Open Letter from the Board of Bishops of the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church - "The Freedom Church" on Ferguson, MO

“Let true justice prevail, so you may live and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you” - Deuteronomy 16:20

The Board of Bishops of the AME Zion Church, known throughout our more than two hundred year history as “The Freedom Church”, is profoundly concerned by the lack of justice for the most marginalized in this country; for those in poverty, for those who are immigrants, and for those who are black or brown, young and living in urban communities.

This is most recently evidenced by the lack of an indictment in the killing of Michael Brown on the street in Ferguson, Missouri. While the facts may be disputed and the result of a fair trial might have deemed Officer Darren Wilson innocent, the failure of the prosecutor and the grand jury to refer it to full trial by jury leaves many unanswered questions and a festering sore in the community and across the nation.

We affirm that there is a time for everything, including healing but now is not that time…at least not yet. Now is the time to demand justice. Now is the time to feel deeply, repent sincerely, pray fervently, protest collectively, and plan strategically. Now is the time to lament the lost of the life of yet another unarmed, young black male at the hands of an officer who has sworn to “protect and serve” those lives. Now is the time to express our righteous anger that black lives are marginalized and devalued from the cradle to the grave. Now is the time to continually confront systems of racism, inequality, and injustice.

A call is issued to all persons of goodwill of every race, nationality, and economic status, to acknowledge the lingering and pernicious racism that impacts virtually every aspect of American society but has its most deadly consequences in the encounters between young black men and law enforcement and the judicial system.

Our country and her leaders must ask some penetrating questions. Have we been lulled into complacency after the achievements of the Civil Rights Movement, ignoring the remaining struggles in the areas of education, economics, and mass incarceration? Have we been deluded by greater inclusivity and access to public accommodations to erroneously believe ours to be a “post-racial” society? Have we, as religious leaders and the broader community, become so coopted by status, comfort, and materialism that our prophetic voices on behalf of the marginalized have been muted?

To understand the perspective and pain in our community, the tragic events in Ferguson cannot be viewed in isolation, they must be interpreted in light of similar incidents across the country. Young African American males are twenty one times more likely to be shot by police than whites. We grieve with the parents and family of Michael Brown, as we continue to pray for and grieve with the families of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, Jonathan Ferrell, Kimani Gray, Kendrec McDade, Amadou Diallo, Sean Bell, Aaron Campbell, Wendell Allen, Oscar Grant, and the hundreds of young black men, who though unarmed have been killed by police officers.

We also pray earnestly for the families of the thousands of youth killed in our cities by other black youth. Our outrage about unjustified police killings does not diminish by one iota our constant efforts to address the pandemic of violence in our own communities. We have and will continue to pursue all efforts to lift our youth out of poverty, crime, and prisons of inadequate education.

Once again, we call upon all municipalities to evaluate their current police training procedures in an effort to address racial and social biases, and take concrete, measurable steps to improve community/police relations. All police officers should be equipped with body cameras to provide support for good policing and deter abusive actions. Additionally, we challenge all municipalities to examine their recruitment and hiring procedures with the goal of moving towards a police force that reflects the community it serves.

Pastors, we encourage you to use this Sunday, the first Sunday in Advent, to preach and teach on social justice, reminding our congregations that the Lord came to dwell among us to bring salvation, liberty, and justice. GOD is still the GOD of the oppressed.

Weariness must not conquer our spirits. Apathy and despair are not options. We will never lose hope! The legacy of our people has been forged in the crucible of slavery, oppression, lynchings, pain, and suffering and we’ve never surrendered to the spirit of defeatism or anarchy. Our efforts will be intensified as we work within our denomination and beyond to develop strategies to address the multitude of issues impacting our community, as we also partner with others who advocate and work for justice and peace. Our testimony is that “we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us!”

“God of our weary years,
God of our silent tears,
Thou who has brought us thus far on the way;
Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.”

With Hearts Broken, yet Hope-filled - Your Chief Pastors;

Board of Bishops

Bishop Michael A. Frencher, President
Bishop George E. Battle, Senior Bishop
Bishop Richard K. Thompson
Bishop Louis Hunter
Bishop Kenneth Monroe
Bishop Darryl B. Starnes
Bishop Dennis V. Proctor
Bishop Mildred B. Hines
Bishop W. Darin Moore
Bishop Seth O. Lartey
Bishop Joseph Johnson
Bishop Marshall Strickland
Bishop George W.C. Walker, Sr.
Bishop S. Chuka Ekemam
Bishop Nathaniel Jarrett
Bishop Warren M. Brown

  • February 12-16, 2018
    Board of Bishops' and International Ministers & Lay Association Meeting
    Norfolk Waterside Marriott Hotel
    235 East Main Street
    Norfolk, VA
    Register by February 5, 2018!
  • February 14, 2018
    Ash Wednesday
    Ash Wednesday is always celebrated on a Wednesday seven weeks prior to Easter Sunday. For Christians, the day marks the first day of Lent and the starting of 6 weeks of fasting and penance.
  • February 14-March 29, 2018
    Lent begins on Ash Wednesday each year and for Christians starts the 40 day period of fasting. The day represents the 40 days Jesus spend fasting in the wilderness.
  • February 14, 2018
    Valentine's Day
    We love because he first loved us 1 John 4:19
  • March 11, 2018
    Daylight Savings Time
    Spring forward - Turn your clocks forward an hour at 2 a.m. local standard time (At 2 a.m. on March 11th, the clocks after they are moved forward an hour, will read 3 a.m. local daylight time).

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The People's AME Zion Church :: Syracuse, NY :: Reverend Daren C. Jaime, Pastor

CED Winter Meeting 2017



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