VALLEY FORGE, PA (ABNS 5/12/15)—In light of the recent killings of two police officers, Officer Benjamin Deen and Officer Liquori Tate, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, as well as other killings of police officers seen around the country, American Baptist Churches USA affirms a message of peace and nonviolence.
“Our hearts go out to the families of these and other officers who have been killed in the line of duty. We are mindful of the dangers these public servants face and we are grateful for their willingness to serve their communities,” said ABCUSA General Secretary A. Roy Medley.
“Like many, we are disturbed by the rising tide of violence in our country evidenced in these deaths, the deaths of unarmed men of color in custody, and the mass murders which plague our society today. Disregard for human life is not acceptable to us in the Christian community.”
The American Baptist Churches Policy Statement on Peace uses the following verses as a Biblical Basis:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as
the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts
be troubled, neither let them be afraid (John 14:2).
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called
the children of God (Matthew 5:9).
The Policy Statement notes, “We live in a world marked by promise and peril. It is a world urgently in need of peace, reconciliation and the wholeness referred to in the biblical concept of peace….The Christian community is compelled by its understanding of the gospel to seek peaceful solutions to international crises for the sake of the abundant life.”
The Policy Statement closes with the following phrase, which remains relevant in the midst of today’s tense climate: “We recognize that seeking to be peacemakers can be costly, personally and institutionally. We will seek to base our actions on a strong theological foundation, to interpret our positions clearly, to take time to acquaint ourselves with different positions, and always to respect and value those who differ from us.”
The American Baptist Churches Policy Statement on Violence echoes the Statement on Peace:
Therefore, as a sign of our prophetic calling, we call upon all American Baptists,
American Baptist churches, and American Baptist organizations to do the following:
1. To be peacemakers, builders of God’s shalom;
2. To work for the prevention of violence, the peaceful resolution of conflicts and just reconciliation;
3. To advocate for a more responsible media;
4. To challenge ideologies, structures, politics and policies that lead to violence.
American Baptists are encouraged to remember these statements and the emphasis placed on peace and nonviolence, and commit to prayerfully asking God for peace and reconciliation in a hurting nation.
The National Council of Churches of Christ (NCC) released a statement on May 12, calling for police reform and the healing of communities. An excerpt of this statement is included below, or click here to read the full statement here.
“In times like these people can be heard asking, “Where is the faith community,” or, “Is the Church relevant?” The answers can be found where the faith community is in the middle of the pain and the healing. Persons affiliated with the NCC through our member communions serve as prison and police chaplains; they are police and persons serving time, returning citizens and family members, victims and perpetrators, pastors and community leaders. In the midst of civil unrest breaking out in cities across the country, our faith leaders have been at the forefront of peaceful protest actions and providing pastoral care for the community.
We commend and support law enforcement agencies that model good community policing, and in the tradition of advocating for justice and peace and inspired by the prophet Isaiah to serve as “repairers of the breach” we call for an overhaul of the justice system that brings about reconciliation and restoration. To this end we recommend the following steps towards police reform:
- Incorporate conflict transformation training as part of police training and a standard alternative or additional option for addressing offenses and criminal infractions.
- Reward police departments and officers for effective community policing strategies rather than arrest and ticketing quotas.
- Make training mandatory and continue to update for all law enforcement on issues of cultural sensitivity, interaction with the mentally ill, and responding to sexual assaults.
- Implement nationwide mandatory use of body cameras and provide federal funding for communities that cannot afford them. We reject attempts by municipalities to hide behind FOIA laws and other restrictions.
- Discipline police officers who do not wear their badges or provide business card with name and badge number when requested.
- Address the militarization of the police department and the abusive manner in which military surplus equipment has been used.
- Address the underlying problem of over-criminalization and the indiscriminate application of laws implemented by local police departments and the impact it has on communities and families
Issued by the National Council of Churches’ Governing Board upon the occasion of the Christian Unity Gathering, May 7-9, 2015.
American Baptist Churches USA is one of the most diverse Christian denominations today, with over 5,200 local congregations comprised of 1.3 million members, across the United States and Puerto Rico, all engaged in God’s mission around the world.