CLEVELEND (07/20/2016) -- Leaders of the United Church of Christ responded Tuesday to the killing of three police officer in Baton Rouge, LA on July 17. The pastoral letter offers prayers for the victims and families, and calls for churches and communities to become partners in the fight to end violence.
"We must seek to find a way to build peaceful pathways in resolving tensions and conflict to give hope to communities who live on the margins," the letter states.
Here is the complete text of the letter:
Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace. Where there is hatred, let me sow love; where there is injury, pardon; where there is doubt, faith; where there is despair, hope; where there is darkness, light; where there is sadness, joy.
O, Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console; to be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love; For it is in giving that we receive; it is in pardoning that we are pardoned; it is in dying that we are born again to eternal life.
How long, O Lord?
Once again we as a nation are grieving. We mourn the deaths of Officers Montrell Jackson, Matthew Gerald, and Brad Garafola. The men and women whom we ask to put on a uniform and to maintain law and order do so knowing that risk and danger accompany the job. Of late, the risk and danger have escalated and become more present and more threatening. We pray for every one of them, as we now lift up in prayers the families, friends, colleagues, and loved ones of these officers who were killed in the line of duty.
Nothing we say or do will bring back the lives that have been lost of late. As a country we sense the depth of pain that violence has brought to families whose loved ones have died. We pray, of course, but we know that prayer alone is not sufficient for the work that lies ahead. What we say and what we do matters; and we are wondering if there isn't more – much more – to be said and to be done by those of us committed to the Gospel of peace.
We are distressed and haunted by the words of the man who shot and killed these police officers: "We know what it takes. It is only fighting back or money. It's all they care about: revenue and blood."
Silence and empty rhetoric in the face of tragedy and trauma leaves those grieving and fearful with few options. Our speech and our actions must conspire to effect meaningful change. Too many innocent black lives have been taken of late for community and faith leaders to do little more than pray for the victims and show "Black Lives Matter" signs.
We call upon the leaders of the United Church of Christ to participate with other community leaders committed to ending the violence. We must build partnerships that promote meaningful dialogue between law enforcement officers and citizens' rights leaders calling for oversight and accountability when another black body is slain. We must seek to find a way to build peaceful pathways in resolving tensions and conflict to give hope to communities who live on the margins. Without that, a cynicism will prevail that leads someone to say that only blood and revenue will matter.
We hold in prayer the families of the slain officers. Their lives were as precious as were the lives of Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Lorne Ahrens, Michael Krol, Michael J. Smith, Brent Thompson, and Patrick Zamarripa.
How long, O God?
Make us all instruments of your peace, O God. Let our actions and words matter. Let there be peace, and let it begin with us.
The National Officers of the United Church of Christ:
The Rev. John C. Dorhauer, General Minister and President
The Rev. Traci Blackmon, Acting Executive Minister, Justice and Witness Ministries
The Rev. James Moos, Executive Minister, Wider Church Ministries
The Council of Conference Ministers of the United Church of Christ