The Clergy’s Place is With the Protesters in Ferguson

My Dear Fellow Clergy:

It been brought to my attention that some of you are questioning the intentions of the protest movement in Ferguson, Missouri, and of the clergy supporting it. While having one’s intentions questioned is not new, it appears necessary to address these concerns while so much is at stake during these dark days of American democracy.

I am a preacher of the gospel of Jesus — a poor dispossessed peasant whose life was cut short by state violence. For over a century, men and women in my family have preached that a hunted and hated people must always respond with dignity and deep abiding love.

The gospel is not neutral. It is a calling to become the living flesh of justice in a death-dealing society. Born in the heat of slavery and refined in the struggle for justice, this is my ideology. Some have noted I have been seen consorting with anarchists and communists. While I disagree with the ideological proclivities of many people, they are, nonetheless, children of God. And is not the gospel for the anarchist, the faithful and the communist alike? There is room for all at the table of justice.

In August, when militarized police occupied Ferguson, Phil Agnew, co-founder of the Dream Defenders, presented me with a challenge: “Ferguson will determine whether or not the church is still relevant.” Our teargas summer has become a bitter winter of waiting, and the clergy seem to be running that risk of irrelevancy. Some have expressed dismay at the angry youth who responded to both the unconscionable killing of Mike Brown and the unconstitutional repression of protest. It has been noted that the rage-filled protesters make many clergy and their congregants uncomfortable, and that acts of civil disobedience have caused our movement to lose ground in the white community.

White anxiety cannot become the measure of this movement or of the nation. Our movement must not be guided by the need to assuage white discomfort in the face of righteous black rage. Too often, there has been minimal or fleeting efforts by many in the liberal white community to address police brutality and the bone-crushing poverty exacted upon black bodies across this nation. If we rush to accommodate and appease those white liberals whose presence on the streets of Ferguson has been negligible, we betray the blood of the innumerable Mike Browns of America.

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20 responses to “The Clergy’s Place is With the Protesters in Ferguson”

  1. The clergy do indeed need to be a part of the action that is taking place in Ferguson. The clergy are put in a difficult situation as they are asked/expected to be both protester, moderator, and part of the establishment. They will be vilified by some within the community whichever role they choose. They ultimately must choose to advance the role of Jesus Christ. By doing so, they will seek justice, care for those who have been oppressed, and strive to move all parties involved to join together as Christians even in light of mistrust and various perceived and real levels of injustice.

  2. As I look at what has occurred throughout this process and especially the last 24 hours a question came to me "why did Jesus come", in 2014 we have come so far but still have a long way to go. Jesus marched the lands fighting against injustice. He was the perfect mentor to follow, when handling unjust situation. As clergy we need to make a stand fighting against injustice. Dr. Martin Luther King fought against injustice. It begins in the churches to teach the people what is right and what is wrong when handling situations. Apostle Paul states in Ephesians 4:11, "the gifts were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors, and teachers. to equip the saints for the work of ministry for building up the body of Christ until all of us come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God to mature to the measure of the full stature of Christ". The gifts are there to equip the people, what better way for clergy to exercise their gifts and help the people than at a time such as this. The edification doesn't always have to occur in the church building on Sunday morning. The edification can take place in Ferguson. The work of ministry goes far beyond the walls of the church preaching a sermon on Sunday. There is justice, deliverance, healing, and comfort that is needed in Ferguson. Clergy involvement is very much so needed. I believe in times such as this we need to ask the questions to ourselves and remember "why did Jesus come" maybe better ways to handle the situation will come about.

  3. I agree. I think that the clergy are put in a though spot. Their role in the community is beneficial, however it is impossible to please everyone. Like John said, in the end, they will be doing the work of God, which is all anyone can really ask.

  4. The clergy must participate in non-violent civil protest. I agree whole-heartedly with Reverend Osagyefo Uhuru Sekou. I studied the Church's involvement in the Holocaust in a course last year, and much positive change occurred because of a very small part the Church played. I imagine if their involvement had been more purposeful and blatant, more lives could have been saved. I see a similar trend here with the Ferguson crisis. Large institutions made up of strong-willed individuals do have the power to effect change, for better or worse.

    – Marguerite, PS-02

  5. Definitely, the clergy needs boots on the ground, just like the rest of the body of Christ needs to be there. This ins't about opinion and the judgement in this particular case, this sort of thing happens too much to be coincidence. Apart from that though, aren't we the ones to go to hurting people? Aren't we called to comfort the mourners? If we won't do it, who will?

  6. The Ferguson case is one in which everyone needs to do more. Much has been done already (President Obama's $75 Million fund for police to wear body cameras), but there is much left to do, for people of all race, gender, religion, etc…

    Nino, Rhodes 240-02

  7. I whole heartedly agree with this post insofar as it states "the clergy's place is with the protesters in Ferguson." Right now in Ferguson there is grief, pain, and fear. There are people who feel wronged and as if they are trapped under institutional racism which has once again denied them justice. The presence of clergymen in Ferguson may be able to guide these confused feelings into either constructive action.

  8. The problem with events in Ferguson and similar protests around the U.S. is leadership. The movement currently lacks strong national leadership, which usually is filled by clergy, that as of late has not taken the reign of the situation. Violence and rioting is the result of ignorance and youth who are frustrated of the current state America is in. If clergy could eventually create a more national presence in the protests, reminiscent of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference during the 60's, there would be a more effective conversation sweeping the nation. MN Public Speaking 01

  9. The violence and cause lead to the shooting and protest in Ferguson show people leadership in taking the individual role for a peace and safe society. If each people take a bit of the responsibility and respect to other people then we all can live in a peaceful society.

  10. There certainly needs to be more of a showing from members of the clergy, specifically the catholic church. Not sure why no one in the church has spoken out yet.

    Nino, PS-02

  11. I disagree that the Church needs to remove itself from the protestors and serve as a mediator instead. Rather, I believe the clergy ought to protest alongside the citizens of Ferguson. They should protest peacefully and serve as an example for the citizens of Ferguson. This way, the protestors in Ferguson will learn the benefits of peaceful protests and the violence will be put to an end.

    Shea McCord, Rhodes PS-02

  12. The clergy needs to stay out of protest just like Christ stays natural. I don't think this is much of a problem about Religion but rather Race.

    Jordan S. PS-02

  13. I really don't think that the Ferguson Fiasco has anything to do with Religion. I agree with what Jordan said in the comment above me.

  14. I believe the clergy have a role to play in facilitating the discussion of race through the lens of the teachings of Christ. I do not believe, however, that they should be choosing sides or calling for anything other than compassion for their fellow man, regardless of their personal opinions.

  15. I believe that they clergy should be in the middle of the nonviolent protests. People normally turn to the church in times of turmoil so I feel as though the church should now take a stand with the people.

  16. I believe that they clergy should be in the middle of the nonviolent protests. People normally turn to the church in times of turmoil so I feel as though the church should now take a stand with the people and stand up for justice.

    Cassandra Golden PS-01

  17. I think the clergy has a responsibility to respond and be ACTIVE. Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. realized the importance of clergy, and exercised a socially active faith and used the gospel to promote all humanity. If clergy misses an opportunity such as this to make a statement I am fearful about their ability to gain the trust of the community. DC PS-01

  18. Clergy ought be right in the thicket of things. One of the critiques of the church is that it has a lack of concern for serving the community. So as a consequence, many see the church as being non existent because it's leaders aren't present in such perilous and critical times.

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