Statement of the College of Bishops
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church
Protests over Murder of George Floyd
“I have seen the affliction of my people; and I have heard their cries.”
The bishops of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church feel the anger and outrage felt by all who saw that white policeman holding his knee on the neck of George Floyd, lying face down with his life ebbing away. We too feel the pain of injustice and share the agony of the unrelenting racism before which our nation seems so helpless. As bishops of a church out of the African American experience, we are especially attuned to the impact on our children, youth and young adults. And we do realize that our calls to faith and patience, our platitudes of the stony road we’ve trod, watered with the tears of the slaughtered, have little meaning for them. We admit that we have no answer when they ask, “What has changed?” We confess that when we preach, “There’s a brighter day somewhere’, we bow in silence when they ask, “When?”
As if the anguish of the present moment were not sufficient unto itself, as religious leaders we must express our utter dismay, giving way to utter disgust, that the President of the United States would use military force to disperse a crowd of peaceful protestors to clear the way for him to go to the St. John Episcopal Church to hold up a Bible. Using the church as a backdrop and the Word of God as a prop was a political stunt we, along with virtually all the religious leaders of the nation, condemn without reservation. But we do remind ourselves and our other religious brothers and sisters that same Bible was held up and used to justify slavery and all its cruelty.
However, even as we feel our own anguish, our own urge to lash out and wonder with emerging generations, “How long?” we as leaders of the Church of Jesus Christ proclaim hope. That hope stems from a faith in the God who said, “I have seen the affliction of my people; and I have heard their cries.”
We realize that such words appear so out of place as protestors march, tear gas is tossed and rubber bullets fly. We do understand why our children and grandchildren do not see what we see. They have no way of experiencing what some of us painfully experienced. But we do see change. In 1962 James Meredith enrolled in the University of Mississippi. There were riots, two people died, many arrested and 31,000 National Guard Troops were called out. And today the Chair of our College of Bishops is a graduate of Ole Miss. Mayors of major cities —Atlanta, Chicago, San Francisco, Birmingham, Montgomery, and the list goes on—are African American. Chiefs of police around the nation are also black, as well as district attorneys. There are fifty-five members of the black caucus in the U. S. Congress. Every major university has influential African American faculty members. Black athletes dominate professional sports. And of course the 44th President was Barack Obama. As faith leaders we believe, and would urge our young brothers and sisters to embrace that this is evidence that God has seen their afflictions and heard their cries. No, we have not reached the Promised Land, but we have been delivered from the slavery of Egypt and crossed the Red Sea of Jim Crow —on dry land. Yet, the Philistines of bigotry are yet to be defeated, the Amalakites of white supremacy must be dispelled and Jericho’s walls of systemic racism are yet to fall.
It is our task to continue the fight for justice, to educate our children on our history and heritage, to build economic resources and opportunities in our own communities, to vote and lift our voices whenever and wherever necessary. And if we truly believe that if we keep our faith, the battle really is not ours: It is the Lord’s. And we are assured that the kingdoms of this world will become the Kingdom of our God and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever.
Bishop Lawrence Reddick, Senior Bishop
Bishop Thomas Brown, Sr., Chair, College of Bishops
Bishop Teresa Jefferson-Snorton, Secretary, College of Bishops
Christian Methodist Episcopal Church