An inclusive, justice-seeking church

Reflection on Charlottesville, VA

Dear NYAPC,

We write to you to reaffirm our longstanding commitment to fighting racism, to decry the events of August 11 and 12 in Charlottesville, and to fully condemn Neo-Nazi white supremacy and racism.

For years, The New York Avenue Presbyterian Church has sought to understand the roots of racism and the ideology of whiteness while working to engage in the work of racial reconciliation.  Most recently, we heard from theologian Kelly Brown Douglas who bore compelling witness to how “the crucified Jesus is completely identified with the Trayvon Martin’s of our world.” It is through the violence of the cross that God bears all of the world’s suffering, for in Jesus Christ, God took on human form, and took on all of the violence and hatred that the world has to offer in order to break its power once and for all. Throughout his ministry, Jesus embraced the oppressed and the most vulnerable.  In today’s world, we believe that Jesus Christ is identified with Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown, Sandra Bland, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, and so many more killed for no other reason than the color of their skin.  We believe that Jesus Christ stands with the Black Lives Matter Movement, and so should we.  While all lives surely matter, it is important to affirm publicly and specifically that black lives do matter, for black lives have been brutally violated, segregated and marginalized throughout the history of this country.

We believe, too, that Jesus Christ stands with all people who are oppressed by hate and violence.  As a Sanctuary Church, we stand with the immigrant community in the U.S., especially those in fear of deportation.  We share the deep sorrow of refugees around the world, for Jesus Christ himself, and his parents Mary and Joseph, had to flee for their lives, finding refuge in Egypt.

We stand with the Jewish and Muslim faith communities who have endured hate speech and violence.  Anti-Semitic and Anti-Muslim hate language that echoes Hitler’s Nazi regime is not welcome in this country or this world.  No excuse can be made for any kind of behavior that goads people toward atrocious sins of holocaust and genocide.  We fully condemn all language and behavior that expresses hate toward any religion, cultural group, race, gender or gender identity.

Indeed, we believe white supremacy is a deep betrayal of our Christian faith, and without a doubt a deep betrayal of every major faith expressed around the world.  We are alarmed at the resurgence of Alt-Right groups in our land.  In the midst of our alarm and sadness, we are also deeply aware that as part of a predominately white-identifying church in America, we are complicit in supporting racism and the culture of violence that we have most recently witnessed.  Together, we must confess our sins. We believe that as members and elders of a predominately white denomination, and as those who have benefited from all of the privileges of white supremacy, God is calling us to speak publicly against this kind of terror.  We pray that the God of grace and glory will “save us from weak resignation to the evils we deplore.”

Senior Pastor Roger J. Gench and Associate Pastor Alice Rose Tewell

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