The Council of Bishops
African Methodist Episcopal Church
June 16, 2016
Statement in Commemoration of Mother Emanuel AME Church Shooting
June 17, 2015 is a day in which the nation and the world was shocked and traumatized as nine parishioners, including the pastor of Mother Emanuel AME Church, Charleston, South Carolina were killed, as they participated in Bible Study. They warmly welcomed a visitor, Dylann Roof, into their midst to study the Word of God. They did not suspect that visitor, was actually a racist, who justified his demonic act by declaring he was doing it because, “you are taking over our country.” One year later, the shock and trauma of this shooting still remains with the families who lost loved ones, leaving an aching void that time will never fill, with Mother Emanuel Church, with a nation which is reluctant to act or remains in denial about how pervasive racism is among us, and the world, which believed that the United States had put hatred and racism behind us.
One year later, racism remains the number one domestic issue
facing this nation. The mindset of this shooter, and many others in this country, that “you are taking over our country” must be acted upon and confronted. How polarizing and hateful these words are. “You”, meaning minorities and others are separate, un-American, foreigners in this country. And “our” inferring the United States belongs to “whites.” The tragedy that occurred at Mother Emanuel AME Church is not the only instance where lives have been lost or people hurt because of this mindset. Some seek to justify this mindset calling it “nationalism”, but whatever it is called, it the end result is the same, racism. Tragically and alarmingly, this mindset has become a common occurrence around the nation. It is not coincidence that we first heard this cry with the election of the nation’s first black president in 2008, and we hear inferences and references to it in the national dialogue and discussion about immigration, employment, economic opportunity and religion. It is even more troubling that this thinking, and pitting people against each other on the basis of race and religion, is being fanned during this current election campaign.
This mindset is that minorities, or those considered foreigners are taking the jobs and opportunities that Americans (whites) are entitled to, that eleven million people, predominantly Mexicans and other Hispanics should be deported, and that Muslims, because of their religion, should not be allowed in the United States. “Liberty and justice” and opportunity, are not intended for all, only for certain Americans, and that Affirmative Action is unconstitutional.
The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church believes that this environment requires the church and the faith community, to be at our best, and that means to act and assert leadership. It should not be that those nine faithful believers at Mother Emanuel Church and countless others, black, white, brown and others, across the country that have lost their lives, or are discriminated against, because of racism are in vain. They cry out for the nation to act, to confront and destroy racism. Our commemoration of the shooting at Mother Emanuel AME Church must also be our commitment and determination to fight against this sinful, demonic, and evil that is racism. Our commitment and determination must be not to talk, but to act.
This nation is indebted to the families of the Mother Emanuel Nine who in loss and pain, did not exhibit hatred and anger, but instead demonstrated the love of God, and declared to Dylann Roof’s face, “we forgive you.” Their Christian response helped to calm the nation and deny what this racist hoped to achieve, a race war. Glory to God, for His presence within them.
It is imperative that the nation act against the demonic and evil forces which would divide the nation even more, and seek to turn back time. The commemoration of the tragedy at Mother Emanuel AME Church provides an opportunity for both action and reconciliation for the nation. The example of the families of the Mother Emanuel Nine, call the nation to reconcile. Reconciliation requires those who advocate and practice racism to cease, and those who are discriminated against to be willing to forgive. Forgiveness does not mean we forget, it means I know what you did, but I’m not going to hold it against you. We cannot forgive without the help of God.
Therefore, the African Methodist Episcopal Church calls upon our sister communions and our interfaith partners to join with us to lead this nation in the battle against racism. We call upon you to take the following actions:
1. We call upon other communions, particularly our predominantly white communions to join with us in preaching, teaching and condemning racism. Racism is sin and must not be tolerated or ignored. The Black Church must not be the only faith body to denounce and fight against racism. There are predominantly white communions who have spoken out, but there is a large number who have been quiet or unengaged on this issue. Faithfulness demands that we speak. The advancement of the kingdom of God on earth requires that we act.
2. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. decried the fact that Sunday morning is the most segregated time in America, acknowledging that most of our faith bodies are segregated. It is still shocking that this racist and hateful act took place in a church. The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church request that clergy across the nation, during the weekend of June 24th to 26th seek a pulpit exchange with another church or faith body and preach about race, diversity and inclusion. Also arrange for fellowship and interactions between local congregations. This exchange should be with communion or interfaith organization of a different race or religion.
3. That local clergy and inter-faith organizations begin discussions with local political leaders on issues of policing, education, housing and other issues where race is a factor and impacts any group negatively.
Further, we are concerned about the role race and racism is playing across the nation as we prepare for this year’s national elections. This is a time for race and racism to be confronted, not avoided. The Council of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church has invited the presumptive nominees of both major political parties to address the General Conference of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, July 12th in Philadelphia, PA. At this meeting we ask them to address their position on race and racism, equal opportunity, immigration and how they would heal and bring the nation together. It is our hope that both candidates would accept this invitation and speak to these issues.
We also lift in our prayers and thoughts the families of those who lost loved ones, and those who were injured in the mass shooting in Orlando, Florida on Sunday. This mass shooting, the largest in American history, like the shooting at Mother Emanuel is another reminder of the need to act against hate, racism and the need to reform gun laws. Because of our failure to act, mass shootings due to hate, racism and domestic terrorism have become commonplace.
Let us continue to pray, believe and act, with the hope that in our lifetimes, we will become, “one nation under God, with liberty and justice for all.”
Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop John Richard Bryant, Senior Bishop
Bishop McKinley Young
Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux, Sr.
Bishop Theodore Larry Kirkland
Bishop Adam Jefferson Richardson, Jr.
Bishop Richard Franklin Norris
Bishop Vashti Murphy McKenzie
Bishop Gregory Gerald McKinley Ingram
Bishop Preston Warren Williams II
Bishop Wilfred Jacobus Messiah
Bishop Paul Jones Mulenga Kawimbe
Bishop James Levert Davis
Bishop David Rwhynica Daniels, Jr.
Bishop Samuel Lawrence Green, Sr.
Bishop E. Earl McCloud, Jr.
Bishop Jeffrey Nathaniel Leath
Bishop Julius Harrison McAllister, Sr.
Bishop John Franklin White, President Council of Bishops
Bishop Clement Willie Fugh
Bishop Reginald Thomas Jackson
Bishop John Hurst Adams
Bishop Frederick Hilborn Talbot
Bishop Frederick Calhoun James
Bishop Frank Curtis Cummings
Bishop Phillip Robert Cousin, Sr.
Bishop Henry Allen Belin, Jr.
Bishop Robert Vaughn Webster
Bishop Zedekiah LaZett Grady
Bishop Cornal Garnett Henning, Sr.
Bishop Carolyn Tyler Guidry