St. Louis, MO: At its meeting in St. Louis, MO, the Governing Board of the National Council of Churches issued the following statement in anticipation of the grand jury action regarding officer Darren Wilson:
We live in the hope expressed by the prophet Isaiah:
Your ancient ruins shall be rebuilt;
you shall raise up the foundations of many generations;
you shall be called the repairer of the breach,
the restorer of streets to live in.
The National Council of Churches is a fellowship of Christian communions that seeks justice for all and stands with all those who are oppressed. We are in partnership with pastors and congregations who are preaching, seeking justice, and providing pastoral care in Ferguson’s churches in the midst of the current tensions. We celebrate the long-standing presence of members and leaders of this community that care for, and have cared for, the welfare of their congregations and the community at large. We are led by their love and by their stories and counsel. We are also inspired by the young people who, in their quest for justice, are embodying a faith and courage that we find to be an example to our churches.
We join the community of Ferguson, and all of those who seek justice and fairness for all people. We applaud those who practice the very best in Christian tradition by responding through prayer and non-violent, peaceful action, and we join with other faith traditions who urge the same. It is our hope that the city and its citizens, churches, law enforcement officials, justice-seekers, and media, will all be shepherded by the teaching of Jesus to love God and to “love your neighbor as yourself.”
Love of God and neighbor motivates us to seek justice and fairness for everyone. We wish to see a society in which young people “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character (Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.).” This vision is jeopardized by issues that revolve around mass incarceration. The trend toward privatization of prisons creates monetary incentives for incarcerating people for minor crimes, the vast majority of which are young black men. The national militarization of local policing increases the likelihood of grave injustice. Time and time again we are witnessing the use of lethal force against unarmed persons.
Loving neighbor does not include exploiting others. We call those who exploit emotions surrounding this grand jury action in ways that bring further division to consider their motivations and act compassionately. We urge all parties, in all things, to be guided by the words of the apostle Paul, that “the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things (Galatians 5:22-23).” Where the Spirit of God is, God motivates us to live this way.
Peace is not merely the absence of conflict; it is also the presence of justice. Peace is found in the ability to dialogue, to see each others’ side, and to come to a point where relationships are transformed from those of conflict to conversation. The bridge between justice and peace is mercy and grace, and as people of faith, we affirm this bridge, and that the Church, its pastors, and its members, must be those who proclaim it.
In the weeks that will follow these days of anger, indignation, and accusation, we call for peace — one full of robust love that utilizes our best qualities as human beings. We call on the member communions of the National Council of Churches in Ferguson to stand in solidarity with the community to seek liberty and justice for all.