The Reverend Robina M. Winbush, President
Ms. Jacqueline Dupont Walker, Vice President
The Reverend Dr. Jean Hawxhurst, Secretary
The Reverend Dr. Robert Welsh, Treasurer
July 17, 2013
A Statement on the George Zimmerman Verdict in the Killing of Trayvon Martin
Last March, we joined with other faith leaders and ecumenical and civil organizations calling for an investigation into the killing of the unarmed African American adolescent Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman. We raised the issue of racial profiling of African American male children and the presumption of criminality of black and brown people. We challenged the so-called “stand-your-ground” laws that allowed Trayvon to be killed.
Sixteen months later, a jury has declared Trayvon’s killer “not guilty.” We suspect that the range of emotions and perspectives in the member churches of CUIC reflect the range of emotions and feelings in the nation at large. Many individuals are struggling with the unanswered questions of accountability for an unarmed child being profiled, followed and killed. Many individuals are remembering historical realities of black people being killed and no one being held accountable. Many individuals are wrestling with what to say to black and brown children about expectations of walking freely in America. Many individuals are wondering how to fix a broken criminal justice system. Also, there are individuals within the CUIC congregations who are frustrated with the continued focus on race and what has been described as the “racial targeting” of George Zimmerman. Further, there are those within our congregations whose fear of black and brown male children is insurmountable. There are those who will say that this case has nothing to do with race. There are those who will say that the Church needs to stick to the business of saving souls and leave justice and social issues to the courts. Then, there are those who will argue that the justice system has worked, and we need to “move on.”
How do we move on, and how do we move on together?
We return to Sybrina Fulton and Tracy Martin and offer our deepest sorrow in the unnecessary death of their son and the failure of the U.S. justice system to hold the man who killed Trayvon accountable. We are also deeply pained by the negative portrayal of their son by the defense team and some of the public media. We thank them for their grace and strength and for defining through their actions what it means to publically bear their grief, to seek justice for their son, and to hold steadfast to an unfailing faith in God. We acknowledge that no parents should have to endure the suffering inflicted upon them; while acknowledging that their grace has been a priceless gift to this country. We to continue to hold them and other members of Trayvon’s family in our prayers and unite with them to continue to work for an end to gun violence and to build a world in which all children can reach their full potential without assumptions of their criminality.
We find wisdom in the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Then you will call, and the Lord will answer; You will cry, and He will say, 'Here I am.' If you remove the yoke from your midst, The pointing of the finger, and speaking wickedness, And if you give yourself to the hungry, And satisfy the desire of the afflicted, Then your light will rise in darkness, And your gloom will become like midday. And the Lord will continually guide you, And satisfy your desire in scorched places, And give strength to your bones; And you will be like a watered garden, And like a spring of water whose waters do not fail. And those from among you will rebuild the ancient ruins; You will raise up the age-old foundations; And you will be called the repairer of the breach, The restorer of the streets in which to dwell." (Isaiah. 58:9-12 NRSV)).
So we return to our congregations and to all people of faith and goodwill. This remains a teachable moment. It is another opportunity to work together to understand the full implications of the racial divide and legacy of racism in this country and in our churches. It is another opportunity to explore together the privileges that some enjoy by virtue of their race and the burdens that others bear by virtue of their race. It is another opportunity to explore the United States criminal justice system and the different ways it impacts our communities. In humility, we invite the Body of Christ to join in serious self-examination about how our communities have failed to build the “beloved community.” We invite you to join with congregations across racial lines in your local community to study the issues before us, understand different viewpoints and to strategize together for corrective actions. We invite our congregations to work for the overturning of laws that perpetuate and legitimize gun violence. Finally, we invite our congregations to join in the appeal for the Department of Justice’s continued investigation into this killing and the possible civil rights violation of Trayvon Martin.
We return to our children. We confess that we have failed to create a world in which they can grow up without fear of being killed by gun violence. We confess that we have failed to do the necessary work to build a nation in which black and brown children do not have to grow up under the cloud of suspicion and criminality because of the color of their skin. We confess that we have failed to build a society that reflects the highest principles of the “Reign of God” in which every person is deemed worthy and valuable. We acknowledge that we need their wisdom, insights, perspectives to change the course of this country and our world. We need their truth telling about their realities. We commit to keep working by the grace of God until we create a world worthy of their precious lives. We remind them that in the midst of our failures, we love them beyond words and will not give up this struggle.
Yes, this is a difficult time in our country and our churches. However, our confidence remains in the liberating and transforming power of Jesus the Christ, who calls us to be “light of the world” and commissioned us with the Holy Spirit to be witnesses to this transforming power. We seek and are dependent upon God’s grace as we give witness to this transformation and work for a new reality in our cities, country and world.
Many of the Churches within CUIC have struggled to speak to this tragedy. The links to these statements are below:
African Methodist Episcopal Church:
Disciples of Christ:
Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.):
United Church of Christ:
United Methodist Church:
In Search of Justice and Unity,
The Reverend Robina Marie Winbush, President
on behalf of the Coordinating Council of Churches Uniting in Christ
Churches Uniting in Christ, P.O. Box 6496, Louisville, KY 40206