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Saturday, December 13, 2014

A PASTORAL LETTER FROM CONCERNED FAITH LEADERS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK

A PASTORAL LETTER FROM CONCERNED FAITH LEADERS IN THE CITY OF NEW YORK

December 8, 2014
Dear Mayor de Blasio, Public Advocate James, Speaker Mark-Viverito, and the City
Council of New York:
We write to you today with heavy, but hopeful hearts. We were shocked, but not
surprised, that the grand jury on Staten Island refused to indict Officer Daniel Pantaleo,
who choked Eric Garner and took his life. The days since have witnessed the outbreak of
a citywide movement for police reform in the streets of our beloved city. We commend
many of you for your public stands in opposition to the Eric Garner decision. We
consider your visible witness as public servants a living testimony that you stand with us
in our pursuit of lasting love and abiding justice in New York City.
As a broad coalition of antiracist spiritual leaders from many faiths, we ask that you be
true to your calling as public servants, continuing to stand on the side of what is moral,
just, and right. Our city is experiencing a moral crisis: the police are not being policed.
They appear to be above the law. Even grand juries seem incapable of holding the police
accountable, indicative of the insidious nature of institutional racism in the New York
City Police Department and in our city. We ask you to join us in calling on New York
State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman to appoint a Special Prosecutor to investigate
and prosecute every excessive force and wrongful death case by police officers, and in
particular, to immediately appoint a Special Prosecutor in the wrongful death of Eric
Garner. We also ask the New York City Council to expedite a draft legislation making
the chokehold illegal, with significant penalties for any officer who uses it.
Eric Garner’s cry for life has become the cry of our beloved city, echoing the cry of a
nation. When one of our own cries out, “I can’t breathe,” we all feel their asphyxiation.
We hear the cry, and we must respond.
We can’t breathe. God can’t breathe.
“When one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice
together” (1 Corinthians 1:26). Whenever one of God’s children is hurting, we all hurt.
When one dies, we all grieve. It is vital that we care courageously and compassionately
for all of God’s children. As the Prophet Muhammad (may peace be upon him) taught, a
person is not truly faithful until he loves for his brother what he loves for his own soul
(Hadith, 288).
We know that something is deeply wrong when people in every socioeconomic class —
from Executive Vice President John Vaughn of Auburn Seminary (“When I close my
eyes maybe it will go away,” Huffington Post, Dec. 3) to people who live in homeless
shelters, or who reside in public housing and brownstones and apartments throughout the
city — raise fears for their black loved ones’ lives simply because they are black. Our
people are not safe, especially our children of color. The persistent pattern of refusing to A Pastoral Letter from Concerned Faith Leaders in the City of New York 2
indict police officers who kill people of color, especially black men, continues to
communicate that the lives of God’s beloved children do not matter. These killings are
breaking the hearts of our children, creating fear and anxiety about their own safety and
future. Our hearts are broken and we refuse to be consoled, like Rachel in Ramah,
weeping for her lost children (Jeremiah 31:15).
We fear not, but walk on to bear prophetic witness to a world of peace and justice, where
we all can live together in love. As faith leaders, we stand united in affirming that all
people are “made in the image of God” (Genesis 1:27), and will continue to put our
bodies and the bodies of our parishioners on the line until our city is safe for our children,
especially children of color. We will fight on until God’s “justice rolls on like a river,
righteousness like a never-failing stream” in New York City (Amos 5:24).
You are our elected representatives in city government. We are grateful for your public
leadership and your commitment to care for all New Yorkers. We care about what you
are going through now, with multiple constituencies and diverse points of view pounding
down your doors. We urge you to look higher and deeper at what really matters and see
how crucial it is that we have peace in our hearts, hearths, and streets. That peace is now
obstructed by the abuse of police power.
The lack of accountability within the New York Police Department is not just a moral
problem, but a spiritual problem. Since September 11, 2001, we have witnessed a pattern
in the consolidation of power within the New York Police Department with officers using
excessive force. The abuse of might and force are in deep conflict with our faith
traditions’ calls to love and justice. The Hebrew prophet Zechariah writes, “Not by might
or power … but by the Spirit of the Living God” (Zechariah 4:6). God’s Spirit is marked
by justice, love, and peace.
In contrast to militarized violence, our faith traditions call us to nonviolent love. We are
empowered to serve others, not to abuse our human power in destructive ways, including
taking a fellow human’s life. We urge you to see the gravity of our current moral crisis
and join us in healing our broken hearts and our broken system. We urge you to restore
peace to our community by reforming the New York Police Department.
Let us strengthen the bonds of our shared humanity among citizens and police officers, so
that we may live free with mutual respect and abiding trust. May this moral crisis become
a window of opportunity, for us to stand together in just policing policies that will bring
healing and hope to our city, state, and world.
In the spirit of Mahatma Gandhi, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, Dorothy Day, Ana
Karim, Fannie Lou Hamer, Malcolm X, and The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we as
faith leaders in New York City are committed to the path of nonviolent love that is
spiritually deep and politically wise with an abiding faith that the universe is on the side
of justice, and that, in the end, love will triumph over evil. A Pastoral Letter from Concerned Faith Leaders in the City of New York 3
Signators:
The Rev. Dr. Peter Heltzel, Assistant Pastor of Evangelism, Park Avenue Christian
Church
The Rev. Dr. Donna Schaper, Senior Minister, Judson Memorial Church
The Rev. Jacqueline J. Lewis, Ph.D. Senior Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
The Rev. Dr. Amy K. Butler, Senior Minister, The Riverside Church in the City of New
York
The Rev. Dr. Serene Jones, President, Union Theological Seminary in the City of New
York
Frederick A. Davie, M.Div., Executive Vice-President, Union Theological Seminary in
the City of New York
The Rev. Dr. Katharine R. Henderson, President, Auburn Theological Seminary
Macky Alston, M.Div., Vice President for Media and Engagement, Auburn Theological
Seminary
Lisa Anderson, Senior Director of Intersectional Engagement & Strategic Convening,
Auburn Theological Seminary
The Rev. Dr. John P. Vaughn, Executive Vice President, Auburn Theological Seminary
Jeffry Mummert, Chair, The Collegiate Churches of New York
The Rev. Adriene J. Thorne, Executive Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
Chad Tanaka Pack, Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
James Kast-Keat, M.Div. Associate Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
Alisa Joyce, M.Div. Associate Minister, Middle Collegiate Church
The Rev. Michael Bos, Senior Minister, West End Collegiate Church
The Rev. Dr. Mark Francisco Bozzuti-Jones, Priest for Pastoral Care and Staff/Vestry
Chaplain, Trinity Wall Street
Janet Walton, SNJM, Professor of Worship, Union Theological Seminary
The Rev. Dr. Dale T. Irvin, President and Professor of World Christianity, New York
Theological Seminary
Rev. Susan Sparks, Senior Pastor, Madison Avenue Baptist Church
The Rev. Dr. Gary V. Simpson, Senior Minister, The Concord Baptist Church or Christ
The Rev. Emma Jordan-Simpson, Executive Pastor, The Concord Baptist Church of
Christ
Hussein Rashid, Ph.D., Itinerant Preacher (Islam)
The Rev. Michael E. Livingston, Executive Minister, The Riverside Church in the City of
New York
The Rev. John Janka, Interim Minister of Membership, Care, and Pastoral Care, The
Riverside Church in the City of New York
P. Kimberleigh Jordan, Ph.D., Ford Postdoctoral Fellow, Union Theological SeminaryA Pastoral Letter from Concerned Faith Leaders in the City of New York 4
Reverend Lorena M. Parrish, Ph.D.
Reverend David R. Gaewski, Conference Minister, New York Conference, United
Church of Christ
Rev. Stephen H. Phelps, Member, New York City Presbytery
Rev. Robert Chase, Founding Director, Intersections International
Isaac Luria, Vice President, Auburn Action, Auburn Theological Seminary
Reverend Khader El-Yateem, Salam Arabic Lutheran Church, Brooklyn, NY
Dr. Ahmad Jaber, President, Islamic Mission of America, Brooklyn, NY
Imam Khalid Latif, Islamic Center at New York University.
Father Juan Carlos Ruiz, New Sanctuary Movement
The Rev. Rubén Austria, Community Connections for Youth
The Rev. Dr. Robert L. Brashear, Pastor, West-Park Presbyterian Church Faculty,
Newark School of Theology
Pastor Elise Brown, Advent Lutheran Church
The Rev. Alistair Drummond, West End Presbyterian Church
Rabbi Michael E. Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater New York Labor-Religion
Coalition
The Rev. Stephen Holton, STM Christ's Church, Rye, NY
The Rev. Julie Johnson Staples, Interim Minister for Education, The Riverside Church in
the City of New York
The Rev. Dr. K. Karpen, Church of St Paul and St Andrew United Methodist
The Rev. Dr. William Lupfer Rector-Elect, Trinity Wall Street
Pastor Heidi Neumark, Trinity Lutheran Church of Manhattan
Linda Sarsour, Executive Director, Arab American Association of New York
Minister Richard Price, Harlem Church of Christ
Senior Minister Dr. O. J. Shabazz, Harlem Church of Christ
Rev. Wayne R. Christiansen, All Souls Bethlehem Church, Brooklyn, NY (UU, UCC and
DOC)
Rev. David H. Rommereim, Lutheran Church of the Good Shepherd, Dean of South West
Conference Brooklyn Co-Vice President Faith in New York
Rev. Patrick Williams of St. Philip’s Church (Harlem).
Imam Al-Hajj Talib 'Abdur-Rashid President, on behalf of the Constituent Imams &
Members, The Islamic Leadership Council of Metropolitan NY
Rev. Keith Johnson, St. Philips Episcopal Church, Harlem
The Reverend Lisa D. Jenkins, Senior Pastor, St. Matthew’s Baptist Church of Harlem,
Faith-based Liaison, Manhattan Community Board 10A Pastoral Letter from Concerned Faith Leaders in the City of New York 5
The Rev. Dr. Carl L. Washington, Pastor, New Mt. Zion Baptist Church, Harlem;
Moderator, United Missionary Baptist Association
The Rev. Dr. Fred Burrell, Sr. Pastor, Fellowship Baptist Church, Bronx, New York
The Rev. Dionne P. Boissière, Chaplain of the Church Center for the United Nations
The Rev. Deborah D. Jenkins, Pastor, Faith @ Work Christian Church, Bronx, NY
The Rev. Lerone Crawford, Day Spring Baptist Church, New York, NY
Rev. James A. Kilgore, Pastor, Friendship Baptist Church, New York, NY
Rev. Dr. Cheryl Anthony, Senior Pastor, Judah International Christian Center. Women of
Faith Advocating Change, Brooklyn, NY
The Rev. Dr. Dale T. Irvin, President, New York Theological Seminary
Father Jim Sheehan, Roman Catholic Chaplain, Hostos Community College
Rev. Leon Blunt Jr., Senior Pastor, Mt. Zion Church of Christ Disciples
The Reverend Canon Terence Alexander Lee, Rector, St. Gabriel's Episcopal Church,
Hollis, NY
The Reverend Violet L. D. Lee, Ph.D., Executive Director, The Sister Fund
Rev. Dr. Glenmore Bembry, Jr., Senior Pastor, Trinity Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
The Rev. Martha Overall, Priest of St. Ann's Church of Morrisania, Bronx, NY
Rev. Dr. Robert M Waterman, Pastor of the Antioch Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY;
President of the African American Clergy and Elected Officials Organization
Rev. Earl Jones Sr., Pastor, First Calvary Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Pastors Sharlene and Divine Pryor, Greater Works Deliverance Church Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Anthony L. Trufant, Senior Pastor, Emmanuel Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Valerie Cousin, Executive Minister, Bridge Street AME Church, Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Conrad B. Tillard Sr., Th.M., Senior Minister, Nazarene Congregational United
Church of Christ, Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Dr. Mariah Britton, Interim Pastor Devoe Street Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Clinton Miller, Brown Memorial Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Pastor Lawrence E. Aker III, Cornerstone Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Sharon E. Williams, Baptist Church of the Redeemer, Brooklyn, NY
Rev. Shaun J. Lee, Senior Pastor, Mount Lebanon Baptist Church, Brooklyn, NY
The Rev. Chloe Breyer, Executive Director, Interfaith Center of New York, Associate
Priest, St. Philip’s Episcopal Church
Aisha Al Adawiya, Founder & Board President, Women In Islam, Inc.
Micah Bucey, Community Minister of the Arts, Judson Memorial Church
Rev. Dr. Brad R. Braxton, The Open Church, Baltimore, MD.
Dr. Cari Jackson, Center of Spiritual LightA Pastoral Letter from Concerned Faith Leaders in the City of New York 6
The Rev. Dr. Tony Baker, Sr. Pastor, St. Philips Baptist Church, Staten Island
The Reverend Patricia A. Morris, Pastor, The New Springfield Missionary Baptist
Church of Harlem
The Reverend Roderick T. Merritt, Pastor, Tried Stone Baptist Church, Bronx, NY
The Reverend Jeffery S. Thompson, Senior Pastor, Amity Baptist Church, Jamaica, NY
Rev. Dr. Michael Carrion, Senior Pastor ECC National Latino Evangelical Coalition
Fr. James Francis Sheehan, Jr. Catholic Archdiocese of NY
Elder Doris, Gospel of St. Luke Church in the Bronx
Gilford T. Monrose, Pastor, Mt. Zion Church of God (7th Day)
Rabbi Rachel Kahn-Troster, Director of Programs, T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human
Rights
Reverend Freeman L. Palmer, Associate Conference Minister, New York Conference,
United Church of Christ
Bishop Orlando Findlayter, Senior Pastor, New Hope Christian Fellowship; Chairman,
Churches United to Save and Heal (CUSH); Chairman, New Hope Academy Charter
School
The Rev. Mary Anne Glover, Regional Minister, Christian Church (Disciples of Christ)
Northeastern Region
Rabbi Michael Feinberg, Executive Director, Greater New York Labor-Religion
Coalition
Reverend Dr. Alvin O’Neal Jackson, Senior Pastor Park Avenue Christian Church
(Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) and the United Church of Christ)
Rev. Dr. Adolphus Lacey, Senior Pastor, Bethany Baptist Church
Rev. Mike Warlrond, Jr., Senior Pastor, First Corinthian Baptist Church
Rev. Dr. Ray Rivera President and CEO Latino Pastoral Action Center
Onleilove Alston, M.Div., MSW, Interim Executive Director Faith in New York (A
PICO Partner)
Rabbi Justus Baird, Dean, Auburn Theological Seminary
The Rev. Dr. Christian Scharen, Vice-President, Applied Research, Auburn Theological
Seminary
The Rev. J. C. Austin, Vice-President for Christian Leadership Formation, Auburn
Theological Seminary
Rev. Dr. Martha R. Jacobs, BCC
Rev. Luis Alfredo-Cartegena, Associate Pastor of Outreach, Park Avenue Christian
Church
The Rev. Dr. Mary Foulke, Rector, St. Mary's Episcopal Church, Harlem

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