Written by Anthony Moujaes
New York-area ministers of the United Church of Christ are part of an ecumenical community voice calling for justice and end to police violence. A pastoral letter to the mayor and city council, signed by 109 faith leaders from New York, takes aim at a lack of accountability and implores elected leaders to reform the police department to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the public.
UCC clergy in that part of the country recognize the eyes of the nation are on New York after the non-indictment of a white police officer, Daniel Pantaleo, whose chokehold lead to the death of an African American man, Eric Garner.
"As a broad coalition of antiracist spiritual leaders from many faiths, we ask that you be true to your calling as public servants, continuing to stand on the side of what is moral, just and right," the faith leaders wrote. "Our city is experiencing a moral crisis: the police are not being policed. They appear to be above the law."
About 15 of the letter's endorsers are either from settings of the UCC and the Collegiate Church. Together, those leaders have asked the mayor of New York City to police the police, by appointing a special prosecutor to investigate and examine cases of excessive force and wrongful deaths at the hands of law enforcement.
Among the signees are the Rev. David Gaewski, conference minister of the New York Conference of the UCC, and the Rev. Freeman L. Palmer, associate conference minister, the Rev. Donna Schaper, pastor of Judson Memorial Church, the Rev. Amy Butler, pastor of Riverside Church, the Rev. Conrad B. Tillard Sr., pastor of Nazarene Congregational UCC and the Rev. Wayne R. Christiansen, pastor of All Souls Bethlehem Church.
Seven representatives of the Collegiate Church of New York, which is building a relationship with the UCC around social justice programs, also signed the letter, including the Rev. Michael Bos, president of the consistory of the Collegiate Church.
The grand jury decision was announced on Dec. 3, and in the days since, clergy have discussed an organized response to end the institutional racism that remains. This letter is part of that response.
"The persistent pattern of refusing to indict police officers who kill people of color, especially black men, continues to communicate that the lives of God's beloved children do not matter," the letter continues. "These killings are breaking the hearts of our children, creating fear and anxiety about their own safety and future."
"We urge you to see the gravity of our current moral crisis and join us in healing our broken hearts and our broken system," the letter concludes. "We urge you to restore peace to our community by reforming the New York Police Department."
"Let us strengthen the bonds of our shared humanity among citizens and police officers, so that we may live free with mutual respect and abiding trust."