Dear Family of Faith,
I’m grieving. I’m filled with sorrow for our nation. I’m also angry. It began a couple of weeks ago when an African American pastor friend posted a video of a black birder being harangued in Central Park. I’m a birder myself. I’ve heard two well-known African American birders, Jason Ward, and Dr. Drew Lanham, talk about not birding certain places and being harassed because of the color of their skin. There’s even a hashtag for this, “#BirdingWhileBlack.” So, I wasn’t shocked—just saddened—to see a video and story of Christian Cooper being threatened by a white woman. She called the police to tell them she was being threatened by a black man, confident, I guess, that they would side with her. His “crime?” Asking her to obey the law and leash her dog.
How in the world could someone think so perversely? We got our answer just hours later as yet another black man died at the hands—or should I say knee—of a white cop. As I write this, he and 3 other officers have been charged. It remains to be seen if they will be convicted despite horrific video evidence. In what universe is this acceptable? How badly must our God be grieving for what is happening in our nation and has been happening for nearly 400 years with no apparent end in sight? If our brown-skinned Jesus were here today, how would he react?
Friends, we live in a nation where far more people of color than white die not just at the hands of police, but from gun violence, jogging while black, COVID-19, other health related issues, poverty, and food scarcity. People of color are much more likely to be incarcerated for lesser crimes. The disparities in educational opportunities and wages continue to grow worse, not better. At a rally to re-open businesses in “Choose Civility” Howard County, some people wore vile, racist tee shirts directed at our African American County Executive, Dr. Calvin Ball.
For 2 weeks and counting, many thousands of peaceful protesters of all ages and ethnicities have risked exposure to COVID-19 and police brutality for one common goal. They are weary of racism and violence toward people of color. We’re in the midst of a worldwide pandemic and record unemployment affecting people of color most acutely. In rapid succession, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, and George Floyd have had their lives cut short. We’ve seen the videos, and we are sick to our souls. We can’t pretend anymore that everything is okay. Our nation is diseased. Overt racism is tolerated—if we’re honest, condoned—by a president who should be condemning it.
In the aftermath of Freddie Gray’s death, this Presbytery pledged unanimously to become beacons of hope in the battle against racism in our nation. We committed all leaders in the Presbytery to undergo training on dismantling racism. This was a powerful first step in God’s call that we be the “Hands and Feet” of Christ here in Maryland. Now the question is, what will we do next?
As Moderator, I am reaching out to Vice-Moderator and Moderator-Elect, Rev. Michael Moore, the Commission on Reconciliation, and other key leaders of the Presbytery to begin moving forward on our next steps. If you feel the same call I’m feeling, please get in touch with me. If you are sickened by more black lives lost before their time, join me. It’s not going to be easy. Justice seldom is. With the help of God and the Holy Spirit we will get there. And this much I know. It must be a Presbytery-wide effort. We cannot leave it to our African American sisters and brothers to carry the weight. Each of us must pledge today to do our part to end racism in all of its ugly manifestations. We can no longer sit idly by. Let us join our voices in the words of the hymn, “We will work with each other, we will work side by side and we'll guard each one's dignity and save each one's pride. And they'll know we are Christians by our love, by our love. Yes, they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”
May God continue to bless and grace this Presbytery as we work towards justice for all.
Guy Moody, Moderator,
Presbytery of Baltimore