Churches Uniting in Christ (CUIC), an ecumenical group of 10 denominations ― plus the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America as a “partner” ― has issued a statement offering consolation to the family of murdered Florida teenager Trayvon Martin and calling for “an expedient and unbiased investigation” into his death at the hands of a neighborhood watch captain in Sanford, Fla.
“When any child cries out for help, it is the duty of the Church to respond with life-affirming love and justice,” reads the statement ― signed by leaders of each CUIC member church.
General Assembly Stated Clerk Gradye Parsons signed the statement on behalf of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.). The PC(USA)’s ecumenical officer, the Rev. Robina Winbush, serves as CUIC’s president.
Other member churches are the African Methodist Church, the African American Episcopal Zion Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Christian Methodist Episcipal Church, the Episcopal Church, the International Council of Community Churches, the Moravian Church Northern Province, the United Church of Christ and the United Methodist Church.
Speaking to the churches, the statement reads: “It is a time to understand the burden that some of us have to live always facing the stereotypes of others and the danger that these stereotypes might cost us our lives. In humility, we invite the Body of Christ to join in serious self-examination about how our communities by our silence support racial profiling and stereotyping.”
And to children it says: “We commit ourselves to continue to work for a world where you can walk freely, fulfill your God-given purpose, and not live in fear or be feared.”
The full text of the statement, dated March 28:
We write as leaders of churches who have covenanted through Churches Uniting in Christ to address the sin of racism that divides us in our churches and in society. We write as pastors who have baptized and welcomed into membership children to whom the fullness of God’s grace for their lives has been extended. We write as parents of children for whom we have prayed and work to build a nation and a world in which all children are free to live their lives, using the gifts God grants them. We write because we understand that when any child cries out for help, it is the duty of the Church to respond with life-affirming love and justice.
We write because we cannot remain silent as our country once again struggles with the senseless killing of an unarmed young African American boy. We write because we cannot remain silent at the continued “criminalization” of black and brown peoples with laws that give license to people to shoot first and ask questions later (the so-called “stand your ground” legislation). We write because we are appalled at a local justice system that has presumed the guilt of a dead child and has failed to thoroughly investigate his killing. We write because we recognize that any of our black and brown children could be Trayvon Martin.
The words of the prophet Micah speak to us: “He has told you, O mortal, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8).
So our first word is to Tracy Martin and Sybrina Fulton, the parents of Trayvon, his family, friends, and community in their grief. Our hearts are bleeding with you as we mourn the death of Trayvon and the loss of his potential contribution. However, we pray that his death will not be in vain, but that there will emerge in our nation a new consciousness that challenges the assumptions and fears rooted in racism and xenophobia. We commit to continue to raise the underlying issues of Trayvon’s killing in our churches and wider society until the day truly comes when all of our children can walk in any neighborhood without fear or being feared.
Our second word is to the Florida 4th District Attorney and U.S. District Attorney offices. We join with and support our colleagues in the Florida Council of Churches calling for an expedient and unbiased investigation into this killing that will bring justice for Trayvon, peace for his family, and security for our children .
Our third word is to our congregations and all people of faith and good will. As tragic as Trayvon’s death is, this is also a teachable moment and a time for a bold witness. It is a time to understand the privilege that some of us have to walk freely without the presumption of criminality because of the color of our skin. It is a time to understand the burden that some of us have to live always facing the stereotypes of others and the danger that these stereotypes might cost us our lives. In humility, we invite the Body of Christ to join in serious self-examination about how our communities by our silence support racial profiling and stereotyping. We invite you to offer prayers in weekly worship services, using resources such as those available through the Samuel Dewitt Proctor Conference and to join with congregations across racial lines in your local community to strategize together for corrective actions. We invite our congregations to join together and study the laws of states and local communities that allow one to “shoot first and ask questions later.”
Our final word is to our children. We hear many Trayvons crying for help. We commit ourselves to continue to work for a world where you can walk freely, fulfill your God-given purpose, and not live in fear or be feared. In this Lenten season, we are ever mindful of the defenseless killing of Jesus, the One whom we know as Lord and Savior. We are also mindful of the Resurrection and its demonstration that evil does not have the last word, but God’s overcoming goodness prevails. This is the hope with which we live our lives, and this is the hope we share with you.