And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8, NIV).
It has been more than two weeks since the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, by a local police officer. As a mother, a woman of faith and an advocate for justice and peace I’ve had to reflect on the issues of “How did America get to this uncomfortable place? Are we as Americans that angry and full of hate? Does the life of a citizen have value regardless of race or socioeconomic status? What does it mean for a law enforcement officer to take an oath to protect citizens? Have law enforcement policies and procedures failed in some communities, especially African American communities? Has the portrayal of the African American male in the news media provided negative stereotypes?”
The United States’ founding principles are outlined in the Declaration of Independence, which states, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” What does this statement mean in today’s society?
To answer the questions posed in this article and others, intentional conversations must be called for by those who reside in the United States and who desire to foster and create the “beloved community.”
Unfortunately, although all eyes are on Ferguson, there are many cities throughout the United States that mirror Ferguson’s policing practices and years of systemic and institutional racism. I grieve for Michael Brown’s family because of the pain, loss and hurt they must feel. I grieve for the protesters whose actions resulted in looting and burning down buildings, actions they felt as their only expressions of anger after years of oppression. I even grieve for officer Darren Wilson as my act of forgiveness and healing.
In the days, weeks and months ahead I will be challenging myself to discern what the Lord requires of me in order that I may be a change agent, helping ensure that another Ferguson does not happen. I will be calling on the Antiracism Committee (ARC) of Presbyterian Women (PW)'s Churchwide Coordinating Team (CCT) to lead the CCT at its September 2014 meeting in an intentional dialogue on racism and reconciliation in their communities, the church and the world. ARC will encourage PW groups in congregations, presbyteries and synods to continue this dialogue. And ARC can provide resource information.
At its 1997 Churchwide business meeting, Presbyterian Women approved a resolution to eradicate racism. During PW's 1997–2000 triennium, the Churchwide Coordinating Team participated in racism awareness-raising activities that led it to adopt an antiracist stance. Following the example set by the 211th General Assembly (1999), the voting representatives to the 2000 PW Churchwide business meeting adopted an antiracist identity.
Thus, it is my prayer that dialogue on racism and reconciliation will prompt reflections on scripture about love, redemption and reconciliation. It is my prayer that through dialogue, healing will begin and justice and peace will prevail!
Sheila Louder, vice moderator
Justice and Peace Concerns
Churchwide Coordinating Team
Presbyterian Women in the PC(USA), Inc.