An open letter to white clergy on George Floyd’s murder and the current unrest

An Open Letter to White Clergy

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs

To my colleagues in ministry, particularly in the Twin Cities,

We are all challenged with how to be a ministering presence during these difficult times. George Floyd was murdered at the hands of the Minneapolis Police department. Many of us took to the streets during a global pandemic to demand justice. As I write this, I witnessed outside my suburban window a steady stream of city buses filled with state troopers speeding towards Minneapolis. Our cities are burning. On top of that many of you are prayerfully attempting to craft this Sunday’s sermon. Pentecost Sunday. When fire came to earth and turned the world upside down. My dear friends, especially my white colleagues in ministry, as you work on your sermons for this Sunday please heed this word of caution.

Right now, you may not know what words to say. You are feeling an impulse to pray and appeal to God for peace. I want you to consider not praying for peace. I know that this seems counter intuitive, but please don’t dismiss me just yet. So often in the midst of unrest we make an appeal for peace, but what is meant by peace? What are we asking for? When the unrest is a reaction to blatant racism; When the righteous anger makes you fearful; When our cities are burning; When in the midst of all this you take your pulpit and pray for peace, it is often a veiled plea for a return to “law and order”. If this is what you plan to do this Sunday, I would implore you to promptly resign your pulpit. To you this may seem extreme but I assure you I am absolutely sincere.

Your desire for law and order may seem peace to you, but it is definitely not peace for our communities of color. The prophet Jeremiah warns against superficial peace. “They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace Peace’ they say, when there is no peace.” Your “peace” is based on law and order which itself is based on the Constitution. This constitution didn’t codify into common law that YOU were less than fully human. This Constitution didn’t have to be amended to grant that YOU are not property. This Constitution and the system of laws that grew from it work great for YOU, but make no mistake it was never meant to protect Black and Brown people.

When white people cry for peace it is too often an appeal to silence Black anger to make room for White comfort. We don’t need peace. We don’t need things to return to normal. Normal is what got us here. We need leadership that will bravely face the truth of our white supremacist society and commit to change it. We need white people to get comfortable with dis-comfort. We need many things, but we do not need a superficial peace. For if you declare a shallow peace without the depth of justice; without the upheaval of systems created to intentionally suppress Black and Brown people; the prophet Jeremiah again warns of your awaiting fate. “So, they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them, Says the Lord”

If this Sunday you plan on praying for peace without committing to work towards justice. If your desire is simply to see the status quo restored, then do yourself a favor and resign your pulpit. Save yourself from God’s judgement.

Rev. Jim Bear Jacobs (Mohican)
Director of Racial Justice, founder of Healing Minnesota Stories
MN Council of Churches

6 thoughts on “An open letter to white clergy on George Floyd’s murder and the current unrest

  1. Thank you Rev Jacobs. One translation of shalom in Hebrew is balance (only justice, equitibily will bring balance). If we call for any kind of peace, it must be this kind.
    Rev Gretchen Pickeral

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  2. Rev. Jacobs,
    I fully hear and understand where your coming from. I’m more than well aware of the atrocities towards Blacks, Native Americans, Mexicans, and so on that this country has done. And frankly the world. Yet I also am aware that the same has happened to Whites as well. I know of Mexican on Mexican, Indians on Indians, even White on White. Racism no matter what color of skin is simply un – Christian. Did not God create ALL Men in his image? For when Jesus preached, he did with out prejudice (Jew, Gentile, White, Black) For that reason I am against any racism, no matter what color of skin it is against.
    And when I pray as a white minister for peace, it’s not for peace that any man can bring. It’s for the peace that God can bring to all his creation. For that is true peace, true justice and true love. And only when that peace comes will we truly live in harmony.
    Rev. Matthew L Koscielski

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    • Rev. Koscielski,

      Your words I believe are brought with a sincere desire to do God’s will. Yet I challenge you to consider how you might be the very person to whom this article is addressed. Racism is not the same as prejudiced. Racism is racial prejudice backed by power. It is systemic. There is no such thing as white on white racism. The atrocities committed toward our black and brown brothers and sisters are in no way comparable to any prejudice that white people have faced. I also want to challenge you to check your sexism too. You have addressed your comments about equality to only one gender. There will not be justice until people can understand that talking about “all men” and referring exclusively to God as male is harmful to women. And when one suffers, we all suffer.

      With you, I agree that we do need to pray for true peace, which means praying for justice and God’s will to be done on earth. however, we need to be very clear about the need for justice. No Justice, no peace. Know justice, know peace.

      Rev. Abigail Ozanne

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    • I would ask you to examine the terms that you use: Mexican, not Latinx, Indian not Native or First Nation. I find these to be examples of racism.

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