Religious Leaders Hope Chauvin’s Verdict Lifts Racial Justice Work | Religion
Religious leaders in Minnesota and the United States have expressed hope that their work in advocating for racial justice will gain momentum with the guilty verdict against Derek Chauvin, the former police officer convicted of the murder of George Floyd .
“It’s very encouraging for our overall work around racial justice to see the system, in this case, work,” said Reverend Curtiss DeYoung, CEO of the Minnesota Council of Churches. “It makes us believe in God even more.”
Stacey Smith, a board member and former president of the African Methodist Episcopal Church in Minnesota, suggested Tuesday’s murder conviction could boost the recent Truth and Reparations council’s initiative.
Envisioned as a 10-year campaign, the first such initiative aims to address the social justice concerns of African Americans and Native Americans in the context of the past violence and oppression they have suffered.
“My prayer is that this really stimulates all of us to want to work on the things that really matter… breaking down the barriers of white supremacy, giving access to those who have been marginalized,” Smith said. “I’m happy with what happened and the verdict, but I know there is a ton of work to be done. It’s just the beginning.”
Erich Rutten, the white pastor of Saint-Pierre Claver, a Roman Catholic church in Saint Paul with a predominantly black congregation, said one of his parishioners texted him after the verdict to say, “Thank God – literally.
“I feel relieved,” Rutten said. “It feels like this represents a shift towards keeping the police at a higher level of responsibility.”
Reverend W. Seth Martin, the black pastor of Brook Community Church in Minneapolis, said the verdict would strengthen the solidarity of his multiracial congregation.
“When we’re all together, protesting, doing spiritual things, and then we see real, tangible results, it gives us more encouragement,” he said. “It really feels like we’re on the right track.”
Christopher Johnson, associate pastor of Good Hope Baptist Missionary Church who grew up with Floyd in Houston’s Cuney Homes public housing, hailed the verdict as a historic moment and a litmus test for the criminal justice system.
“What we just saw is the wheels of justice are finally turning on the minorities in this country,” said Johnson, who wore a red t-shirt that read “I can’t breathe” , the words spoken by his friend then handcuffed and pinned to the neck below Chauvin’s knee.
“It’s going to have global ramifications on both sides of the problem,” Johnson added. “For police officers, they now have to think twice about how they interact with minorities. For those who are being held by the police, we understand that this could mean a change in the attitude of the police towards the Blacks and Maroons of this country.
The Rev. Dr William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Campaign of the Poor and a leading advocate for racial justice, agreed with others that there was still work to be done.
“We must uphold this public act of justice and accountability with federal legislation that will hold law enforcement officers accountable in every state,” Barber said. “And we must continue to work in every community to shift public investment from overfishing from poor, black and brown communities to restorative justice and equity for all.”
The verdict comes as the country’s largest Protestant denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, is troubled by racial tensions. Some black pastors have left and others are appalled by statements by the six SBC seminar presidents – all white – limiting how the subject of systemic racism can be taught in their schools.
One of the SBC’s more outspoken black pastors, Reverend Dwight McKissic of Cornerstone Baptist Church in Arlington, Texas, hailed the guilty verdict.
“God has spoken, let the church say, Amen,” McKissic tweeted. “The verdict indicates that America has taken an important step towards justice for all.
“We can see that no one else is ever faced with the horrific murder suffered by George Floyd and countless others,” said Reverend Russell Moore, head of the SBC’s public policy branch. “And in doing so, we can cry. Even though we are happy that justice is served, we should mourn the injustices still at work and a life that is still missing.
– Bernard Hebda, Catholic Archbishop of Minneapolis: “The decision of a jury of peers punctuates the grief that gripped the Twin Cities in recent months and underscores the introspection that has taken place in homes, parishes and workplaces Across the country. together we face the abyss that exists between the rupture of our world and the harmony and fraternity that our Creator wishes for all his children.
– The Reverend Bernice King, CEO of the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change: “Oh, that George Floyd was still alive. But I am grateful for the responsibility. The work continues. Justice is a continuum. And America must bow to the moral arc of the universe, which leans toward justice.
– Reverend Mariann Edgar Budde, Episcopal Bishop of Washington; The Right Reverend Randolph Marshall Hollerith, Dean of Washington National Cathedral; the Reverend Canon Leonard L. Hamlin, Sr., Missionary Canon of the Cathedral; and Reverend Robert W. Fisher, Rector of St. John’s Church in Lafayette Square, in a joint statement: “We pray that God’s mercy will surround the family and friends of George Floyd as they hold on to their grief. private in the spotlight of an international movement demanding recognition that black lives matter as much as other lives. … We also pray for all police officers, for their discernment on duty and for their safety. We pray for those who exercise civic leadership in this time of turmoil and racial disparagement, that they will use their authority for the good of all. The tragic death of George Floyd prompted a national account of racial injustice, and rightly so.
– Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Senior Vice President of the Union for Reform Judaism: “Today’s jury decision finding Derek Chauvin guilty on all counts ends an important chapter in the lawsuit of Justice. … Yet the national outcry for racial justice sparked by the murder of George Floyd continues in the United States and around the world as we seek to end the systemic racism that disproportionately costs black people their lives.