PC(USA) Stated Clerk responds to Ferguson grand jury decision

November 24, 2014

—Photo by Toya Richards Jackson

Today the community justice system of Ferguson, Missouri, told the parents of Michael Brown that his killing was justified. We grieve with the family and community about the decision, and encourage support for their continued quest for justice.

This decision calls the whole church to reflect seriously about the communities and the racial climate we have created in this country. We need a society where everyone is treated with dignity and valued, where there is no fear of walking down the street. We and the places where we live have fallen short of that.

We call the church to pray that God will give us the courage and strength to have honest conversations about race where we live, work, and worship. We pray for safe spaces in Ferguson and in all communities for people to voice their views. We hope for lessons learned, lives changed, and inequitable systems across the United States dismantled in order to bring about the kind of world God has called us to co-create.

The last healing miracle of Jesus is in Luke 22. It is the story of Jesus’ capture in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the disciples reacts, and in defense of Jesus slices off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus says “No more of this!” and heals the servant. May “no more of this” and healing be the church’s response. Amen

  1. Dear Mr. Clerk, For some time now, I have been re-reading and reflecting on your comments and peoples’ numerous and varied responses. Some parts of the body are disturbed by what they see as your audacity to speak on behalf of the whole (PCUSA) or, indirectly, for them. Others are disturbed that you did not speak more forcefully, and still others are disturbed because the truth of your words, audacious or mild, disturbed their comfortable lives. What I appreciate most about what you said is that you said—something. You made an effort to address what has become a repeating nightmare—the loss of broken and destroyed lives, which are and will continue to be a direct result of our criminalizing poverty. Poverty is understood by many in the affluent and dominant cultures as the natural consequence of poor individual decision-making, loose morals or ignoble cultural values, rather than as the manifestation of inequitable, systemic, social-structural conditions that perpetuate a survival mode among people who are presumed to be undeserving of help. People who have much in common with a Galilean family who was told there was “no room” in the inn for people like them. Everybody who was anybody knew that no good could possibly come out of Galilee, land of the rejected, despised, and marginalized—which is exactly where Jesus said he could be found. (Mark 16:7) What I also appreciate about your letter is the inclusive, but often elusive, “we”. I interpret “we” to mean those who are directly or indirectly perpetuating white privilege and elitism and those—irrespective of skin shade—who have been attempting to avoid people from “Galilee” by moving up and out of that land through educational and economic means, and not looking back. That you are willing to acknowledge your own complicity in the racial climate of this country speaks volumes about your authenticity. One final thought. In her book, "Birth of a White Nation", Jacqueline Barralora has effectively argued that the label ‘whiteness’ is a social construct, rather than a biological reality, and functions as a mechanism of division by “create[ing] racism and separation where none yet existed” (p. 33). Her research may be both a gift to the church and the catalyst we need to begin reframing and refocusing our conversations about race, toward the goal of personal and structural transformation in service to, and for the glory of, God. This Christmas, I pray with Nicholas for “joy to the world, peace for every boy and girl, hope when life is hard, and light when everything seems dark….”

    by Cynthia F. Burse-Minister of Word and Sacrament

    December 26, 2014

  2. Our police face danger daily to protect and serve. Mr Brown's death was sad but he chose violence, starting with the robbery earlier in the day and continuing with unlawful behavior and then attacking a policeman, twice. 290 pounds of anger is not unarmed. I am ashamed of the comments from the Office of Public Witness and the Stated Cllerk. They do not represent justice. It is sad that there was a loss of life. But we, PCUSA, should stand with those protecting and serving! CRB Beckmann MD MHPE FACOG, Elder WPC PA

    by CRB Beckmann

    December 25, 2014

  3. I am disappointed to see that the church has chosen to censor comments here, and that despite the overwhelmingly negative reaction here (and on Facebook) that a more measured and moderate position has not been taken. The failure to support our system, rule of law, and police officers is astonishing.

    by D. Brown

    December 20, 2014

  4. As the wife of a police officer, I am really angry with the clerks stance on this subject and don't believe he should use this forum to express his opinion. He does not have the right to speak for me as a member of the Presbyterian church. Michael Brown committed a crime and fit the discription of the person of interest and also had the stolen goods on his person. That is why he was approached by officer Wilson to begin with. He wasn't just walking down the street and approached for being a black man as the clerk implies. He then attacked Officer Wilson before he could even get out of his car, beating him, trying to take his gun...Officer Wilson was trying to do his job and defended himself . Michael Brown was not innocent in this situation and the officer has seconds to respond the best way he knows how. Once you are a threat to an officer of the law, you are a threat to the community. The grand jury decision was based on the facts of what happened. It is a tragedy that a life was lost but it could have been prevented if Michael Brown hadn't responded violently and without regard to the law. You are perpetuating the race issue here Mr. Clerk. The bottom line is a young man committed a crime, got caught, used violence to attack the officer trying to do his job and the officer defended himself.

    by Ellen Breedlove, wife of a police officer.

    December 13, 2014

  5. The stated clerk made an assessment that injustice was done by the system in the Michael Brown case. It was overly measured for my taste, but still was timely and true. That the majority of comments oppose even such a mild acknowledgment that racial injustice is systemic and obvious in this case causes me to wonder if moral decay is a key reason for our decline as a church.

    by Jin S Kim

    December 7, 2014

  6. I hear objections to the Clerk's statement that are based on his verbiage and the technicalities thereof. Really? Is that where our minds go in this situation?! In the end we have a couple unarmed young black who have died, literally in the arms of a those who are said to uphold justice and protect the vulnerable. Why aren't our hearts breaking for both these families and for our country? And why are we looking at all these cases of young black men killed by police as each their own isolated event when it's happened at least 4 times in the last several months? People, each of these killing is a part of a systematic and very troubling problem that WE have! And why do so many of these comments seem to respect more our justice system than the words of our Lord when He said, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself."

    by Patrick Ryan

    December 4, 2014

  7. Mr, Stated Clerk, thank you for being present in Ferguson on at least two occasions to be pastor to the pastors in this area and for your calls and messages of support. Thank you for your statement. Of course, I might have wished for an even stronger statement, but I understand the measured response. Growing up in Mississippi during the 60s and serving as a pastor in Saint Louis today, I can only grieve the uselessness of our beloved denomination if it does not commit its energy and resources to addressing the pervasive racism embedded in the systems and institutions that shape our communities.

    by Mary Gene Boteler

    December 3, 2014

  8. Mr. Clerk, as a Presbyterian, I appreciate your passion for racial justice amid an unjust society. However, I think your claim about what the grand jury said to the parents of Michael Brown is quite wrong. The Grand Jury did not say to Michael Brown's parents that their son's killing was justified. What they said was that there is insufficient evidence to indict Officer Wilson, and that is all they said. Please remember that however flawed and imperfect our justice system may be, the presumption of innocence in criminal court is the only thing that separates a free society from a dictatorship.

    by Rich Holmes

    December 3, 2014

  9. I agree with those objecting to Mr. Parson's using this venue to weigh in on the grand jury decision. The situation that night was complicated, likely with some poor decisions on both sides. But unless Mr. Parson has irrefutable information that the grand jury did not have, he should back off his pronouncements. He does not speak for me.

    by Joe Melton

    December 2, 2014

  10. I agree wih everything in the statement, except the opening paragraph is VERY disturbing to me. I'm extremely concerned that a stated clerk gets to be a voice for me. I'm very involved in the church, but it's statements like those that have me pondering leaving organized religion. It would not be justice to allow a person of any color to be threatening to anyone of any color without natural consequences. The sadness that Michaels Brown's situation calls us to action for is to pray for and be active in teaching our young people the proper way to behave. I grieve for and pray with his family, but justice was served by a grand jury who heard all the evidence. I'd also like to know what gives one person a right to speak for the church? Was there some kind of vote that allows this? I really need to know as a member of the PCUSA because I wear that name around wih me everywhere I go, and I don't like one person's opinion to reflect on me personally.

    by Toni Hunt

    December 2, 2014

  11. Are you saying that you have information that was not available to the Grand Jury? As a Presbyterian Elder I am very distressed that you find it necessary to weigh in on this matter. Fanning the flames is irresponsible.

    by Rebecca Bailey

    December 1, 2014

  12. What help can we give the Presbyterian churches in the area.

    by Linda Williams

    November 30, 2014

  13. many of the comments that chastise the stated clerk for recognizing that a race issue exists in America and asking for prayer and work for justice make me embarrassed. Regardless of the whether the Justice system indicated that there was no evidence for prosecution, the system in which these actions took place is broken. That black Americans are unusually treated unequally, live more frequently with oppression and poverty makes this a larger issue than the Grand Jury's decision. Sadly many of you seem to think the loss of Browns life is only about his criminal action and not about the injustice that breeds it. I hope you will think more broadly about the churches call to pray and work for better race relations instead of shouting at the clerk for not seeing the particulars in the same way you do

    by Lorne Bostwick

    November 29, 2014

  14. I am disheartened that a high profile leader within our congregation has used his position to publicly express what I assume is his personal opinion about the grand jury decision. I am glad that he was not part of the group of citizens with the difficult job of reviewing the facts and testimony of this case. His obvious bias would have made it difficult to remain impartial. Yes, our prayers should be for the Brown family and friends and for the inherent unfairness in the treatment of minorities in a country that is the "home of the free."

    by Barrie Heath

    November 28, 2014

  15. Its a sad but true fact that worldwide multiculturalism seems to bred discontent .While we as Presbyterians preach brotherhood our pews are 98% white.Even the best intentioned of us find it difficult to reach out. Don't blame officer Wilson and the justice system for a frailty of the human race.

    by J D Darnley

    November 27, 2014

  16. By my quick assessment, roughly 48 hours after this statement was posted the count of comments is 34 disagree, 19 agree and 11 neutral. This is admittedly my personal interpretation of each comment, but the trend seems to be that the Stated Clerk is NOT speaking for the majority of PCUSA. At what point is it reasonable to expect a retraction or at least a modification?

    by Dwayne Smith

    November 26, 2014

  17. Prayers of Grace, Peace, and Closure to the parents, family, and friends of Michael Brown. Prayers of Grace and Peace to Officer Darren Wilson, who I don't know what was in his heart at the time of the shooting, but will surely have to live with the knowledge that he took a life, whether justified or unjustified, and his family and friends. Prayers of Grace, Peace, and Healing to a whole community who have been devastated by this. I pray for continued hope that one day the color of our skin will not determine how we are treated, but only our individual actions... Amen No one can know what is in another's heart.

    by Carolyn

    November 26, 2014

  18. The Presbyterian Church should not be represented by your comments. Each church member is entitled to make their own comments. That young man was used to intimidating his victims by using his size and attitude; and failed to follow the policeman's directive showing no respect to him..... let the Grand Jury make this decision as they are the ones with the facts.

    by Susan Terry Keller

    November 26, 2014

  19. Following the announcement of the Ferguson Grand Jury decision, our nation has been presented with a host of images, many if which are quite disturbing, but each of which tell a part of a much larger story. One could argue that (1) suggesting that the decision not to indict officer Darren Wilson is unjust as the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA) has done or (2) outwardly delighting in the decision is neither honoring to those most intimately involved nor does it contribute positively to the larger narrative. Let us continue to pray for the whole of God's people, for the great many who continue to work for peace and justice and reconciliation and for a blessed peace to prevail upon those who remain so very troubled. "Do not worry about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:6-7).

    by Holton Siegling

    November 26, 2014

  20. Please tell me that our Stated Clerk did not say that the grand jury determined that the killing of Michael Brown was justified. That is not what Grand Juries do and such a statement only pours salt in the wounds of a tragedy that was a long time coming.. It is for courts and juries to determine facts. Grand Juries only determine if there is a reasonable chance for a successful prosecution. The two are light years apart. What is clear that the Ferguson Police Dept. did not have adequate training in race relations or non-lethal tools and strategies. We would be having a very different conversation if Officer Wilson had used pepper spray instead of a gun. Racism is pervasive. If being white is the standard of normal, than anyone not white is abnormal. Being the norm commands privileged status, a status that most whites have no real idea that we possess. Privilege is normalized to the point where we do not notice it, but reap its rewards of living where we choose to live; working at what we choose to do; and being secure that law enforcement is protecting our interests. Not everyone can say the same. Ironically, this statement reflects that sense of privilege. Who are we to make statements when there is work to be done? Justice demands that we open our eyes and lay our privilege down.

    by Paul Masters

    November 26, 2014

  21. The statement is somewhat lacking, in that the first sentence should be accompanied by some elaboration. Members of the grand jury may well have done there best given the information and context provided to them. Nonetheless, it is not difficult to see how the justice system took extraordinary measures to avoid an indictment and failed to represent the victim. Comments here in their extreme criticism of our stated clerk's measured and moderate response are disheartening.

    by D Carothers

    November 26, 2014

  22. I just returned from a Session meeting where we were informed that church giving has is significantly down potentially leading to severe budget cuts. We reviewed the letters of resignation of three elders. We also discussed that our denomination is losing 60,000 members a year and has lost over 200 congregations. The tone of this statement is that what took place is representative of a racially corrupt judicial system. Our Stated Clerk makes a statement with an inherent political tone and a subjective bias against our judicial system that will be interpreted by many as the position of our denomination. The exodus of church members and congregations continues to be fueled. I pray for those who have suffered in Ferguson, for the family, the police, and those involved in working to provide justice.

    by Paul Booker

    November 26, 2014

  23. Thirty years ago I was a team teacher with an African American woman in a city school. As a white woman I was surprised to learn that she and others in the black community gave their young sons special instructions about how to be careful and safe in white neighborhoods, and in dealings with the police. Through experience they knew their sons could be followed in stores, stopped and searched by police - their sons needed to know where to put their hands to avoid looking like they were going for a concealed weapon, how to use only a few polite words, how to be safe. Today, there is a little hand book that is distributed in African American Churches with guidance to the youth on how to remain safe in a white world. So many of us who are white have no idea what the African American community is experiencing as another one of their sons has been killed and the one who killed him walks free.

    by Terry Dykstra

    November 25, 2014

  24. Presbyterians are probably more accustomed to thinking of “justified” as a theological word. But according to my dictionary, “justify” specifically means, in law, “to show sufficient reason for an action charged against one.” From what I understand of grand juries and their tasks, if they fail to indict someone, they have literally decided that no crime can be charged against that someone; in other words, whatever it was that happened, the grand jury does not question that there was sufficient reason for it – i.e., it was, literally, justified. This is logic, and semantics. I, too, am uncomfortable with the sound of the literally true statement “the community justice system ... told the parents of Michael Brown that his killing was justified." Unfortunately, it seems, my discomfort arises more from the starkness of the truth than from any infelicity in its expression.

    by Heather A Thiessen

    November 25, 2014

  25. This statement appears to have been prepared before the evidence was studied. The evidence now made public indicates that Brown charged the police officer which was corroborated by black witnesses. Why do we let ourselves fall victim to these media spectacles? I guess it is easy to turn on the TV and get wrapped up in the hollywoodesqe drama. Why not use our independent reasoning skills to find cases that warrant our attention. There are many legitimate cases of abuse of our citizens by police as well as a disturbing trend of militarizing our police departments. Our government's war on drugs has devastated the black community. How can we expect healthy families when parents are imprisoned for non violent drug offenses? Perhaps we should focus our attention here rather than media hyped stories. As far as having honest conversations about race relations, that is next to impossible for most of us due to political correctness. Honest conversation should be civil and thoughtful but without fear of offending someone.

    by Marc Krause

    November 25, 2014

  26. Thank you, Mr. Stated Clerk for your timely comments on this matter. As a teaching elder who pastors an inner-city African-American congregation, the decision of the grand jury (which needs to be respected despite it being perceived right or wrong) is and has been troubling over the past 24 hours and has been much discussed. It is a comfort to know that our denomination has recognized and acknowledged our history of expressing justice and healing in the face of oppression and injustice. I would also like to add that we are called to pray for Officer Wilson and his family as well.

    by Byron Wade

    November 25, 2014

  27. Gradye -- Thank you for this statement. My first response that that it was measured and I wish it gone further. That said, the church was never meant to be balanced at every turn and there will be times people whom we have called into service will be asked to make statements that some will see as one-sided. This is one incident and how it has impacted the larger story of race in our country is poignant. Thank you for not letting this go by without comment. Peace to you, Bruce Reyes-Chow

    by Bruce Reyes-Chow

    November 25, 2014

  28. we don't know the truth.

    by Luci kent

    November 25, 2014

  29. Every year four hundred persons are killed by police in this country. That is more than one per day. What about the 12 year old lad in Cleveland that was killed by police just a few days ago? Why do we get excited about certain cases only. Ferguson was a tragic situation. Why didn't Mr. Brown simply walk down the side walk as requested?

    by Elder William Harry Sharp

    November 25, 2014

  30. I am very disappointed to see this statement on the PCUSA website and being presented as "the statement" of the whole church. The wording is inflammatory, not healing.

    by Bettie

    November 25, 2014

  31. #nomoreofSTATEMENTSlikethis As if we didn't have enough causing division in our denomination. C'mon man! Call for prayer and an end to all violence. Understand the weight of one-sided words in a denomination writhing in division.

    by Josh

    November 25, 2014

  32. Mr. Parsons' first paragraph is telling. Where does this judgment come from? You, Mr. Parsons, were not a member of the Grand Jury, yet you seem to have insider information. This entire situation is tragic beyond words. Justice was pursued and justice was rendered. prayers for all involved.

    by Re. David Lindemer

    November 25, 2014

  33. Thank you to the Stated Clerk for boldly speaking your mind and calling Presbyterians to lift up their witness in these troubling times. God be with all of us in these special days ahead.

    by Bettie Durrah

    November 25, 2014

  34. I am disappointed at the wording of this statement. First, the grand jury did not say the killing was justified. They believe it is not a criminal offense. The language used here is inflammatory. Reconciliation is a key word and concept that is missing. Reconciliation begins with a change of heart and the change of heart we can speak to and act on is the structure and ministry of the PCUSA. We are complicit. And.....What has our Moderator said and where is he?

    by Thomas W. Young

    November 25, 2014

  35. The Grand Jury heard/saw the evidence presented by the prosecutor. Prosecutors - whenever presenting a case against a police officer, a fellow justice officer - have a built-in conflict of interest. Prosecutors require the trust of police officers, and vice versa. This is one of the problems with "let's just trust the system." This conflict of interest - and it is manifest in the extremely wide discrepancy between grand jury indictments of peace officers and other cases - erodes trust in the grand jury verdict in this case. It's very comforting to say "trust the system." As the mom of a daughter adopted from Guatemala, I cannot "trust the system." Here in Utah & SW, we have a serious "little brown people" problem.

    by June S Taylor

    November 25, 2014

  36. I ask for prayers for Darrin Wilson and his family and for all police officers who have sworn to protect us and dedicated their lives to our safety (does not appear anyone else is doing that). Young people, not fully mature do self-destructive things, drive too fast and end their lives in horrific vehicle crashes, dive into shallow water resulting in a life in a wheel chair, become involved with drugs that destroy their lives. I pray that all people can understanding things are not God’s will but that there are consequences for these actions and behaviors. I ask for prayers that those who cannot or will not understand this can gain wisdom and the ability to focus their pain at the loss to real underlying cultural issues that precipitate the self-destructive behaviors. I ask for prayers for the business owners of Ferguson who in the aftermath of violence perpetrated by persons whose motives are fueled by hate, irresponsible rhetoric and poor leadership both in the spiritual and secular community. These business owners who establish investments in the community, offer products and services for the betterment of the community lose everything they have worked for including in some cases the ability to support their own families. I ask for prayers for all of us that we might place our trust in God and that by living by his Word and as a reflection of His grace we might cause peace to prevail in this world.

    by James Leonard

    November 25, 2014

  37. I'm disheartened to read the comments. For folks who trust the current process, can you please remember that the white men who penned our Constitution owned black people and could profit from the men and women in any way they liked. The Constitution is a great document, but the system those men created and lived by in their daily lives was not. It was sick, especially Thomas Jefferson, and unjust especially for black people and women. In the same way, the process that concluded that Wilson should not have to be tried, may seem like a great, just system. On the face of it all, the laws written, the idea of a grand jury researching evidence, the process of review seems wise, just and valid. The problem is that the whole thing is divorced from the actual racism and reality that is created everyday in our communities. The heritage of structural racism and patriarchy is stronger now more than ever. How else can a child be shot 10 times, and every one of those shots be justified? 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6. 7. 8. 9. 10. Ten shots, and every one of those bullets that entered that young man was found to be just. White people need to look at the whole system, in order to understand how to respond. A great prophet recommended walking a mile in another man's shoes. Please, before you post another "justification" of Wilson's shots, stop, listen, think about whose system of "justice" you will affirm and who benefits from that system. Is this God's will be done on earth as it is in heaven? Is this His kingdom come?

    by Jessica English

    November 25, 2014

  38. I am very disappointed to see this on the PCUSA website.

    by Emily Elliott

    November 25, 2014

  39. the grand jury had the guts to do the right thing. It refused to be bullied by the media and outside pressure. Any death is tragic but the victum in this case is te officer.

    by Scott Logsdon

    November 25, 2014

  40. I don't grieve the decision of the Grand Jury. Who am I to judge that decision? Was I party to their discussions? Have I seen all the evidence or heard all the testimony? When the Stated Clerk says that we grieve the decision and continue our quest for justice, he is making a divisive statement - not a healing statement. I much prefer what Melissa Boling wrote: " We grieve with the family in the loss of their son, and we grieve with the community in their sense of hopelessness. We pray for healing for all."

    by John White

    November 25, 2014

  41. Thank you for your timely and thoughtful statement Gradye.

    by Trina Zelle

    November 25, 2014

  42. Before rushing to judgment, perhaps we should all wait and read the results of the Grand Jury's decision that will be made public for all to read.

    by Margaret French

    November 25, 2014

  43. Mr. Clerk, Could you please elaborate on your stance on this issue? There seems to be great confusion on whether this is the stance of the PCUSA or not, judging from the above comments. It seems that the decision has been made without voting. When is it appropriate to take position and speak out on political or social issues such as these? Are we stating the current judicial system is flawed? I'm confused. Thank you.

    by Brian

    November 25, 2014

  44. No killing is justified and that's not what the Grand Jury said. They said the officer had reason to fear for his life, acted in self defense and in accordance with procedure. I completely disagree with the tone of the clerk's statement. As long as we continue to be driven by emotions over facts these racial divides will continue to fester and grow.

    by Larry Upton

    November 25, 2014

  45. While I agree with the comments that have been made about the Grand Jury being the only ones to hear all of the facts, why does the PCUSA feel the need to even comment on this? "...continued quest for justice..."???? The Grand Jury has spoken. They found that the officer performed within the bounds of his dto Based on the comments that have been made on here, even our "flock" is being divided. Shalom.

    by Nancy Abernethy

    November 25, 2014

  46. This statement is inappropriate and does not reflect the entirety of views or even the majority of views held by the members of PC(USA). I do not think this statement should have been released. I think Mr. Parson's action on this was inappropriate and overreaching.

    by Jane Hawthorne

    November 25, 2014

  47. Although I agree with the need for our church to prayerfully consider race relations in our communities and take action for social justice, I respectfully disagree with the conclusion expressed in the opening paragraph of this statement. The grand jury did not decide that Michael Brown's killing was "justified," and to use such language is nothing more than speculation about the motives and viewpoints of the jury members--whom we know nothing about, except their county of residence and race. The grand jury had one decision to make; was there enough evidence to indict? They were not charged with determining innocence or guilt. Making an example of one police officer in response to public demand does nothing to further racial equality and justice in our society.

    by Cheryl Allison

    November 25, 2014

  48. I did not know that the Stated Clerk was privy to the details of the grand jury hearings, since he is in a place to proclaim that justice was not done. I also find it interesting that he does not say anything about the innocent business owners who had their businesses torched during the rioting, in the name of "Justice" no doubt.

    by Walter L. Taylor

    November 25, 2014

  49. This is a text book passive aggressive response unworthy of the gravitas it is granted by being offered as the position of our denomination. Strike the unnecessarily inflammatory first paragraph, and the message would have been appropriate regardless of the decision of the grand jury; we need to get better at being kind, loving brothers and sisters in Christ.

    by Dwayne Smith

    November 25, 2014

  50. One man speaks his opinion on the outcome of the Ferguson, MO events. His views are not the views of many Presbyterians, as evidenced by the comments that have been written on the PC(USA) website. Gradye Parsons uses "We" throughout his article when in fact he should have written "I" because the views in the article are his. His message should have been posted on his personal facebook page, not on the PC(USA) website. Like the Stated Clerk, I too pray for Brown's family, but unlike him, I also pray for Officer Wilson and his family, the prosecutor and his family, the grand jurors and their families, the peaceful protestors, the residents of Ferguson, MO, and the innocent business owners and their families whose properties and livelihoods have been destroyed by people who continue to keep the racial divide alive. The looters and rioters are no better than the young man who committed a strong armed robbery (as evidenced on store video), just before being shot by a police officer who was defending his life while doing the job that he was hired to do.

    by Jill MoJo

    November 25, 2014

  51. Today a grand jury Ferguson, Missouri, found that there was insufficient evidence to charge Officer Wilson with murder, or even with a lesser charge of manslaughter, in Michael Brown's death. We grieve with the family and community over their loss, and encourage support for their continued quest for healing and peace. The reaction to this decision calls the whole church to reflect seriously about the communities and the racial climate we have created in this country. We need a society where everyone is treated with dignity and valued, where there is no fear of walking down the street, nor of serving the community as a law enforcement officer. We and the places where we live have fallen short of that, and we have societally spent more time crafting racial divides and even hatred in this case than we have seeking solutions. We call the church to pray that God will give us the courage and strength to have honest conversations about race where we live, work, and worship. We pray for safe spaces in Ferguson and in all communities for people to voice their views. We hope for lessons learned, lives changed, and inequitable systems across the United States dismantled in order to bring about the kind of world God has called us to co-create. The last healing miracle of Jesus is in Luke 22. It is the story of Jesus’ capture in the Garden of Gethsemane. One of the disciples reacts, and in defense of Jesus slices off the ear of a servant of the high priest. Jesus says “No more of this!” and heals the servant. May “no more of this” and healing be the church’s response. Amen

    by Henry

    November 25, 2014

  52. While I recognize that the clerk feels obligated, even called, to make a comment, I view the wording as judgmental rather than helpful. Reducing the grand jury's decision to saying it was "justified" was hurtful ; not helpful. Just concentrate on prayerful statements for a solution. Please refrain from making statements that further agitate.

    by Carol Collier, R. E

    November 25, 2014

  53. Re: the other comments below...While Clerk Parsons did bite off more than he could chew, that doesn't mean that what he bit off was not Gospel. In other words: yes, it was. The Gospel is not there to support our societal structures but is that which says to us: do not kill. It is that which says to us take care of the least of these (and Michael Brown was not "taken care of" by any standard). It is that which says to us to give our lives so that others may live. This Gospel does not allow us to stay safe, benign, society-supporting, RICH WHITE PEOPLE. It calls us to Love and to Give Everything, and to serve those who are not privileged. In fact we are so called into that Love that we are called to become similarly not-priviledged. The stinginess that is apparent in some of the comments here, in the face of so much chronic abuse in Ferguson and in the specifics of Michael Brown's case that we DO know, suggests that we are not only NOT willing to die for this man's justice, we aren't necessarily even willing to be bothered with its reality. What occurred was wrong in the eyes of the Gospel even without knowing all the facts that the jury does, because our Gospel is so tough and countercultural and opposed to our systems that it makes clear that whatever else happens, don't defend yourself and don't kill anyone. That's OUR Gospel. And the fact is that this man was not armed. We may not yet collectively realize in the PC(USA) (based on these comments) how very countercultural this Gospel really is -- and how straightforward. I hope that every one of us, myself included, will have the chance to see with fresh eyes, and to feel no longer smug and clear in our minds...but instead vulnerable to the demands of this outrageous Love.

    by Olivia James

    November 25, 2014

  54. This is about much more than one case. This is about a system that does not treat its citizens equally. Read The New Jim Crow,by Michelle Alexander, a wonderful book filled with statistics not opinion. It will shatter any notion you might have that our justice system is blind to rave. As a white American I really don't even know what to say about this tragedy. I cannot imagine the hopelessness and anger,

    by Deborah Mowrey

    November 25, 2014

  55. These comments make me so sad. Majority culture continues to rely on the privilege of "trusting the system" while the system allows lives to be debased and ignored. I do wonder if every generation of dominant people in power, whether the pharisees of Jesus' day or the slaveholders of pre-Civil war America also relied on this same sentiment. I pray that the gospel gets bigger and deeper for all of you, to give you the courage and boldness to really see the situation with the eyes of Christ.

    by Michelle Wong

    November 25, 2014

  56. We have to trust that the people on the grand jury did the best they could within the system, but when an unarmed man is killed, we need to question whether the system needs to be changed. No system is ever perfect. We grieve with the family in the loss of their son, and we grieve with the community in their sense of hopelessness. We pray for healing for all. The destruction that is happening now is not the answer, and is certainly not justice for the business owners whose livlihoods are going up in flames.

    by Melissa Boling

    November 25, 2014

  57. Thank you Dr. Garrett. The article read as if the Grand Jury's decission was wrong. Support the family's continued quest for justice?

    by Dave

    November 25, 2014

  58. It is easy to say, "trust the system," when the system has historically worked for you. Too many of our brothers and sisters have been betrayed by the system, and have been given no reason to trust it...

    by Robert Barrett

    November 25, 2014

  59. Thank you for your timely words and call to prayer to work towards justice for the least of these.

    by Rev. Tricia Dillon Thomas

    November 25, 2014

  60. Clerk, I find your FB post wildly inappropriate, colonialist, and unfair. You simply CANNOT speak for the whole denomination on this matter. I too grieve racial injustice, grieve for the Brown family, and deeply desire for the social, moral, and racial landscape of our nation to change, However, this issue is complicated, messy, and will require much continued discernment. The fact that you would speak for the church in the manner you did is unethical and violates our denomination's polity and theology. Speak for yourself. And please, next time you feel obligated to say something on behalf of the PCUSA, maybe consider including Jesus in your reflection. After all, whose justice are we talking about here, his or... ?

    by Nick Barrett

    November 25, 2014

  61. this comment certainly does not reflect the views of the parishioners of PCUSA.

    by Debbie Dobbins

    November 25, 2014

  62. Every system is only as trustworthy as those who govern it. Let us not forget that the 12 persons who heard the case in Ferguson are only capable of hearing the facts with which they are presented. But even the pretense under which, those facts are gathered, published, and organized is still governed by certain individuals. At some point we must deal with this truth: "A system cannot fail those it was never meant to protect." W. E. B Dubois

    by Brady Radford

    November 24, 2014

  63. Well said Ellen O'C., Dr. Mike and Tom. The only thing to add beyond that is the wisdom of our denomination taking the stand they have and at the time they did. Puzzling.

    by David Boyd

    November 24, 2014

  64. Of course we all want a safe environment for EVERYONE; however, in this case, the only individuals who have heard the entire story of what happened and have reviewed all the reports and witness statements are those on the Ferguson grand jury. So why is there an implication (by the Clerk) that their decision was incorrect? How could the Clerk possibly know what the decision should have been without knowing ALL the facts? I don't believe it was appropriate for the Clerk of PCUSA to make that implication since they have no way of knowing what the decision should have been. These are the types of statements that are contributing to the divisions within our denomination. I do agree that we should pray for Michael Brown's family and community. I also pray for a time when race makes no difference and all that matters is that we are all children of God.

    by CL

    November 24, 2014

  65. This is a very disappointing statement to read as the official statement from the PC(USA). How is this a loving statement? Where is the forgiveness? Where is the connectional message? I hope there is another soon that seeks for peace.

    by Todd Peterson

    November 24, 2014

  66. All of the above comments have a bit of validity. Nevertheless, I no longer trust the system. It appears the PCUSA doesn't either.

    by Barbara Ahlquist

    November 24, 2014

  67. I think the grand jury did the just thing It heard all the facts, the eyewitnesses, three autopsy reports, and did not return an indictment on any possible charge. I commend the grand jury for resisting the political and cultural pressure to indict in spite of the facts. I think the Stated Clerk's response is biased and should be retracted.

    by Richard Hoffman

    November 24, 2014

  68. This Grand Jury was given more evidence and time than any I've ever heard of. This amount to a trial, not a determination of whether there should be a trial -- which is what a Grand Jury is charged with.

    by Dee

    November 24, 2014

  69. Unfortunately, Mr. Parsons, speaking for the PCUSA as the Stated Clerk, has offered political analysis and hyperbole rather than pastoral care. Although I too pray for Brown's family, I will also pray for Officer Wilson and his family, the prosecutor and his family, the grand jurors and their families. Is part of the "continued quest for justice" the looting of businesses? The violence promised from protesters? The bounty on Officer Wilson promised by those who count themselves among the protesters? Considering his opinion was issued within the last two hours, this piece had to be well thought out and written in advance of tonight's decision. It would've been better posted on his personal Facebook page or Twitter account.

    by Greg Gibson

    November 24, 2014

  70. The longer the prosecutor went on, the more I found myself thing, "That's a tryable fact. And THAT's a tryable fact. And THAT's a tryable fact ..." The prosecutor's own summary justified an indictment on a charge of voluntary manslaughter, at the least. And if you think Darren Wilson was treated fairly, ask yourself: Is every other criminal defendant handled with the same deference? If not, why not?

    by Lex Alexander

    November 24, 2014

  71. Respectfully, we cannot trust the system. Was not Jesus crucified by a just Roman system? Was not Dietrich Bonhoeffer hung by a just system? Was Trayvon Martin shot at from a just system? The lives of the Christian is always at odds with the system. For the system seeks what is good for the system. The Christian seeks the righteousness through the kingdom for God first.

    by Christopher D. Williams

    November 24, 2014

  72. I am an employee of a Presbyterian church. I am a life long Presbyterian. This article does not is any way reflect the opinions of all people in our congregations. I am embarrassed that this appears to be an official statement. It is the opinion of one person. I have such great respect for the job of all police officers. I respect the job of a Grand Jury that poured over the evidence and came to a decision. I hurt for the parents of Michael Brown, who, regardless of the circumstances, lost a loved one that day. I will pray for peace in that town, in the hearts of all affected and in the minds of the grand jury. May the God of us all bring healing to Ferguson.

    by Tami Gibson

    November 24, 2014

  73. The 12 people of the Grand Jury are the ones who heard AlL the facts, not just what was fed to them by a slanted, sensationalistic media. I do not envy the job they were given. For the Stated Clerk of the PC(USA), who did not hear ALL of the facts, to even suggest that he is in the position to evaluate and condemn the decision reached by said jury is ludicrous and exemplifies his arrogance. As a member of the PC(USA) I want all to know that Gradye parsons DOES NOT speak for me and many others in our demonination. In reality, he speaks only for himself.

    by James B. Harden

    November 24, 2014

  74. Mr. Groome: Trusting the system is a form of idolatry. We need to trust God to bring justice and do what we can to bring justice to our broken world.

    by William Lee Goff

    November 24, 2014

  75. The grand jury heard what the prosecutor presented to them, as he presented it. That may make them well informed; or not.

    by Lincoln Richardson

    November 24, 2014

  76. as much as I hate the idea and facts of injustice, I agree that we must trust the grand jury system while also urging continued actions toward equal treatment for all.

    by Jimmy Shafe

    November 24, 2014

  77. A grand jury does not determine guilt or innocence; it determines whether or not there is sufficient cause to go to trial. In this case, they decided that if the officer were to be charged, the state would most likely lose due to a weak case.

    by Robin M

    November 24, 2014

  78. I am a little disturbed by the contention by the Clerk that the decision of the Grand Jury effectively justified the tragedy in Ferguson...the trusted agents fulfilled the responsibilities placed before them and using the evidence presented made a determination that the action was not a crime...is the opinion shared by the Clerk really the opinion of PC USA?

    by A..D. Woodrow

    November 24, 2014

  79. The grand jury heard all the evidence from dozens of witnesses since August of this year and answered The question, "is there enough evidence to support each element of the crime." The grand jury did not answer the question "was the killing justified?" Let us be honest. A grand jury's decision is not the same thing as a moral decision.

    by Ellen o'Connell

    November 24, 2014

  80. I need some clarification. Are we grieving that this is sad story from any point of view? Or are we grieving a decision that is some way unjust? Those in the best position to know the sad facts have decided the officer was not guilty of a crime. Recognizing the racial divide that continues to exist in this country should not prevent us from acknowledging the officer and the struggle he has faced as he did the job his community called him to do.

    by Dr. Mike Garrett

    November 24, 2014

  81. the 12 people on the grand jury are the ones to hear ALL the facts. We have to trust the system.

    by Tom Groome

    November 24, 2014

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