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
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Rev. Katherine Lee Baker (Reformed Church in America)
Jay Blankespoor, Boston Square Christian Reformed Church
Joy Bonnema, Madison Church
Rev. Joyce Borger
The Rev. Dr. Christian Brocato, Rector of St. Mark's Episcopal Church, Grand Rapids, MI
Benjamin Bruins, Trinity 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. Tony Holmes Curran, Sherman Street Church
Rev Cindy de Jong, Neland Ave CRC
Joanna DeMoor-Tannor, Executive Director, Madison Church
Rev Joel DeMoor, Neland Avenue CRC
Rev. Eula C. Gaddis, DMin
Rev. Eula C. Gaddis, DMin, The Prince of Peace MBC
Rev. Rebecca Jordan Heys, Calvin Christian Reformed Church
Pastor Kristi Lewis (Madison Church-Square Campus)
Pastor James Jones, Oakdale Park Church
Rev. Jack Kooreman, Pastor Emeritus Grace Christian Reformed Church
Pastor Brad and Christy Knetsch, Madison Church: Franklin 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
Al Mulder, CRC Minister Emeritus
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
Pastor Amy Schenkel
Pastor Paula Seales, Madison Square Church
Rev. Stedford Sims, New Beginning Church
Rev. Colleen Squires, All Souls UU
Garrett Stier, City Chapel
Chaplain JoAnn Swart
Pastor Peter TeWinkle, Oakdale Park Church
Urban Family Ministries
Rev Elizabeth Vander Hagen, Boston Square Christian Reformed Church
Rod Van Solkema
Colin P. Watson, Sr., Executive Director of the Christian Reformed Church of North America
Lori Wiersma, Classis Grand Rapids East Racial Justice team