OFFICIAL STATEMENT OF THE BOARD OF BISHOPS OF THE AFRICAN METHODIST EPISCOPAL ZION CHURCH REGARDING THE ACT OF DOMESTIC TERRORISM IN BUFFALO, NY
“The problem as God gave Habakkuk to see it: GOD, how long do I have to cry out for help before you listen? How many times do I have to yell, “Help! Murder! Police!” before you come to the rescue? Why do you force me to look at evil, stare trouble in the face day after day? Anarchy and violence break out, quarrels and fights all over the place. Law and order fall to pieces. Justice is a joke. The wicked have the righteous hamstrung and stand justice on its head.” (Habakkuk 1:1-4 MSG)
Lament, pain, and yes, outrage has once again gripped our people as a terrorist act committed by a young man poisoned by the evils of White supremacy and White Replacement ideologies violently robbed the lives of 10 Black persons and traumatized so many others of us both in Buffalo and across our nation.
One of the beautiful lives taken by this horrific act was Mrs. Ruth Whitfield, a beloved member of Durham AME Zion Church for more than fifty years. She was a loving mother, grandmother, and a devoted Christian. Our grief is deep and our tears are flowing as we mourn the lost of all lives, and yet, this sweet, kind, compassionate woman, personally known to many of us, has been especially heartbreaking.
Yes, we call upon our Church and our nation to a time of prayer and healing. However, our pleas for healing, peace, and prayer must not be misinterpreted as complacency nor complicity. We can hold two truths together simultaneously. We are called to pray and to protest, to mourn and to mobilize, to be righteously angry and to non-violently agitate, to worship and to work.
We lament the unending cycle of violence inflicted upon and within our communities by individuals who fail to value life and who have far too easy access to guns, especially assault-style weapons; but we are outraged by politicians who offer empty gestures of “thoughts and prayers” and lack the moral courage to enact any gun safety regulations.
We lament the divisions in our country that have increasingly divided us into partisan camps, leaving many unable and unwilling to celebrate diversity and inclusion; but we are outraged by politicians, media personalities, and even purported preachers of the Gospel who have employed ugly rhetoric and outright lies about stolen elections and white replacement conspiracies to foment fear, white nationalism, and racial resentment.
We lament the relentless failure of this nation to honestly acknowledge the racism that is so deeply imbedded in virtually every aspect of American society and the harsh backlash to any measures to teach our true history, confront white supremacy, and take reasonable steps to address systemic racial and economic inequalities; but we are outraged by the stark silence of many of our white Christian brothers and sisters, particularly from evangelical traditions, who boldly speak out against anything they view as a threat to the authority of Scripture and Christian orthodoxy, however are muted or totally absent from the very issues of injustice, racism, and oppression that threaten the lives and wellbeing of Black people in this country. The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King stated it correctly; “In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.”
An African proverb says; “When a thorn pierces the foot, the entire body bends over to pull it out.” As it has done continually for more than 400 years in this country, the thorn of racism has pierced our community. Any church, any organization, any institution, and every individual who claims Jesus our Liberator as Lord and earnestly seeks the “Beloved Community” must now bend over and help pull out the thorn of racism. The Bishops and the membership of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church are done with singing “Kumbaya, My Lord” while holding hands with those who fail to affirm the worth, dignity, and equality of Black lives in this country.
Yours in sorrow, yet with unwavering determination; we are the Board of Bishops of The African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church - The Freedom Church: Bishop Darryl B. Starnes, Sr., President of the Board of Bishops Bishop Kenneth Monroe, Senior Bishop Bishop Dennis V. Proctor Bishop Mildred B. Hines Bishop W. Darin Moore Bishop Seth O. Lartey Bishop Michael A. Frencher, Sr. Bishop George D. Crenshaw Bishop Hilliard Dogbe Bishop Uduak Effiong Bishop Brian R. Thompson, Sr. Bishop Eric Leake Bishop Joseph Johnson, Retired Bishop Marshall H. Strickland, Retired Bishop Nathaniel Jarrett, Jr., Retired Bishop George W.C. Walker, Sr., Retired Bishop Samuel Chuka Ekemam, Sr., Retired Bishop Warren Matthew Brown, Retired Bishop George Edward Battle, Jr., Retired
Done this the 18th Day of May, 2022