UCC leaders call for accountability in Baltimore

The national officers of the United Church of Christ have released a statement in response to the unanswered questions surrounding the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from a spinal injury on April 19, which he suffered while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department.

Freddie Gray Precinct Protest
“FreddieGrayPrecinctProtest” by Veggies – Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

The national officers of the United Church of Christ have released a statement in response to the unanswered questions surrounding the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray, who died from a spinal injury on April 19, which he suffered while in the custody of the Baltimore Police Department.

Here is the text of that statement:

We grieve with the family of Mr. Freddie Gray. This young man, who died of injuries while in police custody, is another child of God to be added to the list of the tragic loss of African American lives. The pain is deep for his family and the entire Baltimore community.

Those who are responsible must be held accountable. The chaos that resulted with yet another tragedy is indeed troubling; however, until we get to the root causes of the sin of racism, we can expect reactions such as this.

Efforts to hold individual police officers and police departments accountable must not be misconstrued to be anti-police. Law enforcement officers have every right to expect respect from community members when they are performing their jobs with integrity and accountability. However, communities, and especially communities that have a long experience of racial injustice at the hands of police and within the justice system, have every right to expect government to hold law enforcement and public safety departments accountable for their actions when individual officers abuse the power entrusted to them and when there is clear evidence of racial bias and profiling. (UCC Pastoral Letter on Racism: A New Awakening, January 2015)

We call upon the media to include stories of local pastors and congregants, including youth, who went to the streets to assist with the clean-up of their neighborhoods. We call upon the media to report on the extraordinary efforts being made by communities of faith as they open their sanctuaries for dialogue and programs to keep our children and youth safe. We call upon elected leaders, including President Obama, the Governor of Maryland, and the Baltimore City Mayor, to recognize the complexity of the situation. They cannot expect that the community should just stand idly by while their city is being torn apart by racism. 

The Rev. Linda Jaramillo joined a conference call, on our behalf, with local Baltimore clergy and the Central Atlantic Conference Minister the Rev. John Deckenback to listen to their testimonies and lend support to their efforts to bring a sense of calm and hope to the communities they so faithfully serve. She felt, “a general sense of the group gathered on the call was one of solidarity, support, gratitude, and a courageous claim of our moral authority as Christians to work for justice and peace.” 

We are also aware of the extraordinary work being done across the United Church of Christ by our clergy, lay leaders, congregations, and UCC-related seminaries who have engaged in this desperately-needed dialogue on racism to heal our relationships and challenge public policies and government practices that continue to manifest this heart-rending divide in our communities. 

As Officers of the United Church of Christ, we will do all we can to support the efforts of Baltimore-area pastors and congregations, and the Central Atlantic Conference as they faithfully respond to this local immediate crisis. It is imperative that we understand this situation is deeply imbedded in institutionalized racist practices that must stop. The lives and futures of our families and communities are at stake.

Eradicating racism will happen only as we take action to produce conditions that will allow for the fullness of life for those who have suffered its destructive impact, as we work to reorient institutions that perpetuate racist practices, and as we dismantle systems that coalesce to produce racial injustice. We believe that the United Church of Christ, in all of its settings, can and must engage this kind of action as an act of faith and faithfulness to God. (UCC Pastoral Letter on Racism: A New Awakening, January 2015)

The Rev. Geoffrey A. Black, General Minister and President

The Rev. J. Bennett Guess, Local Church Ministries Executive Minister

The Rev. M. Linda Jaramillo, Justice and Witness Ministries Executive Minister

The Rev. James A. Moos, Wider Church Ministries Executive Minister

The Rev. Bernard R. Wilson, Chair of the United Church of Christ Board of Directors

Thursday, April 30 at 4 p.m. EST, Webinar, “Theologies of Protest and Resistance: From Ferguson to Baltimore.” Sponsored by Pacific School of Religion.

Wednesday, May 20 at 11 a.m. EST, Web-based conversation featuring presentation by General Minister and President Nominee the Rev. John Dorhauer, “Our Possessive Investment in Whiteness.” 

Others will be listed as information is received.

Categories: United Church of Christ News

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