A Pastoral Statement on the Crisis in Ferguson:
Where Do We Go from Here?
The Right Reverend Charles E. Blake, Sr.
Church of God in Christ
November 08, 2014
We in the church are called to stand with the widow and the orphan, with the poor and the suffering as our Lord Jesus Christ did. For “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world” (James 1:27). We therefore seek to encourage the people of Ferguson in their steadfast protest for justice following the tragic death of Michael Brown. More important, we will continue to pray for the people, their leaders and the authorities of the area. We will seek God’s blessing especially for those dealing with systematic racial injustice.
The residents of Ferguson have suffered enormous pain as a result of the heartbreaking death of Michael Brown on August 9. The anguish of a life cut short was exacerbated by the egregious disrespect for Michael Brown’s body and family displayed by law enforcement agencies. The exposure of the community, including very young children, to the scene of violence was extremely injurious. The pseudo-military overreaction by the police to the initially peaceful protest was even more harmful. The injustice that even now the apparent perpetrator has not even been indicted rankles.
Sadly, the incident that took Michael Brown’s life was not the first instance of racialized behavior on the part of the police force in Ferguson. Prior to August the Justice Department was already investigating the force. In addition, there is a clear case of racial imbalance: out of fifty three officers only three were black at the time of the shooting. The racial injustice in Ferguson extends far beyond the police to structural issues. The budget of the city relies heavily on fees and traffic fines apparently issued disproportionately to blacks. And the black residents of Ferguson, who make up sixty-seven percent of city’s population, are grossly under-represented in the local legislature. And it is reported that in several of these areas Ferguson is not the exception in St. Louis County.
The grand jury will undoubtedly release its verdict in this case very soon. Given the current laws governing the use of deadly force Officer Darren Wilson may not be indicted. With this in mind, we call on all involved to continue to work for the greater good of the people of Ferguson. We call on the leadership of the city and the police force to reject a militarized response to the situation. They must deal justly with any peaceful protest. And they must judiciously put an end to any acts of violence.
We call on community to express its response the Grand Jury’s decision in peaceful ways. We encourage the youth leaders to continue to work for remedies to structural racial injustice in Ferguson and St. Louis County. We support the expansion of voter registration efforts. We urge every registered voter to make his or her voice heard in each election, especially those for local officials.
We call on the Justice Department to oversee the restructuring of the Ferguson police department, with special attention to the grievous lack of representation of blacks on the force. And we encourage the DOJ to continue its investigation into possible civil rights violations in the Michael Brown case.
We call on local clergy to continue to minister to the needs of the community. The church must become more involved in championing their cause. We urge pastors to begin to minister, mentor and monitor youth involved in or at risk for violent behavior.
Finally, we call on the business community and philanthropists to support the creation of jobs for young black men and women in Ferguson and throughout St. Louis County and city. They should support the efforts of clergy working with the youth from the poorest neighborhoods in the area.
Under God’s providence this tragedy can become a door of opportunity. Thus, what was intended for evil can become a source of blessing.