Discussion questions available on the Ferguson decision

Appropriate for adults and youth

[Episcopal News Service] As congregations plan to meet for Sunday worship for the first time since this week’s grand jury decision in Ferguson, Missouri, a new Episcopal Church resource aims to equip congregational leaders to engage discussion about the events of Ferguson with a variety of different age groups.

Prepared by the Missionary Society, Talking about Ferguson in our Congregations is grounded in Advent and includes biblical citations as well as conversation starters for children, youth, and adults.  It is available at here.

“The dean of the Episcopal cathedral in the Diocese of Missouri, the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, has challenged Episcopal congregations to engage a discussion of the issues raised by Ferguson on any of the four Sundays of Advent,” said Alexander D. Baumgarten, director of public engagement and mission communication for The Episcopal Church.  “The Missionary Society prepared this resource in order to give congregations the flexibility to engage this conversation at a variety of times and from a variety of different perspectives.”

A full release from The Episcopal Church Office of Public Affairs follows.

With a focus on Advent, The Episcopal Church has prepared a series of resources as well as discussion questions for adult forums and youth gatherings to provide for understanding, reflecting and praying following the recent announcement of the grand jury decision in Ferguson, MO,

Prepared by the Missionary Society, Talking about Ferguson in our Congregationsis available here.

As noted in Talking about Ferguson in our Congregations, “Many congregations will host conversations about Ferguson this Advent season. Advent is a good time to take up the deep work of encountering racism and other issues that divide us.”

Included are a series of Bible citations; Conversation Starters for elementary school children; Conversation Starters for youth; Conversation Starters for adults; and resources such as Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s statement on Ferguson.

The document states: “Advent is a time for waiting with hope…As your congregations talk about the events in the news, we invite you to use these resources and conversation starters.”

Additional resources
Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori’s statement here.

A Way Forward: Reflections, Resources & Stories Concerning Ferguson, Racial Justice & Reconciliation here.

Episcopal Diocese of Missouri Bishop Wayne Smith’s statement here.

Episcopal Diocese of Missouri here.

Christ Church Cathedral, St. Louis, MO here.

Share Your Story here. Share and post personal stories of experiences with racism, structures of inequality, and racial reconciliation.

Reflections from Episcopalians here. Among those presenting reflections are: Annette Buchanan, National President for the Union of Black Episcopalians (UBE); Dr. Anita Parrott George, Executive Council Member, and Vice Chair of the Advisory Board of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, University of Mississippi; the Very Rev. Mike Kinman, dean of Christ Church Cathedral in downtown St. Louis.

Practices for racial reconciliation here.

Statements here.

Blogs here on Social Justice and Advocacy Engagement by Charles Wynder, Jr., Episcopal Church Missioner for Social Equality, Advocacy Engagement

Many dioceses, cathedrals and churches have slated prayer services and vigils; check local websites for more information.



    Assuming, and that is a large assumption, a wrong was committed, what gives people the right to destroy the property of local businesses who had nothing to do with the situation? What do the rioters accomplish? Rioters and demonstrators that break laws ought to be jailed for the longest time permissible. I hope the rioters so destroy their own neighborhood that no businesses will dare try to operate there out of fear. Most forget that the victim was anything but a model and upstanding person but instead was a thug.

  2. Michelle Warren says:

    OK, so a minority owned store is robbed (on camera), the victim calls the cops, the cops stop a suspect matching the minority victim’s description who is the actual robber not a mistaken identity, the suspect attacks the cop, and the cop shoots suspect in self-defense… this is racism? And then Monday night mobs break into the same minority owned store and loot the place also on camera. This is also racism? At this point I’m confused as to what any of this has to do with racism. I also wonder why the church is siding with the robber and looters who are obviously taking advantage of the situation under the cover of “racism.” Why is the church supporting criminals instead of crime victims, most of whom are also minorities? This makes no sense…

    • Paul Grande says:

      In my view the racism is in the minds of the mob. They see what they want to see-not the facts, not reality.

  3. Joe Barker says:

    We hear so much about the young man that was killed, it is a sad thing that the young man had to die, but where is the support for the officer, his life is also ruined. He probably will never get a job as a police officer again and why, because he tried to do his job and shot a man that was not complying with the officers directions. I have many black friends that have somehow been able to go through their entire lives without being shot by a police officer – and how was this done, they acted as a polite and respectful person when having any interaction with a policeman, the exact thing that I would do – I am not so sure this is about race, rather how people interact with police. Policemen have a difficult job to do and they must make split second decisions that many times will have life and death consequences. They are not robots, but rather they are humans just like the rest of us. If you treat them with respect I believe you will receive the same in return. If you assume an aggressive demeanor toward them and become physically aggressive toward them, then people need to be prepared for the consequences of their actions. We forget that this officer was being attacked by a thief that was over 6 feet and 300 lbs – had Mr Brown been respectful toward the officer, I am quite sure we would not be talking about an officer shooting but rather an arrest for theft.

  4. Adrienne Dillon says:

    Many African-American parents warn their teenage sons that respect for the police is a matter of life and death. Some advise young drivers to keep their driver’s license and car registration in plain sight; police sometimes assume one is reaching into a pocket or glove compartment for weapons rather than documents. People have been killed for trying to comply with demands for identification. Encounters often begin with aggressive, demeaning behavior from the police. Many, many innocent young people are stopped, insulted, questioned and searched, at some cost to their self-respect if not their bodily safety. Most African-Americans know people who have had this experience.

    In early October, VonDerrit Myers was killed in St. Louis by an off-duty policeman who had pursued him for no apparent reason. Myers ran. Reasons for his fear are well understood in the Black community. Police say Myers fired a gun. Others say he had only a sandwich he had bought. Trust between law enforcement and people of color is very low. Honest discussion and willingness of authorities to acknowledge the problem are prerequisites to healing. White and non-White people have very different experiences with the police. Rules of engagement need to be re-examined. African-American youth must be viewed first of all as human beings. Even if they have done wrong, they are innocent until proven guilty. Some day, police will stop a young person and ask with sincere concern about his academic progress and career aspirations.

  5. Rev. Mark Hatch says:

    Our parish here in inner city St. Louis, and a variety of members, have been involved since the beginning. We cover a wide spectrum of views, beliefs, reactions and responses. I suspect many would be glad to share literal front line, “on the ground”, theological and personal reflections, including those in the parish who live in or who grew up in Ferguson. ~ Thanks.


  6. David Benedict says:

    Michael Brown did not deserve to die for his offensive actions of theft and hitting a police officer. The deadly force used to kill Michael was excessive to the extreme, especially since the officer testified to seeing Michael flinch from receiving one of the several shots to his body and was falling to the ground.The officer should never have fired so many shots against an unarmed person. The officer took a young man’s life for no understandable reason. I think such police killings are the result of the militarization of law enforcement in our country and results in a ‘trigger happy’ police force that needs much different training to protect our citizens. There is also the assumption that an African American is immediately seen as a doubly threatening suspect just because of race. This is institutionalized racism. It needs to be addressed with new concerted efforts at achieving greater reconciliation between races in our society.

  7. William A. Flint says:

    The Episcopal Church is diverting attention away from the true meaning of Advent to make yet another political statement. As sad as the Michael Brown incident is, he broke the law. If we advocate that there is a sense of injustice about lawlessness, then we have already lost the argument . There are numerous conversations that can come from Ferguson, but advocating that “breaking the law and respect for law enforcement” is not one of them. If you want a dialog, let’s discuss the shooting deaths of Andy Lopez, 13, in Santa Rosa, CA and Tamir Rice, 12, in Cleveland, OH. Both were shot for carrying toy guns in public places. Let’s make our cause about the senseless loss of innocent life. Let’s dedicate ourselves to understanding how sin affects our common life. Let’s not second guess a Grand Jury’s decision in Ferguson. The Episcopal Church deserves better than that.

  8. Don Ciaccio says:

    I am appalled at the Episcopal Church’s reaction to this event. Racism was not involved in this event. It’s the lowest point I’ve had with the Episcopal Church since President H Bush began Desert Storm in 1990 and asked the Bishop of the Washington Cathedral to come to the White House and pray with him and the bishop said no. Billy Graham ended up coming to pray with Bush. That was the last big political mistake our church made in my eyes. Diving into the Ferguson issue claiming the actions of officer Wilson were racist is just as disgusting. I’m so happy to see others in my church agree with me. The church may well run off perished over their stance with the Ferguson issue.

    • Don Ciaccio says:

      I think that by second guessing eye witness testimony, expert witnesses, the official autopsy and the Ferguson District Attorney, letters like this may be dividing our own church in the process when we should be encouraging people to begin the healing process.

  9. Rich Basta says:

    This is What Our Presiding Bishop Should Have Said:

    In the Episcopal Church’s haste to support the historically marginalized community of color in Ferguson, both in the immediate aftermath of the Michael Brown shooting ,and in the arson and looting-marred riots that followed the grand jury’s decision to clear Officer Wilson of all wrong-doing, , we in the larger Episcopal Church, must acknowledge our sin. It is a sin of omission, a sin of complicity, and a sin of bearing false witness against our neighbors.

    At the national and local church level, we as a church failed to clearly and consistently articulate that officer Wilson and the entire police department of Ferguson was and could have been completely innocent in this particular case.

    We acknowledge, sadly, that the (1) the Episcopal Church and several Episcopal clergy in Missouri marched actually in protest and/or encouraged “deep solidarity” with the residents of Ferguson who were angry, in part, as a result of a false narrative or “story” that was at best incomplete at the time of the August protests, and (2) The Episcopal church and many of its clergy continued to promote this false narrative up to the time of the grand jury’s decision. This false narrative was that yet again, a white police officer had taken the life of an innocent black man based on the races of the shooter and victim involved. The false narrative was actively promoted as another example of racial injustice, among others, that needed to be addressed.
    The facts that have been released to date in conjunction with the grand jury’s decision and those released in the days that have followed have, at best, called in to question many assumptions used in the narrative, and at worst completely discredited the narrative that served as a part of the basis of both the peaceful protests and violent riots that followed.

    We acknowledge that many Episcopal clergy also stood in solidarity with certain protestors and residents of Ferguson, who later, as it turned out, also used this false narrative as a specific example of racial injustice in America.

    There are examples of racial injustice in America that we should continue to highlight and work towards addressing, as our Presiding Bishop acknowledged in her response. That being said, we as a church need to now also acknowledge that we ourselves have acted wrongly and shamefully through our direct and indirect complicity in furthering false narratives. We humbly and contritely ask for repentance of this sin of complicity, this sin of omission and this sin of bearing false witness against our neighbors, Officer Wilson and the entire police department of Ferguson. Jesus would have us do no less.

    • Don Ciaccio says:

      God Bless you for telling the truth. Maybe this will change enough minds to not force me to leave the church

      • Greg Stuart says:

        I am going to visit a Greek Orthodox church this Sunday as my Episcopalian Church has veered into a far left agenda which includes “sermons” bemoaning the use of fracking off the coast of Santa Barbara, CA.

  10. Kenneth Knapp says:

    I understand that my church wants to have a “dialogue on racism.” We have been talking about racism in the Episcopal Church since I was a teenager in the 60s. The reality is a bunch of do-gooders want to get together in the parish hall and talk about the sins of the racists and congratulate themselves on being better than that. Thank God we are not sinners like them. We would do better to concentrate on our own sins, rather than gathering to discuss the sins of others.

  11. Greg Stuart says:

    The leadership of our church is out of touch with the will of the lay people. It encourages me to read on this response that a large majority of my fellow Episcopalian agree that the problem is not all with the police and racism. Common sense has been shown through the intelligent, unemotional responses here that state simply that you should not attack a police officer and not expect that officer to use force to ensure he does not die at the hands of the criminal. I mean,when did that become racist??? Hundreds of police officers are killed annually by criminals whether at routine traffic stops or 911 calls for officers to show up to protect those involved in domestic violence. When do we mourn for those heros taken from their families in the line of duty??? Where are the Bishops’ comments for these hero’s? Again this issues shows the continual and growing divide between the leadership and lay Episcopalian community. The Episcopalian leadership continues to force its radical left wing agenda on its members which is conflict with the majority of the lay community.

  12. John Sirna says:

    A wonderful time for our Church to show leadership. Let everyone know that:
    1. We do not steal
    2. We Obey police authority
    3. W respect the decision of the Grand Jury.

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