Central Arkansas Lead Pastors’ Statement of Solidarity
Denouncing Racism and Injustice 
June 6, 2020 • Little Rock, AR

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1. While acknowledging that a single statement cannot adequately express the experiences of every member of the community, today – as Christian Pastors and Faith Leaders throughout of Central Arkansas, on behalf of ourselves and the churches we represent – we stand now, united as one in our common faith in Jesus Christ as Savior of the world; our common hope in the Bible, the Word of God; and in our common love of the Gospel… a whole Gospel – one that transcends color, class, and culture.

2. In solidarity, we denounce hatred and violence in all its forms, specifically anti-Black hatred and violence which has been egregiously normalized throughout American history and remains still common in our day. We lament the ongoing loss of innocent life, the painful polarization of our society, and repent of our own individual and collective complicity.

3. For too long we have allowed our history, fears, politics, and insecurities to keep us apart when we should be otherwise advancing a ministry of reconciliation as ambassadors of Christ. We have grown comfortable, and it has become normative in the American Church, for Christians to look out for their own personal interests while ignoring, marginalizing or dismissing the interests of diverse others, in direct violation of the Apostle Paul’s imperative: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” (Philippians 2:4)

4. Too often we have failed to stand up or speak out for our biblical neighbors and rhetoric has failed to yield results.

  • Words have fallen on deaf ears.
  • Justice has not been served.
  • Patience has been assumed.
  • Opportunity has been denied.
  • Repentance runs vertical not horizontal.
  • The breech remains for lack of reparations. (Isaiah 58:12)
  • Political expediency has supplanted biblical expectation.

We say as one, no more.

5. We are here to affirm that justice is not peripheral but intrinsic to the Gospel: to affirm that Black lives matter: indeed, to affirm that every single human life has been made by God, in His image. Therefore, since precious to Him, human life must be precious to us. As stated in the Declaration of Independence, we too “…hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

6. With these words in mind,

  • We refuse any longer to call what is evil good.
  • We will no longer accept false dichotomies and racialized distinctions.
  • We recognize that in such acceptance we have played right into the hands of the Devil, the ultimate source of lies, hate, discord and divisions among us. We who have been commanded to resist his schemes have too often allowed them to divide us along the lines of flesh and blood – the color of our skin and cultural preferences.
  • Therefore, we cannot and must not any longer walk in such darkness. Rather, we must denounce it; come out of it; and walk in the light. 

7. Thus, we affirm with the Apostle John: “Anyone who claims to be in the light but hates a brother or sister is still in the darkness. Anyone who loves their brother and sister lives in the light... But anyone who hates a brother or sister is in the darkness and walks around in the darkness. They do not know where they are going, because the darkness has blinded them.” (I John 2:9-11)

8. And again, as John writes: “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen. And he has given us this command: Anyone who loves God must also love their brother and sister.” (I John 4:20-21)

9. Going forward, we will renounce hatred, racism, injustice, and bias – whether implicit or explicit – in all its forms, and pledge to take a more active role in dismantling systems of oppression and inequality wherever they exist, in pursuit of a more perfect union and just society. We agree to call out empty rhetoric in the church and judge ourselves by results – actual impact and not simply by good words, intentions, and hashtags.

10. We will demand of ourselves and of our churches a more just, biblical, and equitable expression of God’s love for all people. Forgive us, God, for when, where, and how we have failed you. We ask that you renew our minds and our hearts, and also empower us individually and collectively to become better representatives of your unconditional love in the future.

11. The fact is, we have arrived at yet another seminal moment in our nation’s history. The soul of our nation has been again laid bare. Six years ago, we were alarmed by three words… words we had hoped never to hear again – I can’t breathe. Now, finally, increased visibility of trauma all-too-long endured by Native and African Americans in particular, and more generally people of color in this country, has been exposed once and for all… and there is no going back.

12. With this in mind, we stand together to ask: “What is fundamentally wrong with the culture of law enforcement in this country that emboldens a relative few, but significant number of police officers to act at times with blatant disregard for human life, as we again witnessed in the killing of George Floyd at the hand of those otherwise sworn to protect, defend, and to serve… as we have witnessed too many times before? We are way past isolated incidents and “waiting for all the facts to come out” rhetoric.

13. We fear such incidents will not cease until those proven guilty are prosecuted and punished in a swift and judicious manner, to the full extent of the law... which should include hate crime legislation and sentencing as a deterrent in the state of Arkansas. As citizens and servants of the living God, we are angry, frustrated, grieving, and now compelled to demand answers that might lead to just, accelerated, equitable, and inclusive systemic change.

14. Toward such ends, we encourage and endorse peaceful protests and public rallies at which people in this country can share their feelings and lift their voices to demand answers and expect substantive change. In so doing, we also denounce reckless acts of violence and rage that destroy lives and property, that endanger protestors and police officers alike. In seeking answers, we pledge to well manage our anger and the anger of those we influence, to channel it in positive and productive directions, in pursuit of lasting solutions.

15. While we as individuals and as a nation have much more work to do in order to heal racial wounds, bridge divides, and live up to lofty ideals framed in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution, even still we have hope that all wrongs will one day be made right by a Savior coming again in justice, power, and glory. In the meantime, now is a turning point in American history… an opportunity for course correction that we dare not miss.

16. Therefore, recognizing that racism is ultimately a spiritual problem:

  • We will remain determined to walk in faith, hope, and love, seeking to lead people out of darkness and into the light.
  • We will demand of ourselves, of our churches, and of our nation, a more just, biblical, and equitable expression of God’s love for all people on earth as it is in heaven.
  • We will continue to pray, but also to advocate and to take up productive action with the goal of helping to dismantle systems of oppression and injustice in all its forms throughout our region, state, and nation, for the greater glory of God.

17. Indeed, we call upon Central Arkansans to join us in this effort by sharing and embracing this statement of lament, repentance, and determination, mindful of Jewish scripture in which God, Himself, declares: “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” (2 Chronicles 7:14) 

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Initial Signatories

Alberto Alcacio, Mosaic (LR)

Eric Alexander, St. Luke (Jacksonville)

Dan Anderson, Central Presbyterian (LR)

Steven Arnold, Grace Temple (LR)

Brandan Bernard, Fellowship Bible (LR)

Rick Bezet, New Life (AR)

Logan Bloom, CityChurch Network (LR)

Tyrone Broomfield, Bethel AME (NLR)

Billy Burris, St. Peter MBC (LR)

Byron Calhoun, St. John Baptist (Lonoke)

Preston Clegg, Second Baptist Downtown (LR)

Robert Cook, St. Andrews (LR)

Mark DeYmaz, Mosaic (LR)

Alex Diaz, Mosaic (LR)

Derick Easter, New St. Hurricane Baptist (Pine Bluff)

C.D. Edwards, St. John Baptist (LR)

Bill Elliff, The Summit (Conway, NLR)

David Freeman, First UMC (LR)

Earl Graham, Mt. Pleasant Baptist (NLR)

Patrick Greene Sr., Pilgrim Valley MBC (LR)

Fred Harris, City of Life (NLR)

Rodney Harris, Labannah Baptist (LR)

Dan Hauser, Christ Lutheran (LR)

Mark Henry, Fellowship Bible (LR)

Linda Huggins, Mercy Street Nazarene (LR)

Dave Hughey, Geyer Springs Baptist (LR)

Paul Holderfield, Friendly Chapel (NLR)

Brenda Jefferson, Covenant Faith (Sherwood)

Kerwin Jones, Shiloh SDA (LR)

Kevin Kelly, 2nd Baptist (LR)

Keith Lape, River City Ministries (NLR)

Harry Li, Mosaic (LR)

Michael Loudermilk, Christ Community (LR)

Valerie Mezel, Bethel (LR)

Julius McDade, New Direction Baptist (Pine Bluff)

Marie O’Connell, Park Hill Presbyterian (NLR)

Danita Waller-Paige, White Memorial UMC (LR)

Ben Parkinson, Fellowship Bible (LR)

George Parks Jr., New Hope (Conway)

Phillip Pointer, St. Mark Baptist (LR)

William Robinson, Hoover Memorial UMC (LR)

G.L. Sanders, Mercy Seat Baptist (LR)

Father Danny Shieffler, St. Mark Episcopal (LR)

Betsy Singleton-Snyder, Winfield UMC (LR)

Steven Smith, Immanuel Baptist (LR)

Stephen Robinson I, New Zion (NLR)

Ali Velasquez, Iglesia Bautista Betel (NLR)

U. C. Washington, Highland Valley UMC (LR)

Bob Weigal, Crossroads Baptist (Benton)

Jameel Wesley, Eighth Street Baptist (NLR)

Ray Williams, City Church Network (LR)

Tamira Wimbush, St. James UMC (Pine Bluff)

Aaron Withers - Trinity COGIC (Pine Bluff)

Mary Vano, Episcopal Church (AR)

Ronnie Yow, Wesley Chapel UMC (LR) 

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Additional Signatories

 

Doris Wright, Second Baptist Church (Little Rock)
Logan Bloom, City Church Network (Little Rock)
Linda DeYmaz, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Lawrence Hicks, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Alison Clinton, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Ken Wilson, Fellowship Bible Church (Conway)
Sandy Kurosaki, First Baptist Church (Benton)
Ryan Kurosaki First, Baptist Church (Benton)
Lauren Carrión, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Melanie Li, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Donna McFadden, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Danny Harris, Christ Community Church (Little Rock)
Tammy Harris, Christ Community Church (Little Rock)
Ken Sutterfield, St. Andrews Anglican (Little Rock)
Jan Sutterfield, St Andrews Anglican Church (Little Rock)
Joshua Hurlburt Grace Church (Little Rock)
C Kimberly Currier Morrrow, Agape Church (Little Rock)
Mark Ingalls, LRWAG
Harritte Townsend, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Lessa Payne, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Thomas Knight, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Jennifer Knight, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Barbara McBryde, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Tami Hendrix, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Dwayne Wilson, Summit Church (Little Rock)
Kimberly Winkel
Chuck Eastman, Mosaic Conway Church (Conway)
Susan Reasoner, St. Andrews Anglican Church (Little Rock)
Beverly Chesser, Mosaic Church (Little Rock)
Sunny Roller, Zion Lutheran Church (Avilla)
Beverly Robinson, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Juliana Falcon, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Jessica Bielamowicz, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Mike Jeffrey, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Amos Gray, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
James Hinton, Keep It Real Ministries
Hunter Goodwin, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Terrie Runnells, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Al Runnells, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Misty Jones, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Ariel Harper, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Tanner Hubbard, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Almeta Rowell, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Lloyd Hodges, Mosaic Conway Church (Conway)
Danyell Carroll, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)
Jake Keet, St, James UMC (Little Rock)
Kenneth Martin, Greater Archview Baptist Church (Little Rock)
Laura Martin, Greater Archview Baptist Church (Little Rock)
Elizabeth Hartmann
Alicia Blett, Bethel Baptist Church, Arvada, CO
Rev. Gail Brooks, Highland Valley UMC
Scott Reddin, Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas (Little Rock)

 

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Confession, Repentance, and Extension of Forgiveness Expressed by Pastors in Attendance (see picture above)

Majority-culture Pastors
For all the times that watched you suffer and failed to understand the depth of your historic and personal pain and suffering. And for not coming to understand that your suffering is our suffering as the body of Christ. On behalf of our respective churches and personally as well, Will you forgive us?

African American Pastors
We forgive you.

Majority-culture Pastors
For all the times you were seen more through political eyes, and not through spiritual eyes, where you were stereotyped, classified and made to be feared by fear mongers and people who could care less about the body of Christ. And we bought into it. On behalf of our respective churches and personally as well, will you forgive us?

African American Pastors
We forgive you.

Majority-culture Pastors
For all the times you kept telling us that Blacks Lives Matter, and all we could do to make sense of it was to respond with All Lives Matter, not realizing the depth of crisis you were in. We were so concerned about our own comfort as the ninety-nine sheep, that we simply did not recognize you as the one Jesus would intentionally leave to go and seek and save. On behalf of our respective churches and personally as well, will you forgive us?

African American Pastors
We forgive you.

Majority-culture Pastors
For all the times that we saw protests on the TV and all there was black faces. And you had no one else but yourselves to rely on. We were not there for you, even though we knew you were tired and exhausted, but you had nowhere else to turn but yourselves and the Lord and we still didn't join you. On behalf of our respective churches and personally as well, will you forgive us?

African American Pastors
We forgive you.

Majority-culture Pastors
And for all the times that we subtly rejected you in our own houses of worship, unless you were willing to come into our place and act like us, dress like us, believe like us, vote like us, spend money like us, sing like us, pray like us. On behalf of our respective churches and personally as well, will you forgive us?

African American Pastors
We forgive you. 

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SPEAK
AND ACT (JAMES 2:12-26)