Commission on Social Action of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Commission Chair, Mrs. Jackie DuPont Walker, Director, Consultant
and Mrs. Ora L. Easley is the Administrator of The Clergy Family Information Center.
AME CHURCH RESPONSE TO PRESIDENT OBAMA'S MESSAGE
The Social Action Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Thank you President Obama. As we sit across this nation listening to you, we have never felt closer to the work that you are engaged in, because we are on this journey together. Your commitment to take action to help make our communities safer by stopping gun violence is a welcomed trek and the African Methodist Episcopal Church is ready to go forward with you.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church is no stranger to the impact of gun violence, not the least of which is the most recent massacre at Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina where 9 innocent lives were snuffed out and hundreds of thousands of people around the globe still shudder when thinking about that senseless and tragic loss. While we continue to struggle with the “open sore” of racism, we can surely craft corrective courses and take away some of the tools that have been and are being used to carry out senseless acts of violence.
Keeping guns out the wrong hands through background checks is one of those steps. If an effective background system had been in place, the Mother Emanuel shooter very likely would not have been issued a gun. As you noted, we are no stranger to check-points; so background checks would serve that purpose for those who want to “bear arms.”
As we reflect on the value of further screening and the accounts of family and friends of the racial hatred characterized the Emanuel shooter’s vocabulary, an effective mental health system may have provided some preventive care or early intervention. When a person with a troubled mind who believes that (s)he has a mandate to destroy people can easily and legally purchase or obtain guns to destroy that race, gender or group, it seems that, by omission, we are issuing a permit to kill. Early intervention and diagnosis can help break the cycle of killing by gun power.
All of us must become engaged to create and maintain safe communities. Acquiring more guns is not the solution nor should we fuel a destructive economy, which creates weapons of human destruction that can be carelessly used to kill innocent people.
Today, you have given new and invigorating definition to statesmanship and selfless leadership. Misguided and selfish persons who benefit from the sale of guns must be brought along on this journey and the faith community is obligated to play a role in that conversion effort.
The AME Church pledges to do what it is called to do – speak truth in far and remote places, carry the good news, and incentivize changing of lives and minds. We will also educate the “true” intent of the “right to bear arms,” which has been twisted by those with a motive of greed.
Recognizing that the journey must also include the elected leadership in the United States Senate and the United States House of Representatives, the African Methodist Episcopal Church also pledges to speak truth to our elected servants and show boldness at the polls. Let’s get going! Our moral outrage and action must be palpable, visible, and unstoppable. As Richard Allen said, “The Lord was pleased to strengthen us, and remove all fear from us, and disposed our hearts to be as useful as possible.” With God, and together; we will prevail!
The Social Action Commission of the African Methodist Episcopal Church
Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, Chairperson
Jacquelyn Dupont-Walker, Director/Consultan
Baltimore Summit at Bethel A.M.E. hosted by Rev. Dr. Frank M. Reid, III with Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Bishop William Phillips DeVeaux, Sr., Presiding Prelate, and other Baltimore A.M.E ministers, Presiding Elders Montague and Hunter and other religious leaders to help resolve the unrest in Baltimore as a result of the untimely death of Freddie Gray.
Rest in Peace, Freddie Gray. We Are Praying for Justice.
The Social Action Commission commends and expresses how proud we are of AME ministers in Baltimore and vicinity for the leadership and ministry they have provided in the midst of the struggle now going on in the City of Baltimore. Dr. Jamal Bryant and Dr. Frank Reid III, in particular have demonstrated strong and decisive leadership which has kept a dangerous situation from getting completely out of control, and has led many of the people in Baltimore to turn despair and anger into opportunity and hope. We as AME's need to be proud of the manner in which AME ministers and church members rose to the occasion and met the challenge placed before them.
In fact, we should be encouraged by the leadership and example of faith leaders and their congregations for the manner in which they have organized and impacted the people and situation in Baltimore. Ministers mobilized congregations to shelter, feed and meet the needs of the people. Black men, Christians, Muslims and others stood between angry youth and police, kept others from committing acts which could lead them to be arrested or be injured, and miraculously, forged a partnership between the faith community and gang members to prevent violence, bloodshed and death. We saw in Baltimore this week, the church at its best and God is glorified because of it.
The Social Action Commission calls for several actions to take place; so that justice can be done, and needed actions taken, not only in Baltimore but across the nation.
1. We not only call, but demand that the Baltimore Police Department release to the family of Freddie Gray and the public, why he was arrested in the first place. This information should have been given to Mr. Gray's family when he was hospitalized. It has now been more than 10 days since his arrest and this information has not been released. This has nothing to do with the autopsy, how he was injured, and possible charges against police or anything else pertaining to investigations. The Baltimore Police Department has no credible reason not to tell the Gray family why their beloved son was arrested.
2. The Social Action Commission calls for the investigatory report of the Baltimore Police provided to the State's Attorney in Maryland to be made public as soon as possible, and for the State Attorney to decide whether police will be charged in the Freddie Gray case, as soon as possible.The situation in Baltimore and across the nation will only be aggravated as long as this case is dragged out, and there remain more questions than answers.
3. We call upon our political leaders and others, to cease from referring to our young people, even those who destroy property and do violence as "thugs" and similar adjectives. While we do not condone their actions and insist that they refrain immediately, they are the product of their environment and circumstances in which they live, and unless and until we do something to improve their environment and circumstances their behavior will not change. If we do not refer to those in law enforcement who abuse, injure and kill as thugs, we should not refer to our young people in this manner.
4. As we prepare for the 2016 elections we call upon, and must insist that candidates for each President, governor, US Senate and US Representative be prepared to offer and explain his/her position and policy proposals regarding our cities, education, reform of the criminal justice system, drug laws, and a host of other related issues. What is happening in Baltimore is about more than Freddie Gray, it is about racism, poor education, lack of jobs, hopelessness, despair and anger. We have not had an agenda for our cities and the elimination of poverty since the Great Society under President Lyndon Johnson. We must insist that the cities and the poor are a part of the debate during the 2016 elections. Candidates will not do it voluntarily; we must shape the dialogue.
The Social Action Commission ask all of our churches, as we gather this Sunday, to lift up Baltimore and our nation in prayer, and to take steps locally and regionally to address poverty, injustice. We are a people who believe in divine intervention, so let us proclaim that God's will be done.