A hate-inspired tragedy like the murder of nine worshipers at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina, causes people of good conscience not only to grieve, but to reassess their attitudes about race, and moves people of all races to come together and take actions that reflect new commitments to heal long-standing wounds in the United States.
Unfortunately, those commitments to reconciliation inflame in some the same racial hatred that motivated the Charleston killings and result in a backlash of further violence. In the last week, at least seven churches with predominantly black membership have been burned in Tennessee, Ohio, North and South Carolina, Florida, and Georgia. Some have already been confirmed as arson.
These burned churches are reminders of the smoldering racism that still infects our body politic and makes clear the work that remains for us all.
We grieve with all those whose church buildings have been lost or damaged, whether as a result of racial hatred or not. We thank God that the losses were of property and not lives and we urge all who are able to support them with prayers and financial support as they recover from their losses.
As Christians we live in hope of a Beloved Community where racism and other evils that divide us are washed away. Even as we wait, we are called to work with all our energy and resources to make that a reality. In support of that vision, we urge all Presbyterians and their congregations to reach out to their African American neighbors, assuring them of their love and support, including a willingness to stand with them in the face of danger.
The Reverend Gradye Parsons
Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Ruling Elder Heath K. Rada
Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014)
The Reverend Larissa Kwong Abazia
Vice Moderator, 221st General Assembly (2014)
Ruling Elder Linda Bryant Valentine
Executive Director, Presbyterian Mission Agency