Part of the journey of being a dad, is that your children hold you accountable to the values you have taught them. If I’d listened to my children, I would have written something earlier. So, for those who are asking ‘Why haven’t we heard a response from the church already?’ I can only apologise.

I’m sure we have all been moved in different ways watching events unfold in the US, and the repercussions around the world following the killing of George Floyd. We are all likely to be drawn to different aspects of the events. George Floyd a victim because of the colour of his skin and the community he belonged to. The peaceful protestors seeking a more just society, without their actions compromising their demands. The violent demonstrators frustrated at having exhausted all alternatives for change. The law enforcement officers trying to do their duty in a situation fraught with danger and unpredictability. This is the backdrop of yet another story of prejudice and oppression against black communities at both individual and structural levels.

The dynamic is complex and there have certainly been forces of evil unleashed, seeking destruction in the events, but this shouldn’t stop us from recognising that systemic racism is part of the fabric of US society and ours, and that this grieves God’s heart.

“Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne;
steadfast love and faithfulness go before you.”

Psalm 89:14

We’ve heard many voices in the media sharing different perspectives from across various communities. It leaves us with many questions we can’t answer. The Christian media report church leaders praising George as a peacemaker seeking to make a kingdom difference in a deeply troubled community. George Floyd may have been a rough diamond, but the truth that the calling to be a ‘peacemaker’ often includes great personal sacrifice, seems to have been woven into his story.

George Floyd … has been remembered fondly as a man of faith, who helped bring peace to a crime-ridden area of inner-city Houston.

Premier, Fri 29 May 2020

These events have shaken us all, no matter our racial heritage. Although we may point to many differences between the UK and US, as people seeking to live as followers of Christ, we can’t avoid asking ourselves some deeper questions.

• Do we acknowledge that people are oppressed and disadvantaged because of their racial heritage?

• Can we affirm that racial prejudices exist, without denying that other characteristics such as gender, age, class, education, poverty, disability, sexuality also create victims of prejudice?

• Are we willing to own and confess the historic sins of our nation, and confess that, even today, our society gives racial prejudice plenty of room to breathe?

• Can we acknowledge the deep fear, vulnerability and pain felt by black members of our own community through these events?

• Can we stand together as brothers and sisters in Christ, committing to listen more carefully to one another, to acknowledge and repent of our prejudices and seek to live together in a radical Christ-like way?

Living out God’s kingdom together means celebrating our racial diversity, and ensuring everyone can participate, or engage in ministry and leadership according to calling, maturity and gifting.

After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands.

Revelation 7:9

Are we challenged to seek God’s help for ourselves and others to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with our God (Micah 6:8). Righteousness describes God’s radical love in action with which he treats us all, as those who bear his image. His righteousness in us bears the same fruit. Let us call on God’s mercy and his power to transform us and our society.

Will we…

…refuse to standby when people who carry God’s image (Gen 1:27, Rom 10:12, Gal 3:28, Acts 17:26, Col 3:9-11) are treated as if they don’t?

…walk with our God who sees all as equals (Acts 10:34, Rom 2:11, James 2:9) and offers the same salvation to everyone (John 3:16, Rom 3:23, Rom 10:12)?

…follow Christ’s example in obeying the Father’s commands and honouring his name no matter the cost (Phil 2: 6-8; Jer 22:3&4; Prov 24:11&12; Ps 82:1-4)

May I encourage us all to join others in expressing sympathy for the Floyd family and praying for them in their time of tragic loss?

Join me also in praying that these events will help us to listen and learn from one another and begin to appreciate the world through the eyes of others.

• Pray for humility and a commitment for justice for both the powerful and powerless.

• Pray for restraint of all forces of evil and destruction at work.

• Pray these recent events spark a commitment in each of us to make space for conversations that will help us think, talk and act differently towards one another.

• Pray God continues to transform us to reflect the unity and diversity he has given us through Christ as his body here on earth.

Below you’ll find a number of helpful articles, one of them written by a former member of Wycliffe.

Paul Lapworth on behalf of the Wycliffe Eldership

Baptist Union – George Floyd: our responses

George Floyd and Black suffering – a guest post from Revd Darius Weithers

George Floyd helped start Christian ministry programs in Houston before his death in police custody