Subject: NCC Newsletter: Decrying an Injustice and Honoring a Justice

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Decrying an Injustice and Honoring a Justice

NCC Newsletter
September 25, 2020
Statement on Grand Jury Findings in Killing of Breonna Taylor

“You must not distort justice…”
Deuteronomy 16:19, NRSV

Breonna Taylor was murdered on March 13 by police. More than 6 months later, it appears that justice delayed was also justice denied. The National Council of Churches finds the outcome of the investigation into Ms. Taylor’s death, which holds no one directly accountable, unconscionable and unjust. We grieve for her family and loved ones who have borne the burden of fighting for justice for her. We call on all people of faith and conscience to continue the fight for justice and to end systemic racism so that this kind of tragedy never happens again.

The facts of the case are harrowing. Using a faulty “no knock warrant” and improperly executing that warrant police entered Ms. Taylor’s home as she slept. In a matter of minutes, she was shot multiple times. She lay dying, but still breathing, and the same police officers did not render any medical assistance, but instead, issued a report indicating that there were no injuries sustained as a result of their actions. Truly, justice has been distorted.

It is not lost on us that September 23, 2020, was 65 years to the date when the white men who killed Emmett Till were found not guilty by an all-white jury. Daniel Cameron, the Attorney General for the State of Kentucky, declared that the police actions were justified, also rendering them not guilty. A grand jury found that one of three officers involved, Detective Brett Hankison, would be charged with a minor Class D felony of Wanton Endangerment for shots fired in the home of Ms. Taylor’s white neighbors, who were not injured. It is clear that the prosecution of this case by Mr. Cameron, and the resulting grand jury charges, are woefully insufficient.
The handling of this case has been a gross miscarriage of justice from the the execution of the warrant to the police actions on the scene, and the prosecutorial review and processing of the violation of Ms. Taylor’s civil rights and the circumstances of her death. We call for a full independent investigation of the facts. We demand a pattern and practice investigation of the Louisville Metro Police Department. We call on the U.S. Department of Justice to immediately intensify its investigation and include a review to determine the extent to which Ms. Taylor’s civil rights were violated.

Furthermore, we are dismayed that Det. Hankison, charged with actions that could have resulted in the death of a person, was granted bond of only $15,000 while protestors, exercising their First Amendment rights, have been arrested in Louisville and elsewhere are given bonds of up to $1,000,000. We are especially troubled that the Kentucky Attorney General did not even investigate whether Taylor’s civil rights were violated when she was killed. This is a glaring abdication of responsibility and is inexcusable.

The halfhearted response by the legal system in Kentucky to this tragedy is sadly, not surprising. For generations, our country has sought “law and order” at the expense of Black lives. This has created the reality of two systems of law, one for white people and one for everyone else. Blame for this is bi-partisan. Both parties, in all levels and branches of government, have over the past decades repeatedly targeted Black, Indigenous, and People of Color under the guise of being tough on crime. This has resulted in the mass incarceration, legal lynching, and continued oppression of millions of Americans.

Police should use restraint in responding to any nonviolent protests and protect the First Amendment rights of the people of Louisville, and not just the property. Reports that officers in the Louisville Metro Police Department have shared messages with one another describing protestors as thugs and criminals betray bias and a questionable intent. In addition, the police department should not use weapons of war such as tear gas, pepper spray, armored vehicles, and flash bang grenades in response to nonviolent protests. We also condemn the vigilante actions of extremists seeking only to use tragedy to engage in murderous violence as has happened in Kenosha, Austin, and Portland.

We commit to continuing to work toward a system of justice that is applied to all fairly and brings us closer to God’s vision of the Beloved Community. And, we again pray for Breonna Taylor’s loved ones and for her memory to be eternal!

Statements of NCC Member Communions
October 12-13 - Online
Breathing New Life into Our Nation: Repentance, Reformation, Reparation
NCC, Churches Grieve, Celebrate Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
The National Council of Churches mourns the passing of US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. We give thanks for her life and witness, for her eloquence and for the joy she brought to so many lives. We are grateful for her powerful and remarkable advocacy for the equality of all people. We also give thanks for the example of her persistence in overcoming the many obstacles she faced in doing her job, most recently her cancer diagnosis. May her memory be a blessing!

We regret how quickly attention has turned from celebrating Justice Ginsburg and observing an appropriate period of grief to an unseemly push to hastily fill her seat. Our prayers are with her family and loved ones at this time.

Other Statements
Maryland Episcopal Diocese Convention Approves Reparations Fund
On September 12, 2020, the 236th Convention of the Episcopal Diocese of Maryland passed Resolution 2020-06, committing to creating a $1,000,000 seed fund for reparations 189 – 31, with nine abstentions – an 82.5% approval.

The Rev. Dion Thompson of St. Anne’s, Annapolis, commented that “This is a bold, bold step… and this might be the first step in thinking of what we can do for the Native American community or other communities that are oppressed. We are trying to heal this nation.”

The Ohio Council of Churches Hosts Anti-Racism Sunday
The Ohio Council of Churches hosted its first anti-racism Sunday on September 20th, declaring that racism and white privilege are sins that we as people of faith are called to address in our world. As the Council we are called to:

• AWAKEN ourselves to the truth that racism is ever-present, deeply rooted in American culture, and profoundly damaging to our communities;
• CONFRONT racism, speak truth to ourselves, our communities and institutions, and stand against injustice; and
• TRANSFORM the hearts, minds, and behaviors of people and structures that shape society.

Participating congregations across Ohio hosted their own worship services utilizing their denominational resources and resources compiled by the Council. Deacon Nick Bates of the Southern Ohio Synod of the ELCA preached in Morgan and Muskingum Counties about the role of white privilege in his life. “I felt entitled. I felt that it was all about me, instead of about God’s work in the world. I was late to the mission field, despite appearing busy for years. Only by God's grace have I been invited to have the blinders removed so that I could see the beauty of God's loving kindness. ”

Other participants joined the Council for Facebook live worship experience. “The God we worship chooses to give dignity to those who are oppressed,” preached Rev. Dr. Jack Sullivan, Jr., executive director of the Ohio Council of Churches. “They will know we are Christians, not by our stained glass, but by our love.” In our world, addressing systemic racism is a loving act that we are all called to do as Christians.

Resources will remain available as congregations will continue to participate and hold anti-racism worship experiences for the remainder of the year.

Pastor Helps Tell Town's Lynching History
The Rev. Rob Spencer, pastor of First United Methodist Church in Paris, recently participated in a ceremony of remembrance and apology for the 1920 lynching of two Black men in Paris — Herman and Irving Arthur. Family members of the victims came from three states. Spencer has preached about and in other ways tried to raise local awareness of what happened.
Virtual Workshop: How to Become a Climate-Resilient Church
In the midst of the worst fire season in the history of the West and one of the most active hurricane seasons on record, one thing is clear: the climate crisis is here. As people of faith, how can we best respond to climate disasters and widespread displacement of our neighbors? Our congregations must become hubs of resilience, helping our communities weather the physical and spiritual storms of the climate crisis.

Join Creation Justice Ministries for an upcoming virtual workshop to learn how your church can care for your community by becoming a resilience hub. In this webinar, you’ll learn practical steps for how your church can become a certified climate resilience hub, provide much-needed support for the “new normal” in your community, and hear from existing climate resilience hubs. Speakers include:

• Bishop Staccato Powell, African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, Western District
• Rev. Vernon Walker, Communities Responding to Extreme Weather
• Rev. Liz Steinhauser, St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church, Resilience Hub in Boston
• Avery Davis Lamb, Duke Divinity and the Nicholas School of the Environment 

Amidst Recovery Efforts, Middle East Council of Churches Elects New General Secretary
The Executive Committee of the Middle East Council of Churches MECC elected on September, 18 2020 a new Secretary General, Dr. Michel Abs for four years succeeding Dr. Souraya Bechealany.

Professor Abs is an economist and a sociologist. He holds a B.A., M.A. and higher diplomas in both fields and a PhD in Sociology with a focus on economic behavior.

He started lecturing at university level very early and has already a 42-years’ experience in this field accompanied by approximately as many years of experience in business, education and development management and consultancy. in addition to lecturing and advising for doctoral theses at Saint Joseph University of Beirut where he is a member of the Research Ethics Committee.

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