Updated: Tragedy in Dallas

Richard Hill

Diocese of Dallas

American Tragedy

By George R. Sumner, Bishop of Dallas

As I was writing my blog this evening, the news about our own city came across the TV. Our hearts go out to the officers who have died, their families, and those who have been wounded. Police serve to preserve order and protect us all, and in so doing they are daily exposed to danger; this resulted in tragedy this evening. We need to be praying for all those harmed, indeed for all those in public service, especially the police. We intercede for the rapid apprehension and prosecution of the perpetrators. In this season in our national life, everything becomes a political football, though we hope that this does not happen here. In recent days we have been disturbed once again to hear of the shootings of African American men in different parts of our country. These concerns offer no warrant for murder, nor should we associate the latter with legitimate and peaceful demonstration. Threatening public peace and order endangers all of us as citizens, and we stand with those who work to keep us safe. I have no easy answer to the crisis in which we find ourselves as Americans. But this much is clear: Dallas Christians, black and white, of all denominations, are called to stand together. As one we pray for those harmed. We who do so are already one body in Jesus Christ, in spite of all the fault lines in our society. May the Holy Spirit guide us all in discerning the shape of our common witness. May we all be praying for the welfare of our city and all its inhabitants. May He protect all exposed to danger in their work.

Diocese of Fort Worth (Episcopal Church)

Statement in Wake of Dallas Shootings

Bishop J. Scott Mayer interrupted his sabbatical to issue a statement in the wake of the tragic shootings in Dallas last night. He is joined in this statement by Assisting Bishops Rayford B. High, Jr., and Sam B. Hulsey.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.

Psalm 34:18

The news of the fatal shooting of four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer in Dallas last night is horrifying and heartbreaking. Make no mistake. This is a devastating loss for their colleagues, for Dallas, for all humanity. As President Barack Obama said, it was “a vicious, calculated and despicable attack on law enforcement.”

We hold all of Dallas in prayer today.

That these shootings happened during a demonstration aimed at reforming police departments in the wake of two more shootings of black men by police officers makes them at once more heartbreaking and more dangerous. It may be tempting to lash out at those protesting, to blame the “Black Lives Matter” movement for this violence. We pray that people refrain from doing so.

The organizers of the march in Dallas emphasized as they expressed their own horror and grief that “violence doesn’t heal violence.”  As they said, it is important to remember that trying to reform police departments is not about hating the police.

As this investigation unfolds, we urge all to stay centered in prayer and in the knowledge that all of us, black and white, civilian and police, are valued and beloved children of God. Our commitment in our Baptismal Covenant shows us the way forward – to seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves and to strive for justice and peace among all people, respecting the dignity of every human being. Hold fast to this in the coming days.

May God help the brokenhearted, heal the wounded, comfort those who mourn, and give us the strength and courage to move forward toward a more just future.

Diocese of Western Louisiana

Beyond Black and Blue

By Bishop Jake Owensby

We are killing each other. We are killing ourselves.

In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, and then in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, police officers used deadly force against black men under questionable circumstances in just the last few days. Last night snipers killed five police officers and wounded six others in Dallas, Texas. The gunmen positioned themselves near the end of a march protesting the shootings in Minnesota and Louisiana.

Alton Sterling and Philando Castile — the black men killed by police — join a sorrowful list of well over 100 black people killed by police this year. The number of blacks killed by police has given rise to the Black Lives Matter movement.

In response to rising tensions between supporters of law enforcement and the Black Lives Matter movement, Louisiana recently enacted a Blue Lives Matter statute. Crimes targeting police, firefighters, and EMS personnel now count as hate crimes in this state.

Like a long list of incidents before them, the shootings of Mr. Sterling and Mr. Castile will be investigated by independent agencies. There is much we do not know.

At this writing, the motives of the Dallas killers have not been fully explained. As the hours and days unfold, we may learn more about their identities and the reasons for their vicious, despicable actions. During a standoff with officers, a now deceased shooter expressed his anger about killings by police.

There are some things that we do know.

Many in the black community feel unsafe. They feel, if not intentionally targeted by the authorities, then at least viewed by them at a lethally high level of suspicion in even the most innocuous interactions.

Police officers work under stressful and dangerous conditions every day. Sometimes they are forced to make life or death decisions in a matter of seconds.

Seven lives have been lost. Civilians. Law enforcement officers. Relatives, friends, and communities weep bitter tears. Hearts have been shattered. We are all joined in shock and sorrow and horror and disbelief.

We seek comfort and safety in placing blame. In finding bad guys to isolate, incarcerate, or eliminate. And it is true that we must apprehend criminals in our communities and weed out racist, unstable officers from the ranks of the police.

We look for peace by ridding ourselves of those who break the peace. And perhaps on this side of eternity we can achieve nothing greater. But Jesus still bids us to imagine and to strive for a greater peace.

Jesus taught us to be peacemakers. Violence — even violence against peace breakers — is still violence. When anyone dies, a child of God dies. Jesus weeps. And so should we.

We are each children of God. To kill someone is always to kill one of our own. In fact, we are one in Christ. To kill another child of God is like killing ourselves.

We are violent. And the Prince of Peace came to bring peace by making each of us peacemakers.

We can begin by praying for the dead and the injured. Pray for those wracked by grief and beset by fear. Pray for those consumed by hate. Pray for those whose hate or fear has driven them to kill. Pray for the grace to be an instrument of peace. In our actions, let us move beyond black and blue. To see in each other another child of God.

Diocese of Central Florida

Crying Out, Reaching Out

By Bishop Greg Brewer (received via email)

As I reeled from the shooting in Baton Rouge, then the shooting in St. Paul and now the shooting in Dallas, I knew I could not say nothing. Grief not expressed easily becomes indifference. Indifference is not what we need right now. What we need is prayer and action.

What to do?

1. Face the enemy within. The evil temptation is to make these tragedies about “other people” who are not connected to me. Many of us, however, treat people who are dissimilar to us differently. Just this week I heard stories from three different people: one a Native American and the others were African American. Each told stories about being treated differently just because of the color of their skin. One dad, whose young son had been publicly slighted because of his race, had the tragic responsibility to inform his son that this could be what the rest of his life would be like – just because he was a person of color. Why must this be? And, just in case you were wondering, these were not poor people who lived in the “wrong neighborhood.” They were people of both education and means.

Beg God to help us see other people as He sees them. Pray that we learn to love as God loves us.

2. Pray for those more intentionally connected to these tragedies. As one friend of mine posted on line:

Praying for the grieving families and loved ones in # Dallas, # BatonRouge, and # FalconHeights.

Praying for those in critical condition.

Praying for black lives to matter.

Praying for police to be safe and wise.

Praying for all of us to repent, reconcile, and heal.

Praying in Jesus’ name.

3. Purposefully reach out. Ask yourself and your congregation the question: How do I intentionally contribute to racial unity? Bishop Rob Innes, Anglican Bishop of Europe, said, “Britain seems anxious to build fences. My job as a bishop is to build bridges.” The same is true for us. Our job as Christians, living in a world marked by increasing hostility and fear, is to intentionally build bridges. Are you inviting people whose skin color is different from yours into your life? At home at your dining room table? Over coffee? In a Bible study?

What about your church? Do the members of your congregation racially look like your neighborhood? What about caring for your community? Can congregations who are racially different link arms in a public show of solidarity? The Biblical vision of the church is of a people made up of “every tribe, tongue, people, language and nation” (Rev. 5:9). Is your congregation color blind in its hiring of staff? My sense as your bishop is that most congregations are not. We may use euphemisms about finding someone who “fits our culture” but the bottom line is often about racial preferences. Why continue to prop up such sinful practices? Can our churches be places where people of different races are not treated differently? Can we raise a generation of young people who see all people, regardless of race, through the eyes of Christ?

It grieves my heart that in 2016 we still live both in a church and in a society where these sorts of recommendations need to be affirmed. One would hope we would have gotten past much of this by now and that the Christian church would be more of a visible expression of unity than our hostile and divided culture. But it does not have to be this way.

Now is not a time to merely wring our hands and wish this were not happening.

Now is the time to pray.

Now is the time to act.

Diocese of California

Statement on shooting of police in Dallas, Missouri, and Georgia

By Bishop Marc Andrus

Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, do not resist an evildoer. But if anyone strikes you on the right cheek, turn the other also; … You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.”

During a peaceful Black Lives Matter protest in Dallas last night, snipers killed five police officers and wounded seven more. Last night was the most police causalities the United States has seen since September 11, 2001. I have just learned of police being shot outside St. Louis and in Georgia, as well. I weep for the additional loss of life as a result of gun violence. While some voices were saying that those advocating for police demilitarization and accountability wanted the murders of police officers, leaders within the Black Lives Matter movement were calling the shootings horrific, and insisting that Black Lives Matter does not stand for killing police officers. According to the Dallas Police Chief, one suspect in the shootings said that he was not with Black Lives Matter and was working alone.

That suspect made his statement before the police blew him up with an explosive-equipped robot. Although the police feared for their safety, this man had a right to due process. Protestors in Portland last night were met by police in riot gear — and a man who pulled a gun was arrested, not shot, and not “detonated.”

Justice is not a zero-sum game; it is possible to curb abuses by police without calling for their executions. No one — let alone Black Lives Matters organizers — is calling for police execution. Catholic ethicist and theologian Tobias Winright — who served as a police officer before studying theology, and who has taught ethics at police academies — says, “[P]olicing doesn’t have to be what it has evolved into. It will still be dangerous at times and yes, it may still require the use of force. But that shouldn’t be what policing is all about. That is an instrument; it is not the essence of policing.” In this interview Winright recounts the evolution of policing in the United States and commends the book The rise of the warrior cop by Radley Balko.

I am asking the deacons of our diocese — those who have a special ministry under their bishop, and who are called to work on the margins — to begin organizing lobbying efforts at the city, county, state, and federal levels of government to impact both police use of force and overall gun violence. Our newsletters and social media presences will update those interested. We will also be sharing information about marches and vigils as we have it, and may be hosting one ourselves. Vigils and prayer must move us to act for legislating changes to behavior and policy. Campaign Zero’s Take Action page offers easy-to-use tools for contacting elected officials with specific policy requests — including in great detail on the Solutions page.

Gandhi said, “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.” No one is calling for an eye for an eye. We grieve the loss of lives of the police officers in Dallas, and we grieve the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile. It was their extrajudicial deaths that spurred this most recent round of demonstrations which will continue as long as people of color are more likely to be killed by police than white people and until there are changes in policy. Black lives matter. Blue lives matter, too — but not more.

We cannot ignore the problems of systemic racism that plague our society and are more clearly visible in police brutality as a result of ubiquitous video cameras and social media. We must not, as the prophet Jeremiah warns against, treat the wounds of our people carelessly and cry “peace, peace” when there is no peace. We must work for justice, even in our grief.

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