VERDICT OR VICTORY?

Guilty. Guilty. Guilty. It was the proverbial shot heard around the world. The word ricocheted from city to village to hamlet and from country to continent. In years to come, people will be able to recall exactly where they were when the guilty verdicts in the Derek Chauvin murder and manslaughter trial were read out loud by the judge, the defendant showing little or no emotion.

The death of George Floyd at the hands of police officers sworn to protect and serve our communities captivated all classes of people. It gave impetus to the Black Lives Matter movement, as thousands thronged the streets of major American cities last summer in protest. When the guilty verdicts were read, people applauded and danced in the streets.

On every hand and by every measure, the verdict was rare. While some saw it as a victory, others have chosen to view it as just what it is, one verdict. The justice system worked this time, thanks in large part to the engagement of concerned onlookers, including an alert teenager who shot videos of ex-officer Chauvin pressing his knee into the neck of a handcuffed George Floyd on the ground for over nine minutes. The graphic video triggered intense disgust and profound horror worldwide.

The United States president stated that the verdict, while significant, won’t be enough to stem the tide of police misconduct in the nation. Acknowledging that the struggle for racial justice is far from over, others hope that the verdict will come to represent the start of a new phase in America’s tortuous march toward justice.

In a sense, the trial of Derek Chauvin transcended the events that took place outside Cup Foods in Minneapolis last Memorial Day. The American legal system and its ability to deliver justice to all people regardless of race or ethnicity was on trial. Americans and people worldwide paid close attention to the case, waiting to see if justice would be served this time, and a collective gasp was emitted when the judge read the guilty verdict, and Chauvin was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs.

In the midst of the Chauvin trial, an unarmed young black man was shot and killed by a police officer in Brooklyn Center, Minnesota, a mere ten miles from Minneapolis. Around the time Chauvin was being convicted in a Minneapolis courtroom, a black teenage girl was shot to death by a police officer in Columbus, Ohio. The teen was brandishing a knife and refused to heed the police officer’s call to drop the weapon. Calls for the cessation of killings like these two and that of Floyd continue to reverberate around the country, as are appeals that police reform and sensible gun control legislation be enacted and implemented.

Ours is a broken world of deeply flawed people. We long for heaven. “Violence shall no more be heard in thy land, wasting nor destruction within thy borders” (Isa. 60:18, KJV). “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away . . . And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:1, 5, KJV).

“Even so, come, Lord Jesus” (Rev. 22:20). Shabbat Shalom!

Clifford Jones

President


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WE STAND WITH OUR ASIANS BROTHERS AND SISTERS

On Tuesday, March 16, 2021, a lone gunman shot and killed six Asian women and two other people in the Atlanta area. The horrific incident sent shock waves throughout the country and jolted the Asian American community. Condemnation of the mass killing was swift and included a rebuke from President Joe Biden. It appears that the gunman targeted Asian Americans, who have experienced a surge in violence since COVID-19.
 

The Lake Region Conference (LRC) joins all concerned Americans and people of conscience and good will in condemning the senseless act of violence that ended the lives of innocent people. Without question, what happened in Atlanta, GA, was an act of ethnic and gender violence that has no place in a civilized society. Read more…


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STATEMENT ON THE SHOOTING OF JACOB BLAKE

Another African American man has been unjustifiably shot—in the back, no less—by a white police officer.  Another round of violent protests by enraged citizens has erupted as a consequence. Another plea for peaceful demonstrations has been issued. Another state of emergency has been declared. Another contingent of the National Guard has been deployed.

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MOMENT OR MOVEMENT

The moments are indelibly seared into our collective consciousness.  Unarmed, handcuffed, and pinned to the ground by the knee of Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, George Floyd cries and pleads for his mother as his life is snuffed out.  Running away from an Atlanta cop after a scuffle in the parking lot of a fast-food restaurant, Rayshard Brooks stumbles and falls to the ground after being fatally shot in the back by the cop.  It is difficult to watch the videos that depict Floyd’s descent into death and the collapse of Brooks and not recoil in revulsion.

 

In the weeks following the horrendous deaths of Floyd, Brooks, and other African Americans before them at the hands of police officers, protests and demonstrations took place in the United States and around the world.  Whether organic or organized, the protests were grounded in the belief that the deaths of these African Americans at the hands of law enforcement personnel were unjustifiable.  The theme of the protests was simple. “Black Lives Matter.”

 

It appears that the deaths of George Floyd and Rayshard Brooks represent a seminal moment in our nation’s history.  Something about the way each man died touched a raw nerve in people, stoking reaction in blacks and whites, and in old and young alike.  Condemnation of the actions of the police officers responsible for the deaths was generally swift and decisive, and came from small organizations and large institutions.  Overwhelmingly white crowds took to the streets with signs screaming “Black Lives Matter.”  A momentous moment unfolded.  The spring of 2020 was a hinge moment, a molten moment, in the tortious history of race relations in the United States.

 

What may be the message of the watershed moment, and, more importantly, will the moment morph into a movement?  The message of the moment is that people are fed up with the lack of justice and the seemingly blatant disregard for black life in this country.  The message of the moment is that law enforcement must be held accountable, and that thoughtful and long-term change are needed in how communities of color are served and protected by police.  The message of the moment is that racism must stop, and that sustainable change must be ushered in. 

 

People are praying that this moment is one of recalibration and reset, that a fundamental shift in how people of color are viewed and treated in this country will take place.  People are crying out for change.  They want to maximize the moment.  They want the minute to become a mile, indeed a marathon, of hope and institutional, systemic change. 

 

Difficult conversations about race are now taking place, and that is to applauded.  For far too long race has been a taboo subject, the proverbial elephant in the room that is rarely acknowledged but often lurking and looming in the shadows.  Considered America’s “birth defect” by some, race continues to profoundly impact life in this country and around the world.

 

Only time will tell if the loud protests and demonstrations we witnessed in the immediate aftermath of the slayings of George Floyd, Rayshard Brooks and others will result in a sustained, permanent shift in how the broader society thinks of and treats people of color or a temporary phenomenon spawned by the heat of the moment.  The answer as to whether the moment will become a movement that lasts and brings about tangible, discernable, and measurable change lies within each of us.  You get to decide; and I get to decide.  And we must be willing to invest our energies and expend our resources to that end.

 

Black Lives Matter, Too!

Clifford Jones

Pastor/President

 

 

 


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THE MILESTONE & THE MOMENT

The last week of May 2020 will go down in American history as one of infamy.  The week will not be remembered for a positive discovery or development that benefitted humankind, but for a milestone in the war against the coronavirus (COVID-19) and an incident in Minneapolis, Minnesota, that together starkly show the tenuous state of race in the United States at the time. Read more…

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WE WEAR THE MASK

“We wear the mask that grins and lies, It hides our cheeks and shades our eyes, This debt we pay to human guile; With torn and bleeding hearts we smile, . . . Why should the world be other-wise, In counting all our tears and sighs? Nay, let them only see us, while we wear the mask.”

 

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LOOKING OUT FOR THE LEAST

Image: “I was Hungry,” by Nathan Greene 
“Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me” (Matt. 25:45, NIV). Are you aware that April is National Child Abuse Prevention month? Isn’t it ironic that April 2020 finds millions of American children sheltering in place at home as a precaution against contracting or spreading the coronavirus (COVID-10)? In some states, public and private schools will remain closed for the remainder of the school year. E-education will be the modality of teaching and learning during the pandemic. 

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SOCIALLY DISTANT YET SPIRITUALLY CONNECTED

Listening to one of Governor Andrew Cuomo’s press briefings on the coronavirus (COVID-19) contagion the other day, I was struck by something he said. The governor of New York encouraged New Yorkers to remain spiritually connected even as they complied with his Executive Order to practice social distancing.

Social distancing is understood to mean staying at least 6 feet apart from others, especially those you do not know. The admonition of government and medical authorities is that we stay away from each other for our own good.  “Stay at home” is the order of the day. To be socially isolated during these unprecedented times may be the difference between life and death. Read more…

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IN TIMES LIKE THESE

Warmest Christian greetings,  
I pray you and your loved ones are well physically and spiritually.

The Coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic continues to wreak havoc at home and abroad, bringing entire countries and communities to their knees. By now, everybody has been impacted by the pandemic in some way.   The non-stop torrent of news about the virus is difficult to ignore, and I suspect that many of you have stocked up on supplies to get you through the coming weeks, if not months.

As we knew would happen, there has been a whirlwind of rapid developments that call for an update on what the Lake Region Conference (LRC) has done and is doing to deal with this unprecedented situation. Please note the following items, some of which are actions voted by LRC’s Administrative Council, ADCOM.

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Women Count, Women Matter

Katherine Johnson passed away on February 24, 2020, at age 101. You’re probably knitting your brow wondering who was Katherine Johnson and asking why is her death noteworthy. Johnson was one of the first African American woman hired by NASA and one of the three African American women scientists depicted in the movie Hidden Figures that compellingly tells of the pioneering work they did at NASA. Not surprisingly, the performance of the brilliant women mathematicians, who toiled in the shadows at NASA because of their race and gender, was not celebrated or recognized at the time.  If the movie Hidden Figures teaches anything, it is that the contributions of African American women were often overlooked and undervalued by society, all because of their race and gender.

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