Bishop Tracy S. Malone Speaks to the Deadly Police Shooting of Jayland Walker
Many people across the City of Akron, Northeast Ohio, and around the world have expressed righteous outrage at the deadly police shooting of Jayland Walker, a 25-year-old Black male. Ninety shots were fired and at least 60 bullets pierced his body. This public tragedy and use of excessive force leave many questions unanswered.
I join the many others in demanding that accountability and justice prevail in this situation. I pray for comfort and healing for Mr. Walker’s family, and all who have been traumatized by his death, and I unite with them in calling for a peaceful resistance and protests.
The recurrence of these killings shines the light on the pervasive culture of racism and violence, increasingly incited by political rhetoric and gun fanaticism, that is growing fiercely across our nation and continues to tear apart families and communities. The fact that justice is seldom served is a strong indication of how deeply entrenched racism is in America’s systems, beliefs, and practices. The problem is not merely the random killings of Black people at the hands of law enforcement or by white vigilantes or terrorists, it is the absence of justice that perpetuates and compounds the violence.
So, what is our response and what is our continued work?
As United Methodists who embrace the reality of God’s presence, peace, and power in the world, we believe that attaining justice for Black lives, and all lives, is a necessary and non-negotiable requisite for true peace. I am reminded of the message from the prophet Isaiah who declares a word from God about our prophetic calling and discipleship work … a call to put our prayers into action:
“Is this the kind of fast I have chosen, only a day for people to humble themselves? Is it only for bowing one’s head like a reed and for lying in sackcloth and ashes? Is what you call a fast, a day acceptable to the Lord? Is this the kind of fast I have chosen: to loose the chains of injustice and untie the cords of the yoke, to set the oppressed free and break every yoke? … Then your light will break forth like the dawn … You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail … Your people will rebuild the ancient ruins and will raise up the age-old foundations; you will be called Repairer of Broken Walls, Restorers of Streets with dwelling.” Isaiah 58:5-6; 8; 11; 12 (NIV)
As a people of faith, we are each called to loosen the chains of injustice, to be repairers of broken walls and to be restorers of streets … to be bearers of God’s light and hope … to work and advocate for God’s vision of justice and for the equal rights and protection under the law.
The Book of Resolutions of The United Methodist Church speaks to the reforms needed in policing, criminal justice policies (and more) to address the systemic racism and structural inequities in our political, social, and economic systems and to address the criminalization of Black people.
I join the General Board of Church & Society in urging all United Methodists to work for the complete eradication of racism, and promotion of justice and fairness as core principles that guide the enforcement of law and order. I urge us to call on our elected officials on the local and federal levels to make changes to reform policing practices, including establishing a national use of force standard, redefining police misconduct, ending the qualified immunity doctrine which prevents police from being held legally accountable when they break the law, banning chokeholds, banning racial profiling, and more.
Together, let us be repairers of the broken walls and restorers of streets in our communities as we dismantle racism and build God’s beloved community. Let us be credible witnesses in shining the light of God’s truth, justice, peace and hope in our homes, workplaces, churches, and communities, working for peace, equity and justice for Black people, communities of color and all people. And let us create space for the critical conversations, the asking of hard questions, and for not settling for easy answers in addressing matters of racism, gun violence, and police reform.
I encourage clergy and laity to use and share these resources from The United Methodist Church as together we engage in the important discipleship work of dismantling racism, standing against violence, and building God’s beloved community.
Stop Criminalizing Communities of Color in the United States, 2016 Book of Resolutions, #3379
Opposition to Racial Profiling in the U.S., 2016 Book of Resolutions, #3377
A Charter for Racial Justice in an Interdependent Global Community, 2016 Book of Resolutions, #3371
White Privilege in the United States, 2016 Book of Resolutions, #3376
Bible Study: Kingdom Dreams, Violent Realities
General Commission on Religion & Race: Racial Justice Conversation Guide
Bishop Tracy S. Malone
Executive Secretary to the Bishop
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