A Pastoral Letter
May 29, 2020
Dear Central Atlantic Conference,
I write this to you with a very heavy heart after witnessing virtually the death of George Floyd
and its aftermath in Minneapolis. I also write this to you with anger at yet another killing of an
unarmed African American man by police without a commensurate measure to date of justice.
And I write this to you, frankly, mystified, at how protestors in Lansing Michigan two weeks ago,
with images of nooses in tow, are called ‘good people,’ while protestors in Minneapolis
Minnesota and other cities this week are labeled ‘thugs.’
Yet there is no mystification in my mind at all about the following statements. Racism is a sin.
Racism is sin whether at the individual or institutional levels. It is a sin that stains our political,
economic, social, moral, and spiritual fabric. The sin of racism pervasive in the United States
since the founding of this country, like all sin, is in need of repentance at both the individual
and institutional levels. Last year, I accompanied the Council of Conference Ministers on a
pilgrimage to Birmingham and Montgomery AL, where we saw iconic sites of the Civil Rights
Movement. A particular location that moved me greatly was the National Memorial for Peace
and Justice, which included eight hundred six-foot monuments, hanging from the construct’s
rafters, that symbolized the thousands, named and unnamed, who were lynched in the United
States for practically any reason and the States and counties where this terrorism occurred. As
I made my way through the Memorial, I went to the monuments of those who were lynched in
Brunswick and Lunenburg Counties in Virginia. It was imminently apparent to me that names
engraved on those monuments could have easily been my grandfathers and my father. And I
find it both sorrowful and terrifying that in so many ways, things have not changed. We know
this all too well in this Conference with Freddie Gray in Baltimore. Now, a little over five years
later, things have not changed. Things have not changed for George Floyd in Minnesota. Things
have not changed for Ahmad Aubrey in Georgia. Things have not changed for Breonna Taylor in
Kentucky. And things have not changed for far too many more people of color.
My siblings, this is a call for us as the Church, specifically the United Church of Christ, and more
specifically the Central Atlantic Conference of the United Church of Christ, to be agents of
change. This country is in need of repentance, a change in direction of heart, mind, and soul.
Too many lives are being lost, whether it is to gun violence, or police brutality, or at the hands
of a system during a pandemic that perpetuates health care as a privilege and not a human
right. We need change at any and all levels, to eradicate the stain of racism. And my
pilgrimage to Alabama reminded me of the powerful capacity of the Church of Jesus Christ to
make changes when it has the will to do so. I encourage you, from wherever you are, in
whatever way(s) you can, to both denounce and dismantle to sin of racism. Whether it is in the
pulpit, or on a physical or virtual street, or in a physical or virtual voting booth, say and do
something -anything - that declares NO MORE to the overt and covert injustice that plagues this
country. Please be an agent for change – for Ahmad, for Breonna, for George, for my twenty-
something nephews, and for so many others whose lives figuratively and literally depend on it.
For these lives – these Black Lives – Matter.
Our Justice and Witness Action Network will send communications that we will make available
that will include calls to action. It should be available in about a week. However, I did not want
to let this moment go by both in time and eternity without sharing these thoughts with you. I
encourage you, from wherever you are, do to what you can, so that we, our children, and their
children, will live in a country where all can live in Shalom as part of God’s unequivocally good
creation, part of A Just World for All.