To everything there is a time and a season. This is a time for anger.
We, ministers of Christian churches in Grand Rapids, call for accountability for the killing of Patrick Lyoya. Black residents of Grand Rapids, and all people of color in this community, need to feel safe. To that end, actions must be taken. We stand with our colleagues in the Black Clergy Coalition, and echo the NAACP, the ACLU, Urban Core Collective, A Glimpse of Africa, and other leaders who represent those most impacted by this incident in the following:
Prophetic voices in our community have been crying out for change in the Grand Rapids Police Department (GRPD) for decades. We hear in these prophetic calls to action the declaration that each person is created in God’s image. We recognize the call of the scriptures to do justice without showing favoritism. And we see the ministry of Jesus, who was and is not only a reconciler of humanity, but is also the coming judge to set things right.
These prophetic voices cried out for change when Black boys were threatened with GRPD guns while walking home from playing basketball at the Kroc Center.
These prophetic voices cried out for change when evidence showed clearly that Black motorists are twice as likely to be pulled over by the GRPD.
These prophetic voices cried out for change when 11-year-old Honestie Hodges had a gun pointed at her, and was then handcuffed by GRPD in her backyard.
These prophetic voices cried out for change when Jilmar Ramos-Gomez, a U.S. citizen who was carrying multiple forms of identification, was given over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement by the GRPD.
The death of Patrick Lyoya has devastated families – most acutely his parents and the many members of the Congolese community and other immigrants from Africa. It has also devastated every person who watched the video of Patrick’s death and understood that blackness itself is considered a threat. Too often it is, itself, a death sentence.
Yes, this is a time for anger. Our anger is appropriate, it is justified, and it is even holy. This anger is rooted in our deep belief in the dignity, the image of God, that dwelled in Patrick Lyoya. It is anger that is rooted in our ongoing belief in the dignity, the image of God, that dwells in Officer Schurr. It is anger that comes from admitting that we have created, accepted, perpetuated a system that trains an officer to discern that his best choice in that moment was to reach for his gun and pull the trigger.
The gospel of Jesus calls us to work against racism. We commit to being agents of change in any system that makes this community less safe for Black and brown people -- for as long as it takes to see change come. We commit to this over the long-term. For the short-term, we join with other organizations in Grand Rapids to call for the five points above. That is how our government can bear witness to the humanity and dignity of Patrick Lyoya.
If you are a Christian pastor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and you would like
to add your name to this statement, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Rev. Katherine Lee Baker (Reformed Church in America)
Bishop Dr. Eric L. Barnes, Sr., Royal Priesthood Ministries Full Life Center
Apostle Dr. Lisa Marie Barnes, Royal Priesthood Ministries Full Life Center
Jay Blankespoor, Boston Square Christian Reformed Church
Joy Bonnema, Madison Church
Rev. Nancy Boote
Rev. Joyce Borger
The Rev. Dr. Christian Brocato, Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church
Benjamin Bruins, Trinity Reformed Church
Rev. Kelly Buist, Calvin Christian Reformed Church
Rev. Sarah VanZetten Bruins, Trinity Reformed Church
Rev. Jerome Burton
Pastor Randy Buursma First CRC
Fr. Mike Cruickshank, Cathedral of Saint Andrew
Rev. Jen Holmes Curran, Sherman Street CRC
Rev. Tony Holmes Curran, Sherman Street Church
Rev. Chris DeBlaay
Rev Cindy de Jong, Neland Ave CRC
Joanna DeMoor-Tannor, Executive Director, Madison Church
Rev Joel DeMoor, Neland Avenue CRC
Pastor Paul DeVries
Rev. Andrea DeWard, Reformed Church in America
Rev. Dr. Royce A. Evans Grand Rapids Theological Seminary of Cornerstone University
Rev. Eula C. Gaddis, DMin
Rev. Eula C. Gaddis, DMin, The Prince of Peace MBC
Willie A. Gholston II, First Community AME Church
Laurie Hartzell, Interim Pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Muskegon
Rev. Tisa Herbert, The EDGE Urban Church
Rev. Rebecca Jordan Heys, Calvin Christian Reformed Church
Rev. Al Heystek, United Church of Christ
Pastor Kenneth W. Hoskins, Alpha Omega Ministries
Pastor James Jones, Oakdale Park Church
Duane Kelderman, Neland Ave Christian Reformed Church
Pastor Brad and Christy Knetsch, Madison Church: Franklin Campus
Rev. Jack Kooreman, Pastor Emeritus Grace Christian Reformed Church
Rev. Dr. Steven Koster, Grace Christian Reformed Church
Rev. Deb Koster, Christian Reformed Church
Matthew Laidlaw, Open Circle
Pastor Kristi Lewis (Madison Church-Square Campus)
Rev. Adam Lipscomb, City Life Church
Rev. Christy Lipscomb, City Life Church
Rev. Deborah J. McCreary, Eastminster Presbyterian Church
Rev. Andrew Mead, Church of the Servant CRC
Rev. Kyle Meyaard-Schaap
Pastor Samuel Moffett
Rev. John Mondi, Pr. African Community Fellowship Church
Al Mulder, CRC Minister Emeritus
Rev. Dr. Julie Nemecek, retired Baptist minister
Rev. Daniel Nguyen, Vietnamese United Methodist Church
Rev. Dr. Mara Joy Norden, The Community Church in Ada, MI
Rev. Ruth Bell Olsson
The Rev. Nurya Love Parish
Rev. Jen Porter, Westminster Presbyterian
Rev. Anna Radcliffe, City Chapel
Rev. Ronald Radcliffe, City Chapel
Rev. Adam Rodeheaver-Van Gelder, First CRC
Tala Sakala - Madison Square CRC Franklin Campus
Rev. Byron O. Salguero
Pastor Amy Schenkel
Pastor Paula Seales, Madison Square Church
Reginald Smith, Director of Diversity, CRCNA
Rev. Stedford Sims, New Beginning Church
Rev. Lynette Sparks, Westminster Presbyterian
Rev. Colleen Squires, All Souls UU
Garrett Stier, City Chapel
Josiah Stryd, Coit Community Church
Chaplain JoAnn Swart
Pastor Peter TeWinkle, Oakdale Park Church
Urban Family Ministries
Rev Elizabeth Vander Hagen, Boston Square Christian Reformed Church
Rod Van Solkema
Rev. Andrew Vanover
Colin P. Watson, Sr., Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church of North America
Rev. Dr. David Wheeler, United Church of Christ, retired
Lori Wiersma, Classis Grand Rapids East Racial Justice team
Pastor Darren C. Williamson, Living Word Ministries
Patrick Lyoya was a 26-year-old refugee from the Democratic Republic of the Congo who had moved to Grand Rapids in about 2015. He was shot and killed by a GRPD officer on the morning of April 4, near the intersection of Griggs and Nelson SE.
There has been very limited information supplied by the GRPD to date. GRPD has said that the initial traffic stop occurred because of a license plate discrepancy. They are saying that after the stop, Patrick Lyoya fled, and a chase and altercation followed. During the altercation, the body camera was dislodged and the officer’s gun discharged, killing Patrick.
There is dashboard camera footage of the event, and this footage has been viewed by the family and by their pastor who also serves as their interpreter. There is also reportedly a cellphone video taken by a witness, whose phone was taken by police. City Manager Mark Washington has said that he anticipates that body-worn camera, in-car video, doorbell camera, and cellphone videos will be released this week.
The family’s account of what appears on the video disputes the GRPD’s version of the events. Patrick’s father, Peter Lyoya said (through his interpreter), “Patrick’s hands were on the back. (The officer) took the gun and put it on the head and they shoot Patrick on the back of the head.” Patrick’s pastor and the family’s interpreter, Israel Siku, who also viewed the video, said at a community forum at Renaissance Church of God in Christ that Patrick was on the ground, the officer had his knees on him, and the officer pulled his gun and shot him the back of his head, killing him.
Grand Rapids Police Chief Eric Winstrom has said the video of the incident will be released by Friday at noon. We don’t know exactly when it will be released. The release of the video will almost certainly bring an outcry, potentially even nationally. The expectation is that there will be continuing demonstrations, of which we as the Grand Rapids Association of Pastors will be a part. Many of you have already been involved in protests and in the community forum on Sunday.
The hope of G-RAP is that area pastors will come alongside and stand with the Lyoya family. The Coalition of Black Pastors has been advocating for justice and should serve as leaders for us during this time. We invite all participants of G-RAP to stand together with them, demanding the release of all information, full transparency and justice for Patrick and his family.
As you hear of opportunities to be engaged, please forward all information to Natalie Hart, the Administrator of G-RAP, who serves in Grace Church. The phone number at Grace is (616) 452-8920. Her email is email@example.com.
We will continue to keep you informed of opportunities to bear public witness to this tragedy and the need for transparency and accountability.
Please be in prayer for our city during what will be very difficult days.