Newark Bishop Mark Beckwith’s statement on Ferguson

[Episcopal Diocese of Newark] The Thanksgiving holiday has been inconvenienced by an early snowfall; and the spirit of gratitude which accompanies the holiday has been blunted by the tragic reality that continues to emerge from Ferguson, Missouri. The weather may make it difficult, and in some cases impossible, for people to gather for the Thanksgiving meal. The events in Ferguson yet again expose how difficult, and in some cases how seemingly impossible, it is for people in American society to move beyond the prejudice and racism which have been woven into our nation’s fabric – and work together as communities that offer equal justice and freedom for all.

The tragedies of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Trayvon Martin in Florida, Akai Gurley (the young unarmed man shot in Brooklyn last week) and Tamir Rice ( the 12 year boy killed in Cleveland last weekend) are all rooted in fear. No doubt the police are often afraid, given the risks and challenges of their role; but they also carry the deep anxiety of the communities they serve, which often live with an unspoken fear of the “other.”

There is the tragedy of young, unarmed black men being shot and killed. But there is a deeper tragedy of a culture that seems to live with the illusion that in order for the majority to be safe (and presumably free of fear) some need to be sacrificed. That illusion is racial profiling of the worst order.

I remember theologian Walter Brueggemann saying that “fear not” is the overarching message of the Gospel. I believe that. But I also believe that the way to deal with fear is not to deny it, or create illusions that hide it – but to name it and work through it. Jesus did that. He named fear, he faced fear – and in his Resurrection overcame fear.

Jesus continues to do name and face fear – through us.

I invite you – with whomever is able to show up at your Thanksgiving meal, to give thanks for the fact that Jesus is with us, and can help lead us through our fear to a promise of hope, peace and justice. Our faith – and our acting from our faith, has the potential to make life safer. For everyone.

Mark M. Beckwith


  1. Alda Morgan says:

    I’ve now read the statements by both bishops and find Bp. Beckwith’s statement much more cogent, to the point, and on target. Newark is a city that has experienced much police brutality stretching way back and still continuing today, as it does in most of our communities. The assumption is that it is always white police against black youngsters and, indeed, that is way too often the case. But the solution isn’t going to be preaching moralizing sermons against the police or the skewed justice system. The situation is far more complex than that. Bp. Beckwith has a more holistic focus, one that Christians need to take much more seriously than we do. W.E.B. DuBois, many years ago, wrote that the singular , major fact of American society is the race line. I was puzzled by his choice of word…”line”? What is a line? It is the line between a justice system that works for you and one that works against you; it is the line between the policeman as your friend and the policeman as your enemy. And the “line” is the color of your skin. That was true on these shores since the first black slave set foot on them and it still is. What we have is a complex legacy, an ugly one, and one that we need to face squarely–all of us–and begin to work through the tangled factors that result on these tragic deaths and enduring bitterness. Protests are good for drawing attention to the reality that something is very, very wrong. But they do not take the next step of hunkering down and starting to face what is wrong, and do something about it. It will take us all and it will take work on many different levels and in many different forms. For God’s sake and for the sake of our children, Black and White, let us begin.

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