The following letter concerning the church shooting in Charleston was signed by more than 30 Charlotte-area religious leaders, as well as the Charlotte NAACP the Charlotte Clergy Coalition for Justice, MeckMin, and the United Missionary Baptist Association.
“Our calling is not just within the walls of the congregation. We are part of the life and community in which our congregation resides.” Called by these words from our slain colleague, the Rev. Clementa Pinckney, we as clergy throughout Charlotte stand in witness with our brothers and sisters in Charleston.
We are sick in our souls at the news of nine murdered in Charleston. We are sick in our souls and weary of the news of slain black individuals. We hear our deceased colleague’s call to speak beyond the walls of our particular places of worship and to gather, together, to re-consecrate and re-commit our communities to a vision of justice paved by peace. We are angry and we are heart-broken. We are devastated that a sacred space with people gathered for prayer could become the site of a hate crime. In the midst of our fear, rage and overwhelming sadness, we are called by the memory of those killed and by the spirit of Emanuel AME Church itself.
We know the history of Emanuel AME – a place of perseverance, prophecy and persistence. A church once banned by the state and shaken by an earthquake, throughout its 199-year history it has continued to bend the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
We also know Emanuel AME was once burned to the ground in retaliation for a slave rebellion. Indeed the foundation of the AME church is built upon the bodies of martyrs who resisted racism, slavery and violence.
From the lives of those killed in Charleston to the black bodies fallen in our nation’s streets, a cloud of witnesses is gathered before us. We cannot be silent to their cries. We cannot stay within the walls of our places of worship. We are tied in an inextricable network of mutuality.
We affirm the declaration “Black Lives Matter” now being heard across this country. We echo its call for clear recognition and courageous reform of the racism embedded in our society.
We join the chorus of peaceful witness pleading for stricter control over access to guns. We unapologetically refuse to engage in paralyzing politeness or syncretistic silence. We commit to the uncomfortable, difficult, painful, soulful work of eradicating racism and building the beloved community. We acknowledge as the Rev. William Lamar of the Washington AME Church said, “The one who pulled the trigger in Mother Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C., had a mind that was made in America.”
We refuse to believe the lies that we are genetically different races or inherently different people. We refuse to believe or promote the belief that how we look on the outside portends something meaningful about our inside.
We affirm a core belief that we are each made in the image of God and believe that we should all be respected as such.
We believe a better, more beloved world is possible. We believe in the shared endeavors of the human spirit and efficacy of our collective hopes. We believe in justice and in equity. We believe that the true soul of Charlotte – a spirit of cooperation and compassion – could yet prevail.