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‘It is a righteous and holy anger that sees injustice and knows that it is wrong’

PMA President and Executive Director Diane Moffett issues statement on recent protests, shootings

by Diane Moffett, Presbyterian Mission Agency president and executive director | Special to Presbyterian News Service

The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett is president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency. (Photo by Rich Copley)

LOUISVILLE — The Rev. Dr. Diane Moffett, president and executive director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency, released this statement Wednesday about the deep pain and anger that’s led to demonstrations and violence in cities across the country since the May 25 death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police:

“My soul is troubled. With the COVID-19 pandemic raging, killing over 106,000 people in this country and disproportionately impacting communities of color, and with the slayings of Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and just this week David McAtee, my cup runneth over with despair.

“Most of you know the stories that have caused so much unrest in our nation and around the world. White vigilantes killed Ahmaud Arbery while he was jogging in Glynn County, Georgia. Breonna Taylor was gunned down by undercover Louisville police officers who entered her home in the wee hours of the morning with a no-knock warrant. George Floyd, handcuffed with his face to the ground, was tortured and murdered by a white police officer in Minneapolis who put his knee to Floyd’s neck until his life seeped out of him. This week, David McAtee, a black business owner in Louisville, was shot at his place of business by Louisville police and National Guard troops patrolling the area to monitor protests in Louisville. These are the stories we know about.

“Research in books like Michele Alexander’s ‘The New Jim Crow’ or Michael Eric Dyson’s ‘Tears We Cannot Stop’ reveal a pattern of harassment, violence and murder of black people by white police officers and vigilantes. These kinds of heinous killings are the fruit of institutional racism. Institutional racism extends beyond one’s personal attitude and behavior toward black people and people of color. Structural racism is steeped in the narrative of white supremacy. It is baked into the institution of this country from the inception of the nation. Native Americans were unjustly treated by the European settlers who killed them with guns and diseases they brought to the country. The truth is that the land that was so-called ‘discovered’ by Columbus belonged to Native Americans and was stolen from them. It was the belief in their superiority that gave rationale to the actions of the European settlers. The Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) repudiated the Doctrine of Discovery and its racist tenets at the 2016 General Assembly.

“The Presbyterian Mission Agency continues to advocate for the dismantling of structural racism. It is one of the three foci of the Matthew 25 vision. I am grateful for the 474 churches, 30 mid councils and 12 groups representing over 5,900 congregations who have adopted the Matthew 25 vision as their guide to doing mission. Matthew 25 calls us to seize the moment and reveals God’s blessings upon nations that respond with compassion and justice toward those who need the material goods that lead to the fullness of life and human dignity.

“I am concerned about our nation and our world. Considering what we are witnessing in response to the killings of George Floyd and others, it is important that the Church acts. While I do not condone the violence, I am aware that you cannot keep kicking people, blame them for limping and expect them to remain calm. Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘A riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met.’

“While the television and social media focus on the protests, nothing will change until we focus on the problem that evokes the response. Racism and white supremacy are sins. It goes against the teachings of Jesus, who admonishes us to love God and to love our neighbor as ourselves … on these two commandments hang all the law and prophets (Matthew 22:34–40). Cornel West, an African American theologian and scholar, says, ‘Never forget that justice is what love looks like in public.’ I watched the president say he supports peaceful protesters while spraying them with tear gas and rubber bullets, forcibly clearing them so that he could pose with a Bible on church steps. It is one thing to hold the Bible in your hand and quite another to have God’s word demonstrated in your life.

“I know that many of you are angry and frustrated. I feel that way, too. It is a righteous and holy anger that sees injustice and knows that it is wrong. I invite us to let our righteous anger fuel our commitment to be faithful witnesses to Jesus Christ, who loved the world and gave his life in serving others. I invite us to ‘get in where we fit in’ in our communities and do what we can to help our nation heal. I invite us to make sure we vote in this year’s election. And remember: local elections are just as important as the presidential election. It is the mayor, police chief and politicians who help create the vision of the beloved community in your city or not. Church, it is time to be Matthew 25 people and let the cry of Amos roar from our pulpits and pour into our streets: ‘Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream’ (Amos 5:24).

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