Episcopal bishops’ statements on guilty verdicts in killing of George Floyd

Posted Apr 21, 2021

[Episcopal News Service] Former police officer Derek Chauvin was found guilty of murder and manslaughter on April 20 in the May 2020 killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry released this video message before the verdicts. Other Episcopal leaders from across the church issued statements in the hours before and after the reading of the verdicts. The following is a selection of those statements.

Minnesota Bishop Craig Loya

Today’s verdict in the trial of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd will undoubtedly bring a sense of justice, and even relief, to many, many people in Minnesota and around the nation. Our history is full of examples of the legal system’s failure to hold public servants accountable for violence against Black, brown, and Indigenous bodies, so today is an important step in the direction of a more just society.

At the same time, Mr. Floyd’s murder is a symptom of a deep sickness that infects every one of us, and every institution that makes up the fabric of our common life. One verdict, however momentous, will not heal this sickness that lies deep inside us. If we are to be faithful to the call of the gospel, joining the Spirit’s work of healing and liberation must now form a core part of how we spend the rest of our lives. As we move forward together, there are several things to bear in mind about what it means for us as disciples of Jesus to join this work.

First, this work does not happen quickly. Over the last several centuries, racism has so thoroughly informed how we live together in the world that it is programmed into every public and private institution, every education, criminal justice, banking, and housing policy, and indeed, even the very cells that make up our bodies. Every aspect of our life as a nation is engineered to advantage some and disadvantage others based on the race they appear to belong to. It took several centuries for us to reach this moment, dismantling and rebuilding a new future will be work that consumes the rest of all of our lives.

Second, this work must be empowered by the Holy Spirit, and rooted in the transformation of our own hearts. Racism is part of the web of interlocking sin we are all trapped in. In my forty-four years of living, all the pain I have both inflicted and endured has convinced me beyond any doubt that by ourselves, we are incapable of escaping that sin, and that we can only be liberated by the power of God’s almighty love. It will not do for us to say we need action instead of prayer. Regular, intentional, disciplined practices of anchoring my body, mind, and soul to the living God is the only way I have a chance of acting in a way that is faithful. If I act in the world before my own heart has been taken over by the power of God then I have misplaced my faith in my own abilities, and it’s people like me that have made such a mess of things to begin with. This is not about our own good intentions, or noble efforts, or performative wokeness. The healing our world so desperately cries out for can only be done by God, and we can only be on board with what God is doing if we are offering our hearts up for healing moment by moment.

Here in the Episcopal Church in Minnesota, this work will need to start with telling the truth about how our own church has been complicit in building systems, both in and outside of the church, that privilege some at the expense of others based on race. This will ask us to take a fearless moral inventory of how we have functioned, and then begin to discern what we might look like on the other side. Even as I write this, this work is beginning, and as this year unfolds, there will be invitations to our whole diocese to engage with it.

We will also need to join what the Spirit is doing outside the institution of the church. Our society is being invited to reimagine how we understand and approach policing and public safety, how might we imagine new approaches to our lending, housing, employment, and educational policies, and on and on. If we are to be faithful, we as Spirit-soaked disciples of Jesus will need to be fully present to all of that work.

To confess that God is Trinity is to confess that God’s very heart is unity without uniformity, and difference without division, that God’s very heart is a relationship of perfect mutual love, and that Christian life is always about making room inside ourselves for the reality of another, and to be transformed by that encounter into something that is holy, and altogether closer to the heart of God. That is what God in Jesus has done for us, and that’s what we are called to do with, in, and for one another and the world.

The question for us after the trial is: who shall we become? Can we learn to see ourselves, not as people competing for rungs on a ladder, but as members of the crowd pressing in on Jesus, diverse and different and broken, but united by our faith that Jesus alone has the power to heal the sickness inside us, in the assurance that his power, like that of God our mother, is an inexhaustible well of love, of healing, of joy? Can we give up ourselves, and our whole lives, as an offering to that love, until it is gloriously done, on earth as it is in heaven?

Atlanta Bishop Rob Wright

This evening we have learned that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of every charge in the death of George Floyd.

If this is a victory, it is a victory for the role of law in affirming human dignity. If it is a victory, it is a victory for the countless law enforcement officers who embrace accountability and who practice appropriate use of force as they protect and serve without prejudice.

Still, justice requires more than sending one man to prison. Justice requires us to acknowledge and change the fact that Black, Brown, and poor Americans are often treated differently than other Americans, particularly in encounters with law enforcement and the criminal justice system.

So, today’s verdict does not signal the end of our work for equity and justice but rather confirms that to fight for equity and justice is the right fight to be in.

Indianapolis Bishop Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows

Last Sunday, during my visitation at St. Paul’s, Indianapolis, one of the saints in that congregation asked me how I was doing during these long days in which the deaths of Black and brown people at the hands of police are a daily news story. Now that Derek Chauvin has been found guilty on all counts for the murder of George Floyd, I want to tell you how I answered that question.

One day shortly before the trial began, I realized that in the busyness of the last few months, I had let my license plates expire. It put the fear of God into me. As soon as I realized what I had done, I immediately rearranged my day to get to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. On the way, I had to explain to my ten-year-old son why I was shaking as I was driving, and why we had to go right then, urgently, with no delays.

And then, a few days later, fueled by the dread that every Black mother carries in her heart, I talked with my son again. I told him that in just a few years when he learns to drive, he must never, ever, for any reason, let his tags expire, and I told him why. My soul is still in anguish at the need to warn my son against what awaits him in the world.

This trial has been a very personal issue for me, and for many other Black people. I wish it weren’t. I am relieved that Derek Chauvin has been held accountable for the murder of George Floyd. But accountability is not the same thing as justice, and it will not bring George Floyd back to those who loved him.

Tonight, fresh with relief at the verdict, I am aware of my deep longing for true justice, the kind that becomes possible when people like us promise to stand with the vulnerable and marginalized to transform systems of injustice. When we do that, we are committing ourselves to creating a world in which young men can learn to drive without their mothers fearing for their lives. When you dedicate yourselves to this work, you mean that you want your bishop to be able to drive to the BMV without panic, even on expired tags. When we stand together as beacons of Christ, we are saying that we want communities in which the public safety system protects the lives of all of God’s people and in which we no longer need to learn the names of those who have been taken from us by police.

In the days to come, many of you will want to show up and stand in solidarity with our allies. I pray that you do so peacefully, with hearts bent on justice and mercy, and with your eye on the Beloved Community we long to be.

Thank you for your witness, this Eastertide and always.

Washington Bishop Mariann Budde

Editor’s note: Joint statement with Washington National Cathedral Dean Randy Hollerith; the Rev. Leonard Hamlin Sr., the cathedral’s canon missioner and minister of equity and inclusion; and the Rev. Robert Fisher, rector of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square.

While the trauma of George Floyd’s murder remains, today we give thanks that justice has been done.

The facts were never in doubt: former police officer Derek Chauvin held his knee on George Floyd’s neck for over 9 minutes until he died. We saw it with our own eyes.

What we did not know until today was whether our criminal justice system would render justice in a case of a White officer taking the life of a Black man.

We pray for God’s mercy to surround George Floyd’s family and friends as they hold their private grief in the spotlight of an international movement demanding acknowledgement that Black lives matter as much as other lives. To them, and to all for whom there is so rarely justice, we pledge our continued commitment to the work of confronting racism in ourselves, our churches and the nation, including the racism present within policing in this country.

We also pray for all police officers, for their discernment when on duty and for their safety. We pray for those in civic leadership during this time of unrest and racial reckoning, that they will use their authority for the good of all.

George Floyd’s tragic death has prompted a national reckoning on racial injustice, and rightfully so. Because of what the world witnessed, the will and awareness needed to bring change — in our institutions, our culture, our politics and yes, our hearts — is on the rise, and we give thanks to God for this glimmer of light in the shadow of suffering.

Together we will find a way forward toward a more just society and God’s dream for us of beloved community. May God have mercy on us all, and order our steps in the ways of justice and peace.

Los Angeles Bishop John Harvey Taylor

Most of all, may today’s verdict affirming that Derek Chauvin murdered George Floyd enable Mr. Floyd’s family and friends to receive some measure of comfort and peace. I invite all in the Episcopal Diocese of Los Angeles to keep them in our prayers as well as the people of Minneapolis and all who have been victims of racism and oppression.

After Mr. Floyd’s murder in May 2020, tens of millions all over the United States raised their voices in outrage because of this and more instances of unjust police violence against Black people and other people of color. Millions said as one: “Black Lives Matter.” The road to reform will be longer than we might wish, as Daunte Wright’s April 11 killing in Brooklyn Center made so heartbreakingly clear. Yet both in the media and in the courtroom, many representatives of law enforcement deplored former officer Chauvin’s actions. May their witness signal a turning point for our country as we devise models of law enforcement rooted in wholeness, healing, safety, and justice for all.

In our diocese, the Bishop’s Commission on Gospel Justice and Community Safety has taken as its mission to articulate a Christ-centered vision of community safety, assess the relationship between residents and law enforcement in our neighborhoods in all six counties, and advocate for reform locally, regionally, and nationally. Please keep the commission in your prayers tonight during our fifth monthly meeting, and our first with Sister Patricia Sarah Terry as chair, including by using the prayer Presiding Bishop Michael Curry commended to the church this afternoon:

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Vermont Bishop Shannon MacVean-Brown

Thanks to a brave young woman with a cell phone camera, the world saw Derek Chauvin kneeling on George Floyd’s neck until Mr. Floyd died. And yet, when I heard the news that Chauvin had been convicted of murder today, it felt surreal. There have been so many other times when we have watched a Black man, a Black woman, a Black child, suffer and die at the hands of a police officer. And there have been so many times I have allowed myself to believe that the perpetrators would be held accountable. But they never were.

That changed today. I am grateful for that. But I want you to join me in contemplating how strange it is to be thankful that one man was convicted of murdering another. Accountability is essential, yet we must work toward a world in which a man like Derek Chauvin never again thinks it is okay for him to kneel on George Floyd’s neck, a world in which no one will ever think it is right to do such violence to another child of God.

When I spoke to my brother this afternoon about preparing to hear this news, I told him I was feeling numb in the midst of the apprehension. He sent me the link to Nina Simone’s classic song, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free.” “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free,” she sings. “I wish I could break all the chains holdin’ me.” That was what I needed to crack through the numbness.

I am always hopeful, especially during this Easter season, that resurrection is right there around the corner—no matter how distant it might seem. With this verdict, I feel that maybe, finally, we might be able to get on with the racial reckoning that lies ahead of us as a nation. My prayer is that we face into this work and do not turn back. Because it will not be easy, and it will not be quick. But for today, at least, it feels as though progress is possible, and we have taken a first step toward the kind of reconciliation that leads to Beloved Community in which everyone knows how it feels to be free.

My prayers are with the jurors, with George Floyd’s family and with the entire community of the Twin Cities.

Arizona Bishop Jennifer Reddall

Today a jury found ex-Minneapolis Police Department Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of second-degree murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter for killing George Floyd last year.

This verdict fills me with both grief and relief. It cannot give Mr. Floyd back his life. Nor does it completely restore faith in a justice system that has not held many other law enforcement officials accountable for the deaths of men and women of color in their custody. I believe that God desires a world in which my siblings of color no longer need to justly fear their interactions with police; and where police are able to recognize their shared humanity with those they are sworn to protect and serve.

A unanimous jury has agreed that Mr. Floyd’s life did not need to be lost; that excessive violence is not protected by a badge of service; and that Mr. Floyd’s life mattered to each one of those jurors enough to convict Mr. Chauvin. In that, I find some relief.

Texas Bishop Andrew Doyle

Like many of you in the Episcopal Diocese of Texas, in Texas, and across the country we watched and waited for the verdict in the Derek Chauvin Case. In some way the verdict reveals who we are, and gives us a glimpse of who we might hope to become. It also begins to reveal what we believe what is not acceptable force against one another – especially in regards to the police.

The jury decided that George Floyd was unnecessarily killed at the hands of a police officer. We need to ponder that for a moment.

This is not the first trial though nor I fear will it or should it be the last. There have been many others even more recently than George Floyd.

Whom shall we name? Duante Wright, Javier Ambler, Breonna Taylor, Stephon Clark, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Matthew Dean, Jamee Johnson, Botham Shem Jean, E. J. Bradford, Antwon Rose, and Adam Toledo. Who else might we name?

I am mindful that in the first three months of 2021 there were 213 fatal police shootings of people of color. Black people are stopped and killed at a higher rate than any other race or ethnicity.

There is much to grieve, and much work still to be undertaken.

I pray that we will lean towards each other in this moment as a country, state, and diocese. Let us pray for our dead ones, the family, the friends and the losses of fathers, brothers, sons, daughters, mothers, and sisters. Let us lift up the untold burden these deaths have cost families and our society.

The sin of racism is a very real burden for our American society. It is writ large at moments like this. We cannot shy away from reform and our work that remains before us.

Who we are in this moment will in the end speak a new chapter of our life together into being. We must continue to work toward police reform and a rebirth of humanity and compassion for others. Only then, will we no longer have to mourn and protest such senseless acts of violence and hatred.

Although Derek Chauvin was found guilty, there is no reason for celebration. This is still a somber moment. As some say, the service has ended, our service begins. Let our service on behalf of each other begin. Let thy kingdom come and thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

New York Bishop Andrew Dietsche

Editor’s note: Joint statement with Bishop Suffragan Allen Shin and Bishop Assistant Mary Glasspool released before the verdicts. 

We write to you during the hours in which we and all Americans await the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial for the killing of George Floyd. We have been here before. Waiting and watching as juries deliberate is the way in which we as citizens most directly engage the judicial process, and the stakes are always high. In a real sense, every case and every verdict puts our judicial system again to the test, and the issuing of verdicts makes a witness to the quality of justice in America before the whole world. That is manifestly true in this case. The killing of George Floyd precipitated protests across the United States and across the world. The trial of Derek Chauvin is as grave as any we have ever seen. Now we watch to witness and assess the capacity of the American judicial system to meet the need which all people have for justice. African Americans particularly have lived with the long experience of seeing the courts fail them again and again and by those failures devalue their lives and losses. Whatever the verdict, there will be an aftermath.

This case and this verdict matter. What comes now will go to the heart of how we remember and honor the life and the death of George Floyd. But it is our prayer that, whatever verdict comes, we may as a people remain steadfast in our commitment to work for racial justice. Let us pray for the safety of all people in the hours and days to come. In the Diocese of New York, our commitment to racial justice remains absolute. We believe that the charge to care for the poor and oppressed, to proclaim the equality and dignity of all people, and to work tirelessly for the reconciliation of people is at the heart of gospel justice. And we believe that the civil and human rights work of this diocese is inseparable from the Christian faith we embrace and the Lord who calls us into a shared common life. We do not know what will come in the days ahead. Nevertheless we are committed, and we call you, to work for peace, to never return evil for evil, to never flag in our commitment to justice, especially to racial justice, and to honor the life we share as Christians and Episcopalians across our two hundred churches. Whatever comes, let us recommit to our work on reparations for slavery and on anti-racism education, and strive for the justice and peace commended to us by Christ, that we may go forward together, as one people, brave and strong and faithful for the work we have been given to do.

Pittsburgh Bishop Dorsey McConnell

Editor’s note: Statement released before the verdicts.

The trial of Derek Chauvin will likely conclude in the coming days. Whatever the result, we may see a familiar pattern. The verdict will be announced. There will be a public reaction, which will include statements from bishops of the Church. If the verdict is seen to accomplish some measure of justice, there may be muted praise; if not, there will be protest. In any case, there should be lamentation that such a trial needed to be held at all, that deaths of unarmed Black men and other people of color at the hands of police continue to occur with a frequency that shows no sign of abating.

If there is a single word we need to hear in this season of the Resurrection, if there is one essential fact established by the reality of the Empty Tomb, it is this: God does not wait for the world to come to its senses before He acts decisively to establish His Kingdom. The inauguration of His reign of justice does not depend on the decisions of earthly courts. He did not wait for Herod to be replaced, or for Pilate to be recalled to Rome; the Cross and Resurrection did not depend on the hope that some future Caesar might bring about a kinder, gentler, more just empire.

God acted in and through Jesus Christ, and in doing so, God achieved for us absolute victory over sin and death. This is the reality those who believe in Christ now know. This is the Kingdom we call home, even as we continue to dwell in this world.

I do not believe that the historic tragedy of racism in this country will be ended by any verdict in any trial. All I know is that, for Christians, our calling and our work will be the same next Sunday as it was last Sunday: to love, teach and heal.

We will still be called to stand for and with the oppressed and to love the oppressor, to call attention to systemic sin and work to correct the structures that promote it, to critique any manifestation of human supremacy, which always seeks to supplant the supremacy of Christ and Christ’s Kingdom. No matter the verdict, this call and this work do not change.

So, let us not be distracted. Pray for all who continue to mourn the death of George Floyd, and pray as well for the man who killed him. Move more deeply into the world to build bridges with those who have suffered under the burden of racism over generations, and join them in the ongoing work of healing our society from this curse. Help those charged with the enforcement of law in our democracy to become fully what we know, at their best, they can be. And pray constantly that the will of the Father may be done on earth as it is in heaven.

As we continue to walk this road together, let us find our strength and our hope in the power of the risen Christ, who always goes before us.

San Diego Bishop Susan Brown Snook

Nearly a year ago, George Floyd died in Minneapolis, during a prolonged confrontation with a police officer – a death that sparked protest movements across the country. Today, the police officer was found guilty of his murder. It is a verdict that has been awaited with both dread and anticipation, as the events of the past year have recalled the long history of racial injustice and inequality in this country.

We Christians take a baptismal vow to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.” While a verdict may be thought of as one way justice is done, ultimately the work of justice requires all of us working together to ensure that we can build a peaceful and just society. We hope for a world in which people of color do not fear that interactions with police or others will lead to their deaths. We work toward a world in which all people can work, live, and socialize in a world that appreciates their diversity rather than holding certain groups back because their diversity is not appreciated or understood. We pray for a world in which people of all skin tones and ethnic backgrounds can live in justice and peace.

True justice will come as all of us live into our baptismal vow to work toward a peaceful and just society. Such a society will require systemic change, when those of us with historic power and privilege take an honest look at the systems that have held so many back in our country, and take active steps to transform those systems. In our diocese, many of us have started the process that leads toward transformation through programs such as Sacred Ground. The work continues with the Racial Justice Task Force that our Co-Missioners for Peace and Justice, The Rev. Rebecca Dinovo and Deann Rios are helping to create.

This verdict does not bring George Floyd back to life. I invite you to pray for the repose of his soul and for comfort for his family. And I hope you will join me in committing to the work of racial reconciliation, one of the three mission priorities of The Episcopal Church (along with evangelism and care of creation). As Presiding Bishop Michael Curry said in a statement earlier today, “May we not be paralyzed by our pain, our fear, and our anger. May we learn, as the Bible teaches, to ‘love not in word and speech but in truth and in action,’ truth and action that leads to justice and healing.”

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.

New Jersey Bishop William H. Stokes

It appears that justice has been done in the decision of a jury to find former Police Officer Derek Chauvin guilty of all three counts with which he was charged. He is a convicted felon, guilty of the murder of George Floyd. As a nation, we can find some satisfaction that our system worked in this instance. Nonetheless, we must all recognize that we are a long way from having a just society. There is much work still in front of us. The verdict today does not bring George Floyd back to life. His family and community will continue to suffer the deep pain of loss. Moreover, the verdict does not make up for the times, too numerous to count, when justice has not been done for Black and Brown people in this country. Consider Daunte Wright, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Rayshard Brooks, Breonna Taylor, Atatiana Jefferson, Elijah McClain, Tamir Rice. The verdict today does not cleanse this nation of the systemic racism and White Supremacy that is so deeply embedded in our nation’s history and on-going life, a fact which continues to make life miserable and dangerous for a significant portion of our citizenry who suffer from injustice each and every day.

The stated mission of the Church, indeed God’s mission, is “to restore all people to unity with God and one another in Christ” (Book of Common Prayer, p. 855). The jury decision in the Derek Chauvin case offers us a unique opportunity as a church to engage in God’s work of justice and healing. I pray that we will all commit ourselves to this sacred work and pledge ourselves to strive for justice and peace among all people as our baptismal promises command us to do.

O God, you have bound us together in a common life. Help us, in the midst of our struggles for justice and truth, to confront one another without hatred or bitterness, and to work together with mutual forbearance and respect; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Michigan Bishop Bonnie A. Perry

Former police officer Derek Chauvin has been found guilty of murdering Mr. George Floyd.
A moment of justice has occurred: Mr. Floyd’s death has been neither excused nor ignored. Many will welcome this verdict as a long overdue act of official accountability and humanity. Other people may respond to this verdict with lingering questions and concerns. As people of faith we are called to listen to all people and to do exactly as the prophet Micah said: “To do justice, love mercy and to walk humbly with our God.”
To do justice, we too must act. The young woman who took out her phone and filmed Mr. Floyd’s arrest, ensured that the world would have visual evidence of Officer Chauvin’s actions. What actions are we being called to take to create a more just world?
To love mercy, we must listen and learn. To whom are we being called to listen?
To walk humbly with our God, we dare not shy away from the divisive, difficult issues of our day, particularly those that involve systemic racism.
We are the people God is calling to create a more perfect union in our country. Our ministry of reconciling love, our ministry of loving our neighbors as ourselves, our ministry of respecting the dignity of every human being, begins again today.
We have much to do and we have been given many gifts to use. Let us build on this moment of accountability with deep prayer and focused action.
Tonight, I invite your prayers for the community of Minneapolis, for the family members of Mr. Floyd and Mr. Chauvin, and for all who are grieving or feel unheard.
May all of us who feel exhaustion, joy, frustration, anger or even guilt be filled with God’s boundless love. May our hearts be comforted and know that God working through us can do infinitely more than we can ask or imagine and may we experience tonight the peace of Christ which passes all understanding.
On Tuesday, May 25, 2021 at 8:00 p.m., our diocese will gather with dioceses throughout the country for a service of remembrance for Mr. George Floyd. I hope that you will save this time and date. Detailed information will be shared in upcoming days.
As the night falls on Minneapolis, the state of Minnesota and our nation, let us all continue to pray.

Southwestern Virginia Bishop MarkBourlakas

Of the many statements since Derek Chauvin was declared guilty on the multiple counts of the murder of George Floyd, Minnesota AG Keith Ellison’s was one of the more compelling. In his press conference following the guilty verdict, Ellison said, “I would not call today’s verdict “justice” … because justice implies true restoration. But it is accountability, which is the first step towards justice. And now the cause of justice is in your hands. And when I say your hands, I mean the hands of the people of the United States.”

We are, of course, thankful that Derek Chauvin was held accountable for his heinous actions, especially when there has been so little accountability for violent crimes perpetrated against people of color in this country’s history. However, Ellison’s comment that “justice implies true restoration” must be the central focus of our ongoing work as disciples of the Risen Christ. True restoration is about every child of God enjoying the same degree of equality and freedom. And Ellison is right that the cause of justice is in our hands. The painful reality and ongoing experience for far too many is that justice is not a condition that miraculously appears. Chauvin was held accountable because people courageously came together to speak up and witness against an injustice. Only when we put our hearts, minds and hands into consistently striving for true restorative justice will we create the kind of beloved community that God desires for all people.

At the synagogue in Nazareth, Jesus defined the agenda of his mission as he read from the book of the prophet Isaiah:

“The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim release to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord.” (Luke 4:18)

Jesus’ agenda of justice, healing and peace must be the Church’s agenda. Accountability is one of the first steps. Let us pray for God’s Holy Spirit to support, guide and strengthen us for the work ahead.

Maryland Bishop Eugene Taylor Sutton

On Weariness: A Reflection on the George Floyd Trial
by the Right Rev. Eugene Taylor Sutton
For the Gathering of the Clergy & Lay Leaders of the Diocese of Maryland
Wednesday, April 21, 2021 – 10:00 AM

Matthew 11:25-30 – Feast of Anselm of Canterbury

Jesus said, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and the intelligent and have revealed them to infants; yes, Father, for such was your gracious will. All things have been handed over to me by my Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

On May 25, 2020 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, George Floyd, an unemployed black man was arrested on suspicion of passing a counterfeit $20 bill for a pack of cigarettes at a corner market. He panicked, pleaded that he was claustrophobic and struggled with police when they tried to put him in a squad car. They put him on the ground instead. There, a white police officer kneeled on the neck of the handcuffed Floyd, pinning him to the ground while he begged for his life up until his last breath. “They gonna kill me. They gonna kill me, man,” he said when the officers tried to get him into the car.

For the last nine minutes of his life, George Floyd cried out 27 times, “I can’t breathe,” and eventually said, “My neck. I’m through. I’m through.”

“My stomach hurt. My neck hurts. Everything hurts,” Floyd cried out, his face pushed against the pavement. “Give me some water or something, please.”

The policeman was Derek Chauvin, whom Floyd referred to respectfully as “Mr. Officer.” Floyd said to him and to anyone who could help him: “Can’t believe this, man. Mom, love you. Love you.” And his final words were “Tell my kids I love them. I’m dead.” All the while, the officer still pressed his knee on George Floyd’s neck until he died.

Yesterday, a jury convicted Derek Chauvin on three counts of murder. Many were celebrating that verdict as a triumph of justice; but I could not. Although I and perhaps – perhaps – most other Americans were relieved that those jurors trusted what they saw and heard when presented with the evidence, we still could not burst out into an exuberant celebration.

Why? Quite simply, because we’re tired.

When it comes to the killing of unarmed black people by the very ones who are supposed to protect and serve, we’ve been down this road too many times. Out of the thousands of deadly police shootings in the U.S. since 2005, fewer than 140 officers have been charged with murder or manslaughter, according to data found by Prof. Phil Stinson, a criminologist at Bowling Green State University. Before yesterday, only seven were convicted of murder.

We’re tired of black persons being treated as if our lives mattered less. We’ve been down that road too many times, in too many situations to be thought of as isolated incidents, or that somehow these human beings “deserved” their destiny with violent death.

Shall we say their names? How much time do you have? Among the thousands of unarmed black men and women who were killed by the police in the past decade – including dozens since the George Floyd trial began on March 29 – we remember Daunte Wright, Adam Toledo, Ahmaud Arbery, David McAtee, Dreasjon Reed, Michael Ramos, Breonna Taylor, Manuel Ellis, Atatiana Jefferson, Philando Castile, Alton Sterling, Betty “Boo” Jones, Sandra Bland, Walter Scott, Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and here in Baltimore City, Freddie Gray.

Even when the indignities don’t result in death, we’re tired of constantly having to be on our guard against the possibility of unwarranted arrests and incarceration. We weren’t surprised at all when the woman in Central Park in New York City, after being challenged by a male birdwatcher to “follow the rules” of the park and contain her dog, instead called the police and said, “A black man is threatening me in the park.” She knew what she was doing; she knew the code. The phrase “a black man” was the signal that she, a white woman, was in immediate danger, and that the police would come and arrest him, taking her word against his that he should be considered a threat, and thus removed from society. Yes, she, who was shown by the man’s video on his cell phone to be the aggressor in that situation, would be considered innocent, and another black life would end up in jail. Or in the morgue.

We know that we need good policing in our communities. We honor and respect those police officers and other first responders who put their lives on the line every day to serve and protect us. The overwhelming majority of them are good people, and we pray for their safety and the courage to perform their duties for the common good. But we need them also to have the courage to call out and challenge the racist language and practices of the few that mar the good name of the many faithful servants – much like so many did in the George Floyd trial, including the Minneapolis Police Chief and several other officers.

Meanwhile, black and brown people are tired. People of goodwill everywhere, all over the world, of every race and ethnic group who have an ounce of compassion and a sense of justice, are tired of this. We’ve grown weary.

If the George Floyd murder were an isolated incident, we could chalk it up to “it’s just a bad cop, Bishop Sutton. Get over it.” But no, we know the script. We know the pattern in America that’s been woven into the fabric of our society for 400 years. We know the insidious and evil hold that white supremacy has over the minds of all of us – all of us – and it makes us sick. We are just bone tired; most certainly in the black community, and increasingly that’s true for all of us.

Do black lives matter as much as white lives in our nation? You tell me…but before you do, do your homework. Come to that discussion with some evidence that as a good, responsible citizen you’ve actually studied our history, and you’ve come with facts about where we are today in terms of housing, education, the justice system, health care, employment equity and wealth.

Do Asian lives matter as much as white lives in our nation? You tell me, but come with some facts about the levels of bigotry and violence directed against Asians and Pacific Islanders in our land.

Do Latino, Native American, darker-skinned immigrants and refugee lives matter in our nation as much as white lives? You tell me…but speak to me not just how you want it to be, but how it actually is.

In other words, I’m weary of the lies, self-deception and blindness to how life really is for the “least, the last and the left” out in America. I’m 67 years old, and the weariness of still having to convince far too many of my white brothers and sisters that we have a real problem here with implicit bias and blindness to their own white privilege just gets to me sometimes.

So yesterday, although relieved at the verdict in this one case, I could not celebrate. Just as several Floyd family members said last night, I can breathe now more easily, but I cannot dance in free flowing exuberance. Emotionally, I can’t afford the luxury of believing that everything’s going to be alright now, that everyone is “woke”, and that there are only bright days ahead of us. Instead, last night I wept – going to bed fatigued and exhausted.

But this morning, I’m still faced with today’s gospel reading: “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-30)

My friends, if you, like me are just plain tired of it all, then maybe these words of our Lord will find a special place in your souls today. For it’s true: Americans have been carrying a heavy burden of racist ideology and behaviors for far too long. It’s weighing us down. The heaviness of the sin of racism prevents us from fully entering into God’s vision for how we ought to be within ourselves, and with each other. We need to get out from under that yoke; it’s literally making us crazy. We need to learn from Jesus a new way of being; we need some gentleness and humility, we need some rest for our souls.

But to achieve that rest, we need to be willing to take on the yoke that Christ places on us. Most people know that a yoke is that wooden bar or frame by which two animals (such as oxen) are joined at the heads or necks so that they can move together, go forward together, work together.

The yoke that Jesus places on us isn’t burdensome; it’s the allegorical reminder that we can’t do the work we’re given to do alone. It’s easier when we are yoked together.

In many versions of the Bible Jesus calls his yoke “easy”, but that’s an unfortunate translation. It makes it sound like everything’s light and clear-cut, that very little effort or energy is required to do the work. But that’s just not true. The New English Bible’s translation is better, it has Jesus saying “My yoke is good to bear.”

The point is not that the Lord’s yoke asks nothing of us. Rather the point is that it fits, it’s the right size, so it works. It leads to getting the job done without falling down in weariness and exhaustion. It’s good to bear. It leads to life. It’s what led the Diocese of Maryland to do the good hard work of anti-racism, racial reconciliation and reparations for at least the last twenty years. The yoke of Christ enables us to labor together in God’s vineyard to bear the fruit of the Spirit’s harvest: “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Galatians 5:22-23)

So our prayer this day after the George Floyd trial is:

Come, Lord Jesus. Don’t abandon us in this time of our collective weariness. Put your yoke upon our collective shoulders – the yoke of justice, of mercy, of compassion and love for all. Give us the same burden for all our brothers and sisters that you have. Cause us to work together to do the work you’ve given us to do. And then, Lord Jesus, grant us your rest. Amen.

Newark Bishop Carlye J. Hughes

The guilty verdict delivered in the Chauvin trial elicited a range of reactions revealing our complex history and relationship with racism and racial violence. Relief, sadness, exhaustion, triumph, shock, and grief were only some of the responses that intermingled within us and so many other people across the nation.

The decision was a historic act of accountability for the loss of a Black man’s life – something we have seen precious little of through decades of lynching, terror, and brutality. These dangers have been felt so strongly in African American communities that “the talk” has become a normal and necessary part of growing up Black in our country. Important to note that “the talk” is a misnomer and is not limited to one group of people. These conversations start in childhood, continue throughout life, and take place in many communities of color.

As is often the case with complex issues, people with no experience of this danger are surprised to know it exists or deny all evidence of a problem. This year of pandemic has been a year of deep discovery about the pernicious and insidious nature of racism and its impact on the nation, the church, and each of us as faithful Christians. It is this learning that has sharpened our efforts to develop our spiritual lives, to learn our history, and to gather with faithful people to take action. Our work continues.

Even with the sense of deep relief many experienced with this decision, we recognize this was only a start. We have been given a taste of justice. If we want more than a taste, then it will take sustained commitment, tenacious effort, and an abundance of God’s love and healing to become Beloved Community. Holy Scripture and the Book of Common Prayer call us to love our neighbor. This call guides us to a life where all people are loved, valued, respected, safe, and thrive.

Our prayers continue for the Floyd and Chauvin families, for all victims and perpetrators of racial violence, and for Beloved Community to become the realized dream for all of God’s people.

Prayer for the Human Family, BCP p 815

O God, you made us in your own image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Missouri Bishop Deon Johnson

A jury convicted Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin on all charges in the death of George Floyd. Bishop Deon Johnson and Deacon Chester Hines issued these statements after the verdict was read.

There have been many reactions to the verdict in the Derek Chauvin trial; relief, anger, hurt, disappointment, grief. No matter the reactions, no matter the feelings, the lives of two families have been shattered irreparably. There are no winners, because two lives, two families, both precious in God’s sight, have been forever lost and broken.

As people of faith, we look toward justice and not toward vengeance and we know that justice is always companioned with mercy. May God’s infinite mercy surround our nation as we continue to be fractured by division and disunity. We are reminded that we must continue to engage in the ongoing justice-centered work of racial reckoning in our ongoing walk with Jesus.

I invite you therefore to pray for the Floyd and Chauvin families. Pray for peace in our communities, that we may look towards justice and not vengeance. Pray and act for an end to the scourge of racism in our country. Pray that we my live into the ideal of equality and equity for all God’s beloved people.