A restaurant posts a sign of support following the multiple police shooting in Dallas, Texas, U.S., July 7, 2016. Photo courtesy REUTERS/Carlo Allegri Eds: This photo may only be used with RNS-DALLAS-PRAYER published July 8, 2016

After the shootings, Dallas clergy will pray, then advocate for change

(RNS) Dallas clergy, reeling from the shootings of police in their city and the recent shootings of black men by police elsewhere, say they will start responding with prayer and then move to advocating for concrete societal changes in the aftermath of the tragedies.

“Faith leaders now have a responsibility to say we’re going to pray with our feet until real structural change happens in this country,” said the Rev. Frederick Haynes, pastor of Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas.

Haynes, who leads a predominantly black megachurch, joined thousands at a midday prayer service in the city’s Thanks-Giving Square Friday (July 8).

But he said he realizes such gatherings are not sufficient in the eyes of young people who have been calling for change. Their peaceful protests of the recent deaths of black men in St. Paul, Minn., and Baton Rogue, La., at the hands of police came just before the violent attacks in Dallas that left five police officers dead.

On Sunday, Haynes plans to host a “community conversation” led by the young protesters to discuss advocacy for changes to “redo policing,” including reviews of hiring practices and mental health care for law enforcement.

“Policing in America of black and brown communities is the front lines of a war that we feel that is undeclared on black and brown bodies that take place every day in this country,” Haynes said.

The Rev. George Mason, pastor of Wilshire Baptist Church, a mostly white congregation, joined Haynes at the community prayer service and in an op-ed in The Dallas Morning News urging solidarity “because every act of coming together is another stitch in the torn fabric of our community.”

Mason said members of the interracial and interreligious networks that already exist in Dallas have started to determine the next steps for their work in light of the tragedies -- but he said transformation is needed not only in local communities but across the nation.

“We know we have a problem that needs to be addressed but we don’t have a problem with all black people or all white people or all law enforcement people,” he said. “We have a problem of how to address a continuing lingering problem of racial prejudice and profiling that comes out in moments of extraordinary stress and pressure and then how to respond better in the wake of it.”

Other Dallas religious leaders are also calling for moving beyond prayer to greater action to foster unity.

“One of the real tragedies today is that the church as a whole has failed to advance God's kingdom light, equity, love and principles in our land in order to be a positive influence and impact for good in the midst of darkness, fear and hate,” said Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship Pastor Tony Evans. “We must do better.”

Comments

  1. “[Rev. George Mason] said transformation is needed not only in local communities but across the nation. ‘We know we have a problem that needs to be addressed but we don’t have a problem with all black people or all white people or all law enforcement people,’ he said. ‘We have a problem of how to address a continuing lingering problem of racial prejudice and profiling that comes out in moments of extraordinary stress and pressure and then how to respond better in the wake of it.’ ”

    This is why restoring, protecting, and EXERCISING OUR RIGHT TO VOTE is so important.

    Here is only a partial list of political leaders who have stated that their aggressively coordinated anti-voting efforts are for strategic partisan purposes:

    Fran Millar (Georgia State Senator) — See thinkprogress-dot-com article, “Georgia State Senator Complains That Voting Is Too Convenient For Black People”.

    Greg Abbott (then Texas Attorney General, now Governor of Texas) — See businessinsider-dot-com article, “Texas Clarifies That It Discriminates Against Democratic Voters — Not Minorities”.

    Chris Christie (New Jersey Governor) — See northjersey-dot-com article, “Christie says GOP gubernatorial candidates need to win so they control ‘voting mechanisms’ “.

    Glenn Grothman (U.S. Representative for Campbellsport, Wisconsin) — See tmj4-dot-com article, “Grothman: Voter ID law will help eventual GOP nominee win Wisconsin”.

    Doug Preisse (Franklin County, Ohio, Republican Party chairman and Board of Elections member as of August 2012) — See dispatch-dot-com article, “Voting in Ohio | Fight over poll hours isn’t just political”.

    Don Yelton (former GOP precinct chair in Buncombe County, North Carolina)” — See billmoyers-dot-com article, “Unbelievable GOP Statements on Voter Suppression”.

    Ted Yoho (U.S. Representative for Florida’s 3rd congressional district) — See billmoyers-dot-com article, “Unbelievable GOP Statements on Voter Suppression”.

    Jim Greer (former Florida GOP chairman) — See thedailybeast-dot-com article, “Republicans Admit Voter-ID Laws Are Aimed at Democratic Voters”.

  2. Here’s an idea for you, Rev. Haynes. It turns out that Dallas police chief David Brown has been…

    “… reforming the department (that) he had served in for 27 years. He equipped them with body cameras. He adopted a community-oriented program. He revamped training on the use of lethal force. He introduced new guidelines for reporting violent encounters with cops. And he made it department policy to bring in the FBI civil rights division whenever there was a police involved shooting.” — NBC News, July 8.

    So honestly, any of your “young protesters” that want to “lead the discussion” and “re-do policing”, had better be able to show that they have EARNED THE RIGHT to even **participate** in any such discussions, let alone think about leading such discussions.

    Police Chief David Brown, HE has earned the right to lead your discussions. After the Dallas shootings, these protesters better come up with similarly good credibility, otherwise I’m not listening to them.

  3. Only three clergy out of the dozens in the Dallas Area? A disappointing showing. Next time, try contacting the Rev. Eric Folkerth of Northaven UMC, the Rev. Nancy DeStefano of St. Stephen UMC, the Rev. Michael Waters of Joy Tabernacle AME, to name just a few of our more prominent activists. Or try calling Grace Presbytery of the PCUSA, the Dallas Diocese of the Episcopal Church, the North Texas Annual Conference of the UMC or the Dallas Baptist Association for more contacts.

  4. In a situation like this, no one, no side, can “lead the discussion.” There needs to be mutual communication, both sides standing on common ground, both sides heard equally.

    The police chief has ONLY the right to lead his side of the discussion. The protesters have ONLY the right to lead their side of the discussion. Both sides must be heard, and the two — as equals — need to try to find viable solutions. This will be difficult because we have a crisis where police shootings are a symptom; the causes of violence (on both sides) are going to have to be addressed.

  5. I copied the same quote G Key did because it shows an extraordinary level of clarity and completeness. That is the issue.

    Some jobs, such as ordained pastor in the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (A mainline Protestant denomination, so don’t be thrown off by the word “evangelical” in the name.), require extensive psychological testing for all candidates. There are at least 2 written tests and face to face interviews with experts in the field of psychology in the ELCA.

    Police candidates need to undergo similar rigorous examination of their psychological fitness. I believe they should surrender a list of all their online presences, including passwords, so that all that can be examined.

    It is a fact that positions of power attract those who lust for abusive use of that power. That includes clergy, police, military, political and similar work. Therefore extra needs to be done.

    In addition, I would like to see a program offered for those who are found psychologically unsuited. I believe the ELCA offers follow up psychological help.

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