GIVE NOW to support Presbyterian Disaster Assistance and World Mission responses to urgent humanitarian crises in West Africa and the Middle East. Give now

CUIC issues statement on killing of Florida teenager

Ecumenical group: ‘any of our black and brown children could be Trayvon Martin'

March 29, 2012

LOUISVILLE

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.

  1. As more and more facts are disclosed, the church's irresponsible and hasty statement of March 29 is becoming more and more embarrassing.

    by bob

    May 17, 2012

  2. Shame on you Eddie. What evidence do you have that Travon Martin had committed crimes and was involved in drugs and violence?? Is that your assumption because he was a young African American male? Examine yourself before you speak. Many of you are speaking of the "race card," Travon Martin wasn't a race card he was a young man. The social construct of race is only referred to as a card by those who are not African American or who have not had to endure the degradation that this construct subjects people to. It may be difficult to hear that people are harmed or hated simply because of the color of their skin but, it's true and, it's evil and, it's wrong. Work for peace so that everyone can live together. We don't have the option of not living together and, we all have our shortcomings even though we sometimes think that we don't. Before we decide that we don't like something about someone else we should try looking in the mirror to see if we like what we see when we point out some one elses's faults. Peace

    by Angela

    April 10, 2012

  3. Presumed guilt of the black child? You have got to be kidding me! The reverse racists are PRESUMING the guilt of Mr. Zimmerman!!! He is being tried and convicted in the streets and the media with no mention of the violence and drug crimes of Martin which was why he was in Sanford in the first place! If he hadn't broken the law, he wouldn't have been here. If Zimmerman was arrested with no evidence, people complain. They don't arrest him as there is no evidence, people complain. So I guess it us the perfect time to place the Race Card again. Everytime the race card is played, all creedence and credibility goes out the window.

    by Eddie

    April 8, 2012

  4. I posted once, but I can't find it. This is important enough for me to post again. Unbelieveable PCUSA. To use your own quote “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). It seems more appropriate to wait for all the facts rather than issuing a statement that suggests by our silence our faith communities support racial profiling and stereotyping.We should temper that quest for justice with mercy. It is not our place to judge. A Christian organization should have the skills to encourage us to use our faith to turn all this anger into understanding. As Dr. Alveda King said "Let love and mercy bring about true justice" I am so angry and disappointed in the PCUSA. Shame on you for continuing to walk a fine line between what the world wants and what the Lord tells us to do. Quit trying to be part to the world by compromising yourself. Maybe now is a good time to remember that we are all held accountable to the Lord for what we do and say but none more so than those who hold a position of authority.

    by Debbie Fassler

    March 30, 2012

  5. I didn't realize the Presbyterian church had all the facts. Can we wait before pulling out the race card. Mr. Zimmerman looked Hispanic. In some areas we could "profile"him.

    by Linda Sonne

    March 30, 2012

  6. Sad -- for the families. Sad -- for the FL authorities who are caught in this mess. Sad - for our society that can't get past color and the anger it brings to so many discussions where it doesn't belong. Sad -- for our church that we've re-elected this guy who thinks he can/should speak for all of us.

    by David Boyd

    March 30, 2012

  7. Unbelieveable PCUSA. To use your own quote “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). It seems more appropriate to wait for all the facts rather than issuing a statement that suggests by our silence our faith communities support racial profiling and stereotyping. To temper that justice wit mercy. It is not our place to judge. A Christian organization should have the skills to encourage us to use our faith to turn all this anger into understanding. As Dr. Alveda King said :Let love and mercy bring about true justice" I am so angry. My husband's family has been members of the Presbyterian Church for over 100 years. We are both Elders and I am Clerk of Session. I am so fed up with PCUSA walking that fine line between being socially/politically correct and what Jesus has told us to do. Everything seems to be written to make sure you don't offend anyone not standing up for what our faith tells us is correct. It might be the time to remember that when you stand before the Lord you are accountable for all that you have said and done. Do you really think going the way of the world is what He wants?

    by Debbie Fassler

    March 30, 2012

  8. Thank you for the call for a full investigation. As a former executive director of poverty criminal defense nonprofit law firm "of, by, and for people of color, the mishandling of evidence, arrest, and charging come as no surprise. Would the police and the prosecutor have handled it differntly had it been a white kid? See yesterday's post "Tayvon Martin and the Hoodies" on Views from the Edge at http://gordoncstewart.com/2012/03/29/trayvon-martin-and-the-hoodies/ The history of this goes back into our roots.

    by Gordon C. Stewart

    March 30, 2012

  9. My heart goes out to all parents of all races and creeds who have lost children to violence, be it on the streets of this country or in war zones where they are killed by weapons made in the US. Where are the calls for justice for them? Where are the marches and cries of indignation? These parents, families and friends must carry on their lives while mourning because nobody notices and nobody cares.

    by Diana Bartelt

    March 30, 2012

  10. Although some may quibble about a few points on the language in the statement, I am glad that our stated clerk has signed the statement and saddened by some of the responses here. Yes, investigations are underway, but these would not be happening if not for the attention brought to this case by those expressing outrage about a situation that is so clearly and inextricably linked to issues of "race." A simple thought experiment considering whether an arrest would have been made should a Trayvon Martin have pursued, confronted, and shot a candy and iced tea carrying George Zimmerman is all that is necessary. In these circumstances, there is nothing wrong with ensuring that this pressure is maintained.

    by David Carothers

    March 30, 2012

  11. My heart breaks every day when I turn on my lap top and read the news. I can only imagine how God's heart must break at what seems to be never-ending violence among God's own creation. I am grateful for this statement by the CUIC and that the PCUSA participated in this statement. We cannot be silent in the wake of this tragedy. I wish we could respond to every injustice, every act of violence, and every loss of life, of course. Each one merits our care, of course. Our working to create peace, end violence and find ways to recognize ourselves, each other and all persons as sacred, as children of God goes a long way in changing ourselves and our world. As my heart breaks, I hit my knees to pray and then I get up to work for justice and peace once again.

    by Dr. Michael J. Adee

    March 30, 2012

  12. As Presbyterians, of all people, we are taught NOT to judge, and yet, without all the facts, a rush to judgement is now going on. As a Presbyterian, I disassociate myself from the CUIC statement. Let's wait until we establish the facts and a court of law or other body can make a determination. Anything said now will only tear open the wounds and not heal. Trust in God justice will prevail.

    by Jack Darby

    March 29, 2012

  13. A tragedy for both families!.... its to early to tell who was at fault! One or both etc? I hope for a real honest investigation to find the truth and grieve for both familes. News reporters must do a better job of not selling senationalism and wrecking havoc on individual and famiies lives by reporting often as biased as the racism they are spouting was the issue.. just to make a buck! Jeasus wasnt white as some think and I am confident he was color blind!

    by Frank

    March 29, 2012

  14. It’s amazing that in one portion of this, you would call for an unbiased investigation into the facts, yet this request is surrounded by your overzealous contention that this was a racist act. Racism may well have been the underlying cause of this. The shooting may well have been totally unjustified, and, if so, Zimmerman should be prosecuted. Then again, this teen, who may not have been as angelic has his widely circulated picture would indicate, may have been the aggressor. At this point, no one knows. No one knows, yet, who’s voice that was on the 911 tape calling for help. The only fact we know so far is that someone is dead, and that is very tragic. It may be that a different person would be dead, had that shot not been fired. So, before you condemn everyone, and every system in place, why don’t you take your own advice and wait on the facts? The “stand your ground” law is not, as your statement proclaims, an excuse for white people to shoot people of other races with impunity. It provides cover for people who are genuinely threatened to protect themselves. Unfortunately, this society is becoming more and more one in which those who can’t protect themselves (as demonstrated in the Washington DC gun control model) end up dead, injured or robbed. This Trayvon Martin case, in my view, is yet another case of screaming “racism” for self justification/political expediency purposes. In Tallahassee, we have another family grieving a young, dead African-American man by the name of Robert Champion. Except in this case, this young man was beaten to death, on a bus, by several other African Americans in a Florida Agricultural & Mechanical University marching band hazing episode. Where is the public outrage over that? Why haven’t there been marches, and why haven’t Jesse Jackson, or Al Sharpton, or the Presbyterian Church, for that matter, issued proclamations over that tragic death? Is he less dead? And, in this case, there isn’t even a hint that Robert Champion was doing anything that may have justified violence against him. Once again, I am embarrassed to hear what this denomination, of which I have been a member for 51 years, has to say.

    by Bob Hartsell

    March 29, 2012

  15. While what happened is horrible. My heart goes out to both families. I pray when all the truth is discovered that we can move forward without judging and pointing fingers and crying the color of his skin was the problem. I believe it was not and some of us use that as an way to keep the race card in play. Jesus would not want us to use that as our crutch for lack of responsibility.

    by Carol Bates

    March 29, 2012

Leave a comment