Donate to RNS

AME Church statement on Kyle Rittenhouse, Ahmaud Arbery and Pervis Payne

African Methodist Episcopal Church

We understand the assignment

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” — Rev Martin Luther King Jr. (1963)

All over the world, we are experiencing escalating violence and injustice against Black people and those who dare to stand with us for the cause of equity and justice. On Friday, November 19, a mostly white jury found Kyle Rittenhouse not guilty of murder and assault despite the fact that his mother drove him to Kenosha, Wisconsin, where he was armed with an AR-15 and infiltrated the crowd of protestors supporting the family of Jacob Blake and murdered people standing up for justice. During the same week, the attorney for one of the white defendants who chased down and cornered Ahmaud Arbery with his pick-up truck in Brunswick, Georgia, before shooting him called ‘Black Pastors’ who have come to support the Arbury family in court. This week, we anticipate a verdict in the U.S. District Court civil case in Charlottesville, Virginia, where nine plaintiffs have sued two dozen Defendants alleging defendants engaged in a race-based violent conspiracy when planning and executing the ‘Unite the Right’ rally held in 2017. Testimony in the case included extensive evidence about the rise of neo-Nazi and white supremacist collaboration and violence.

On November 18, 2021, Julius Jones was scheduled for execution in Oklahoma before being granted clemency with just hours to spare. On that same day, the lengthy court battle in Tennessee over whether to proceed with the execution of Pervis Payne ended with the announcement that Payne would instead get two consecutive life sentences. Thousands of people of goodwill (including many AME’s) used their resources to intervene on behalf of Julius Jones and Pervis Payne because they may be innocent and because of the evidence of racial bias in his arrest and trial. Although we are grateful their lives have been spared, they remain sentenced to life without the possibility of parole crimes they may not have committed. They are two of many persons who have been victimized by racial bias in the criminal justice system. 

We call upon the United States Congress to pass the Freedom to Vote Act to make partisan gerrymandering illegal so that we can ensure continued access to voting rights. Bruce Schroeder, the judge in the Rittenhouse case, is one of the longest-serving judges in Wisconsin and is elected to his position. We call upon people of goodwill to collaborate to ensure that he is opposed if he is eligible to run in the next election. We call upon the Wisconsin State Bar to investigate his egregious conduct during the Rittenhouse trial. We seek a complete overhaul of the criminal justice system and demand that Congress revisit and pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act. All police departments must be held accountable for brutality. We stand against legislation that promotes the open carrying of loaded weapons and grants tacit approval for vigilantism.  

The AME Church is deeply grateful for all people of faith and goodwill who actively seek to change the trajectory of injustice by showing up with their bodies, making calls, sending letters, and using their political influence.

We pray for the traumatized among us and for a renewed strength and refreshing for all who may be growing weary in well-doing.


The Council of Bishops

Bishop Adam J. Richardson, Senior Bishop

Bishop E. Anne Henning Byfield, President of the Council of Bishops

Bishop Francine A. Brookins. Chair of Public Statements


Jeff Cooper
African Methodist Episcopal Church
[email protected]

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.

Donate to Support Independent Journalism!

Donate Now!