A Pastoral Letter to the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area

In the aftermath of yet another week of horrific violence in our country, and so painfully right here in Minnesota, we speak out of a human spirit overwhelmed with anger, grief, frustration, and despair. The shocking video images of the shooting death of Philando Castile, and the roiling protests that have followed, compel us in common voice to cry out for comfort, for equality, for justice.

Words cannot express our deep sorrow, and yet we pray this day, as we have this whole week, for the family of Philando Castile, that they may know our God’s deep and abiding presence, and for the many others deeply grieved by these events. We pray for our community: amidst its deep divides and fractured relationships, amidst the fear and anger especially of our black community, give us words of comfort and challenge that we might both speak and hear. And we pray for, and stand with, the whole human family. The death of two more young black males in encounters with police officers this week has yet again painfully reminded us how much work we still have to do in our nation and in our communities; and how our responses must include but go well beyond the statements and prayers of the church.

The subsequent deaths of five police officers in Dallas have layered grief upon grief. We pray for each family affected there in their profound loss and grief. In doing so, we are reminded of the honorable service of the great majority of these public servants and the destructive cycle of violence and retribution, and we pray for the resolve of all in public service to work for the common good and for justice.

We challenge ourselves, the churches and people of the Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area, to enter into this present moment with both humility and boldness. Give us courage to speak our belief that every person is created in the image of God, even as we confess our denial of that very belief in the sin of institutional racism. Give us courage to speak our belief that “Christ’s work of reconciliation is made manifest in the church,” knowing that, too often, we have allowed our ideological differences to become more important than our unity in the One Body. Give us courage to proclaim Christ’s words, “that they may all be one,” knowing the essential need for all Christians of privilege seek deeper understanding when our brothers and sisters cry out for justice. In all the places we live and stand, give us the knowledge and courage to speak on behalf of those who are denied justice, whether for the color of their skin or the color of their uniform or, as we still grieve the Orlando shootings, their sexual orientation. Help us to support the difficult work of those in law enforcement and at the same time actively call for justice and accountability. Make us intentional in building new or deeper relationships, both within our PTCA community and with our African-American brothers and sisters more widely, as together we seek new ways to partner in work for a just society. Give us courage, in all that we do, to be not simply speakers of peace, but peacemakers.

In making these commitments, we echo the words of the co-moderators of the Presbyterian Church USA, Denise Anderson and Jan Edmiston:

“It is never easy when we are so profoundly confronted with the world’s brokenness. Our pastoral wish for you is that you care for someone today. Check on a loved one or colleague for whom these events are particularly personal and painful. Limit your own access to distressing images, if necessary for your health. Provide space for lament in your congregations and worshiping communities. Seek ways to live into the visible unity of Christ’s church, as our newest confession—the Confession of Belhar—calls us to do. Today especially, our communities need to find respite and healing. May they find it in the body of Jesus Christ. We continue to pray and work for peace in our own contexts, trusting in God’s strength amid our own weakness and resting in the hope that the God who calls us to peacemaking will give us what we need to accomplish that end.”

We offer these words and prayers in the name of our faithful Savior, Jesus Christ. God, have mercy upon us. Christ, have mercy upon us. God, have mercy upon us.

The Presbytery of the Twin Cities Area

Sue Rutford, moderator

TJ Parlette, vice-moderator

Denise Dunbar-Perkins, chair, Presbytery Leadership Team

Paula Sanders, chair, Committee on Representation

Jeff Japinga, transitional executive presbyter