A statement from the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus regarding the protests in Ferguson and around the country

The following is a statement from the Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus, bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of California. 

I learned with disappointment and not a little surprise last night’s decision of the grand jury to not indict Office Darren Wilson in the shooting death of Michael Brown. I learned, with disappointment also, the protests planned at the Ferguson Police Department offices were broken up with teargas almost as soon as they started, and there were fires and looting later in the night — a scene repeated locally. The anger of a people who trusted a justice system to be their voice felt justice was denied; theirs was a righteous anger, and their voices yearned to be heard. The violence and destruction is condemned, the purpose it serves perpetuates the narrative norm in our communities that violence begets violence.

I ask us to work to end the violence — this violence in our communities must end. The FBI released a report recently that 27 police officers died in the line of duty last year, but that report did not mention the number of persons killed by police officers in the same period. A Washington Post report from police departments estimated 400 ‘justified homicides’ by police departments in the same period, a number believed to greatly underestimate all police killings.[1] Each of these violent deaths — of police and of citizens — denied the humanity of the victim, denied their right and respected place as one of our brothers and sisters, lovingly created by God.

The shooting death of Michael Brown, who lay unattended in the street for four hours, was a violent and tragic death. This violence must stop. This lack of respect of the dead must stop. We are lovingly created by God to have a place in this world, equally loved; we all matter. All of us, we matter, and we should be respected.

In Clayton, near Ferguson, local clergy marched today singing the old Gospel hymn, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around,”

With new lyrics

Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around, turn me around, turn me around,
Ain’t gonna let injustice turn me around,
gonna keep on walking, keep on talking,
marching on to Freedom’s Land.’[2]

This Sunday, the First Sunday of Advent, the lesson from Isaiah 64 reminds us how God’s people turned away, yet in troubled times continue to return to God:

From ages past no one has heard,
no ear has perceived,
no eye has seen any God besides you,
who works for those who wait for him. 
There is no one who calls on your name,
or attempts to take hold of you;
for you have hidden your face from us,
and have delivered us into the hand of our iniquity. 
Yet, O Lord, you are our Father;
we are the clay, and you are our potter;
we are all the work of your hand. 
Do not be exceedingly angry, O Lord,
and do not remember iniquity for ever.
Now consider, we are all your people. (Isaiah 64.4, 7-9b)

We are all the work of God’s hand, and turn to God for the love and support, as are God responds to the people:

They shall not labor in vain,
or bear children for calamity;
for they shall be offspring blessed by the Lord—
and their descendants as well. 
Before they call I will answer,
while they are yet speaking I will hear. (Isaiah 65.23-24)

I commend to you the tireless work of positive groups for change, such as Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere and the Diocese of California’s recently-formed Urban Peace Collaborative; groups such as these are where our energy and support are needed.

I ask your prayers for peace and the end of violence in Ferguson, in Oakland, in our communities. I ask your prayers, for the Brown family in Ferguson, for the Niehto family in San Francisco, and the family of Perla Avina[3] in Oakland, for peace and justice for all families affected by violence.

I ask your prayers for justice and the end of violence, because we all matter, each one of our lives matter. I ask your prayers knowing that God does not hide God’s face from us, because we are God’s people. Because we will, with God's help, turn this about this horrid course of pain and destruction and injustice in our communities.

As the hymn says

Ain’t gonna let injustice turn us around, 
Gonna keep on a-walkin’
Keep on a-talkin’ 
Marchin’ on to Freedom’s Land…

Amen.

The Rt. Rev. Marc Handley Andrus
Bishop of California

The Episcopal Diocese of California serves a diverse community of faith encompassing the greater San Francisco Bay Area. Approximately 27,000 people form 80 congregations in six counties. More information about the Diocese of California can be found at www.diocal.org.

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If you’d like more information about this topic or to schedule and interview with Joseph Peters-Mathews, please call him at 415.869.7820 or email him at josephm@diocal.org.