Bishops' June 1 statement on violence and sin of racism

The bishops of the Episcopal Diocese of Massachusetts issued on June 1, 2020, the following statement to the diocesan community.

June 1, 2020

Dear People of the Diocese of Massachusetts,

Yesterday afternoon we stood in Boston with other religious leaders as “Clergy United in Prayer, Protest, Peace, and Justice.” Sponsored by the Black Ministerial Alliance and the Massachusetts Council of Churches, the demonstration’s speakers called “for the swift prosecution of those perpetuating violence on black bodies and killing; for justice in our nation and in our neighborhoods, in…a pandemic that exposes the massive injustice of unequal access to basic physical and mental health care which communities of color have had to endure.”

The demonstration included prayer for the dead, and for the living, “for the broken-hearted and those losing hope.” In devastating wordlessness, we held silence for 8 minutes and 46 seconds – the length of time it took to snuff out the life of George Floyd with a knee to his neck.

That afternoon protest was peaceful, as were several other large demonstrations throughout the day. When night fell, however, the protests turned violent, with significant destruction to property in the area surrounding our Cathedral Church of St. Paul.

We decry every manifestation of violence. This includes the destructive violence which followed peaceful protests in Boston this weekend. If we experience these events as extraordinary, however, we must recognize that acts of violence done to black and brown bodies are anything but. The recent, appalling deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery are but the latest in our nation’s 400-year history of violence against people of color, manifestations of our sin of racism and the culture of unexamined white supremacy. Until we understand and acknowledge all of these forms of violence as integrally connected, we can never hope to make our prayers for peace anything more than wishful thinking.

We commend to you Dean Amy McCreath’s letter earlier today [available here] reporting effects of last night’s violence surrounding our cathedral, and reflecting upon ways to respond.

We commend to you also yesterday’s essay in The Washington Post [available here] by our presiding bishop, the Most Rev. Michael B. Curry, who issues this call:

“I see us channeling our holy rage into concrete, productive and powerful action …. Love looks like making the long-term commitment to racial healing, justice and truth-telling – knowing that, without intentional, ongoing intervention on the part of every person of good will, America will cling to its original, racist ways of being. … Now is the time for all of us to show – in our words, our actions, and our lives – what love really looks like.”

Faithfully yours,

The Rt. Rev. Alan M. Gates
The Rt. Rev. Gayle E. Harris