Local Statements on the Shootings in Charleston

Bishop William H. Stokes of the Episcopal Diocese of New Jersey

The heinous shootings and resulting deaths that occurred yesterday at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina as people gathered for Bible study and prayer are an abomination – an offense against humanity and God – that must be condemned by all persons without hesitation or equivocation.

I call all people of the Diocese of New Jersey to pray for the repose of the soul of Pastor Clementa Pinckney and the eight others who were killed, to pray for the people of Emanuel A.M.E. Church and all of our brothers and sisters of the A.M.E. Church, to pray for the city of Charleston and, indeed, to pray for our nation.

Sadly, this shooting appears to represent a confluence of evils that have plagued, and continue to plague, life in the United States: endemic racism, an “original sin” in our nation’s origins which has never been adequately addressed or resolved; a cultural propensity to violence combined with easy access to guns resulting in frequent mass shootings and too many Americans accepting this as somewhat normative and to be expected; a pattern of deranged behavior by young men who are clearly mentally ill and who live in a country with a broken mental health system.

This morning, on behalf of the people of the Diocese of New Jersey, I phoned Bishop Gregory G.M. Ingram of the First District of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, which includes the A.M.E. Churches in New Jersey, to offer him and his church our deepest condolences, to assure him of our prayers as well as our commitment to strive for justice and peace among all people as our Baptismal Covenant calls us to do.

In the wake of the massacre at Emanuel Church in Charleston, some will be inclined to withdraw in fear; to close and lock the doors of our church buildings and to shut out the stranger. This is not the response Jesus Christ or his gospel calls us to. Fear is contrary to faith. As scripture tells us, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18). As people of faith, our response should not be to withdraw and hide, but rather to step forward and reach out in love; to be bold in our witness to the gospel and to our Lord, who is the Prince of Peace.

Next week, on Sunday morning, June 28, beginning at 7:15 AM in Salt Lake City, Bishops United Against Gun Violence – a coalition of more than 60 bishops of  the Episcopal Church, a coalition of which I am a part, is sponsoring an event, “Claiming Common Ground Against Gun Violence.” This will be a prayerful procession through the streets of Salt Lake City during the church’s General Convention. The gathering is intended to urge people of faith to seek common ground in efforts to curtail gun violence across the nation.

It is my hope and my request that the people of the Diocese of New Jersey who will not be in Salt Lake City will join us in spirit by praying with us during the time of the walk, perhaps keeping vigil, and remembering to pray during Sunday services over the next two weeks for peace and an end to gun violence which is a scourge in our nation, and to pray especially for those killed in Charleston yesterday.

Moreover, in the wake of the Charleston shootings, which all evidence strongly indicates is a hate crime, as well as in light of all of the incidents of racial injustice and violence which have confronted us in the past and which continue to confront us in the present, I call upon the people of the Diocese of New Jersey to recommit ourselves to anti-racism training and to the hard work of meaningful and concrete racial justice and reconciliation. I pledge myself to this work.


American Conference on Diversity President Elizabeth Williams-Riley, New Brunswick

If loves comes from the heart, where does hate come from? This is a
question many of us are asking in light of the June 17, 2015 Emanuel
A.M.E. Church murders. The nine victims were in one of the safest place they knew, in their house of worship.

When those individuals left their homes, the thought of never returning probably didn’t cross their minds. The national conversations around race relations that our nation is engaged in right now demands that we pay attention to messages that we are exposed to daily. The value of human life and dignity are essential to cultivating a generation that will live out the true meaning of America’s creed.

The American Conference on Diversity is dedicated to working with
individuals and organizations to educate and empower leaders to
eliminate hate. We would like this senselessly tragic incident to
increase our awareness of the importance of standing up against hate.

Our vision is to make our nation a better place for all of us — not
just some of us. We encourage people of good will to not sit on the
sidelines and watch things happen or even ponder over what just
happened. We have a shared responsibility in making sure that our places of worship are safe.

The A.M.E. churches have been at the forefront of justice and equality for decades. The New Jersey Conference of African Methodist Episcopal churches dates back to 1872. As the nation mourns the loss of a great leader and members of the congregation, we must remain vigilant in the fight for social justice. In the lives lost, we must find hope in humanity.


Princeton Theological Seminary President Craig Barnes

We weep today for our brothers and sisters in Christ at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, who experienced the horror of a murderous attack in their sacred space; for the residents of Charleston who are reeling in light of this awful news and a massive manhunt; for black Americans who once again feel fear grip their hearts because of a racially-motivated act of extreme violence; and for all of us who are citizens of a nation that continues to struggle with the scourge of racism and its corresponding brutality.

We renew our commitment to answer the call of the scriptures to seek the welfare of the city as repairers of the breach and restorers of streets for living. We must be agents of God’s reconciliation and peacemakers in the name of the Prince of Peace.

One Comment

  1. I am so glad Bishop Stokes mentioned the mental health issue. This killing is born of a racist culture and gun-loving culture, but in no way to minimize the racism issue or the “culture of guns” issue, this, the third prong of this and other senseless killings must be addressed head on. I have a sibling with a significant mental health issue. Our family had no guns around and no backdrop of community or family overt and celebrated racism, and in this way, and by the grace of the higher power, my brother did not become this killer, but young men who are mentally and internally socially isolated can be living in a confusing and personally frustrating swirl of cues in their head that they don’t understand and can not resolve. We need to help people with mental health issues and we need to reach out and help families who are dealing with such mental health issues, often overwhelmed with exhaustion, despair and shame.

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