based organizations for a “Freedom Summer”. Get started with AME V-Alert for real!! #RealPower4RealPeople!
7. Support the protestors and those who want to make their cities and communities stronger, fairer, and better.
8. Pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven!
Business, as usual, is no longer acceptable,
Romans 12: 1-2
We call upon our congregations, leaders, and laity to embrace transforming actions that move our communities, state, and nation forward in racial justice and ending white supremacy. We must pray, teach, and act for complete racial inclusion. Let us support protests with prayer, watering stations, serving as legal observers, and walking in peaceful commitment.
We call upon local officials to use their authority for transforming policing in their communities, and make the following three recommendations:
- Municipal and county mayors should immediately repudiate publicly the thin blue line that protects officers who commit violations of human rights. Such violations endanger public safety and, in this moment, continue to drive protests.
- Municipal and county governments should budget for de-escalation and nonviolent training in all law enforcement agencies and require its successful completion for all promotions; as well as re-direct funding in restorative ways as the African Methodist Episcopal Church indicates.
- State attorneys should establish a human rights commission in their judicial district composed of members who represent aggrieved communities and fully transparent to the public.
There are many more policies and practices to establish, yet these three are within the powers of local officials and can signal immediately to the public that their voices protesting the government’s excessive use of force are being heard.
A heavy weight now lays on us all. The protocols of the pandemic have increased the hardships of many people. The ever-present eye of social media means that egregious actions go viral quickly. This is not a time for elected officials to contain problems. This is the time for real leadership to arise that takes us all into a shared future. As scripture says, the Spirit has been poured out onto us all. Do not grieve God’s Spirit!
In summary let us make clear, no one should ever, because of the color of their skin, be asked by the police or anyone else, “What are you doing here?” We all belong here.
Adopted by the Board of the Florida Council of Churches on June 5, 2020.
Faith leaders are invited to co-sign this letter at https://forms.gle/AXBZs7mjKcREgcCV6