Bishops of the Diocese of North Carolina Respond to Death of George Floyd
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. They acted shamefully, they committed abomination; yet they were not ashamed, they did not know how to blush.
- Jeremiah 6:14
When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked…Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” After he said this, he showed them [the wounds in] his hands and his side…Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” When he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit.
- John 20:19-23a
The Feast of Pentecost is upon us. This would normally be one of the greatest days of celebration in the lives of Christians: the giving of the Holy Spirit for the work of spreading good news. It is often an occasion for parties, festive red altar appointments and soaring kites. It is the initiation into what is called ordinary time in the church calendar.
But where we would normally see red-clad parishioners streaming into church, we sit at home watching video feed stream into our homes. Where we would normally lean forward with anticipation, we sit back in grief and sorrow.
The unjust and indefensible death of George Floyd this week in Minnesota by members of the police department, and the devastating image of George pinned under the knee of one of the officers, even as he begs to be allowed to breathe, is one that has been burned into our consciousness. On the eve of Pentecost, we need to ask, as followers of Jesus, how will we respond. The image shows us not only a horrific and heartbreaking loss of life; it is an embodiment of the sin of systemic racism. The image of a white man who represents and swears to uphold the law of the land with his knee on the neck of an innocent, unarmed black man confronts us with what we have long known in the deepest parts of our ourselves about the evil, entrenched, immoral and death-dealing impact of the racial inequity that has plagued our country for our entire history.
More than ever, we need Jesus to breathe on us the breath of God, for it seems almost impossible to keep breathing the toxicity of indifference to human life that infects the hearts of so many. More than ever, we need the Holy Spirit of Pentecost to set our hearts on fire with a passionate commitment to break this yoke, to dismantle this system, to stand for justice, and to stand with those who suffer and die because of this system. Even in death, George is presente! Ahmaud Aubrey is presente! Brionna Taylor is presente! Thought cruelly denied justice in this life, they are still with us in the greater life of eternity. They are God's beloved, our brothers and sisters, made in God's image, precious and sacred. Their lives and our lives are connected. The gift of the Holy Spirit poured out for all people reminds us that racial injustice and systemic racism are the antithesis of the Pentecost promise.
Breathe on us, Breath of God. Holy Spirit, set our hearts on fire with the promise of a new age, of a new hope, and renewed determination to build the beloved community on this earth, in this land, at this time. Sometimes, to build what is needed, we have to dismantle what gets in the way. Deepen our commitment to dismantling racism, to breaking this yoke of oppression, and to building up one another in love, so that your promise of peace and of justice may live in us and set us free to serve. Lead us and guide us along the way: the way of Jesus, the way of love, and the way to life. AMEN.