The Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner is the co-chair of the National African-American Clergy Network. Photo by Patricia McDougall

Ferguson letter from black clergy becomes interracial call for justice

Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about Ferguson, Mo. Photo by Patricia McDougall, courtesy of Trinity United Church of Christ

The Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about Ferguson, Mo. Photo by Patricia McDougall Photos

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

(RNS) As the Rev. Barbara Williams-Skinner collected signatures for a statement by leaders of African-American church groups about the Ferguson, Mo., police shooting of Michael Brown, she found more people wanted to join in.

The general secretary of the National Council of Churches wanted to add his name; an Asian-American evangelical leader, too.

What started out as a “Joint Statement of Heads of Historic African American Church Denominations” has become an interracial cry for justice.

“It’s touching hearts of people who have sons and who know that their sons would not be treated this way,” said Williams-Skinner, co-chair of the National African-American Clergy Network, on Thursday (Aug. 21). "They know it’s wrong. They know it’s wrong before God. And they are responding on a human level.”

The Rev. Dr. Otis Moss Jr., photo courtesy of Trinity United Church of Christ.

The Rev. Otis Moss Jr. helped spearhead a statement on Ferguson, Mo., from black clergy. Photo courtesy of Trinity United Church of Christ.

 This image is available for web and print publication. For questions, contact Sally Morrow.

The statement, also spearheaded by the Rev. Otis Moss Jr. and the Rev. T. DeWitt Smith, veteran civil rights activists, calls on African-American churches to memorialize Michael Brown, the unarmed African-American teen who was shot and killed by a white police officer on Aug. 9. It also urges contributions to a national fund to assist his family with pending legal expenses.

"In light of the long and bloody trail of lynchings, deaths, and killings of African American youth from Emmett Till, to Trayvon Martin, to Michael Brown, and scores of others throughout our nation, we call for action, justice, and the transformation of our society,” the letter reads.

The statement calls for greater voter participation and replacing elected officials with others who "represent the preservation of life in ethnic communities where a disproportionate amount of killings, unsubstantiated sentencings, and jail time, are unwarranted means for perpetuating racism and bias against ethnic minorities.”

Other faith groups have weighed in with statements, from the North American leader of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to the World Council of Churches.

Thousands of people signed onto a statement from Sojourners, saying they stood with Brown’s family and friends. More than 300 leaders signed a Faith in Public Life open letter to the community of Ferguson, saying they were praying for the family of Brown as well as the police officer who ended his life and the armed officers who responded to the protesters: “We love you, mourn with you, and pray for you all.”



  1. Hyperbole in the letter detracts from the situation.

  2. It would have been nice if those black clergy had said a few words of contrition and apology towards that Asian store clerk that Michael Brown Jr robbed and assaulted. You know, maybe a petition denouncing violence on ALL sides by ALL races, including black Americans. Let that clerk’s family know that they are not forgotten.

    But those black clergyperson were — and worse yet, still ARE — afraid to say such things out loud, yes? Afraid of what the black community, the liberal politicians, and the liberal media might say or do to them? Yes. That’s it.

    But we need to be honest about things, all the same: Michael Brown Jr. was NOT lynched. Not murdered.

    Michael Brown Jr. is not Emmitt Till. Michael Brown Jr. is not Martin Luther King Jr. Michael Brown Jr assaulted bullied, robbed, and severely injured some people on his way out of this life. AND his demise may even possibly be legally justifiable depending on all the evidence that a grand jury (the rule of law, remember?) will be called on to examine. We have to wait and see.

    We can show sympathy and empathy WITHOUT doing any more of this unjustifed and unconscionable rush-to-judgment canonizations of robber Brown and demonizations of policeman Warren.

  3. You may not know this, “Doc” (ha!) Anthony, but in the U.S. theft is NOT a capital crime. If Michael Brown (and that’s a big IF) did steal, then there is a proper legal procedure to address it that DOESN’T include killing him.

  4. Did he or did he not leave a police officer with a facial fracture, try to grab the man’s gun, or charge at him? You do those sorts of things, you get shot. Not rocket science.

  5. These people adhere to a mishmash of inane sentiments and do not have the tools to do any community much good.

  6. I would think that Reverands would know that is likely wrong before God to rush to judgement before all the facts are in. They seem to be saying racism is a sin (and I agree racism is a form of evil) but they sound racist in assuming the young man was shot because he was black by an officer probably because he was white.

    How about we wait until all the facts are in and we find out if the officer did murder this young man or if the young man was threatening the officer with physical harm.

  7. Well according to some friends of mine that live their presently, I was told there was no robbery. Mike paid for the cigars, but when he was leaving the store the store clerk wanted to see his drivers license to make sure he was twenty one, that was the reason he shove the store clerk. The store clerk did not call the police, it was some one else in the store that took those video. I sure this will come out in the court proceedings, also video of the officer that shot Mike showed no injury. It appear he was hit by someone else and sent to the hospital, to cover his mess. No police report of this child death, while there was 15 page report of the suppose theft. There is clearly a cover up. This officer just murdered Mike, the lord said vengeance is mine, so I think that officer need to be pray for.

  8. He did not leave a police officer with a facial fracture. That orbital socket blowout was from years ago–as a cursory Google search will show you. There’s also no proof of grabbing a gun or charging the officer–but ample proof that he hand his hands up in the air and was turned away from/walking away from the officer when the shooting started. Facts are lovely.

  9. There is no such thing as systemic reverse racism–and these clergy are referring to Mike Brown’s death as one in a long (and sadly, continuing) line of white-on-black murders. This *is* about race, it is about racism at work, and it is about how none of us can be liberated until we are all liberated together.

  10. And where is the Catholic Church on this letter? A priest let Gov McDonnell move in with him and accompanied him to his trial for corruption.

    Did one accompany the Brown family in their grief at losing their son in this senseless way? As a lay Catholic, I am pleased to hear from lay Catholics who are standing with Brown’s family and the people of Ferguson in calling for an end to this kind of brutality. I hope there are also Catholic priests who stand with them PUBLICLY. To those who did, a heartfelt mahalo.

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