Calvary United Methodist Church | 131 West Second Street | Frederick, MD 21701 301-662-1464 office@calvaryumc.org

Bishop Bruce R. Ough issued the following statement May 31, 2020, amid protests and violence happening in Minneapolis six days after the death of George Floyd. Bishop Ough is the Resident Bishop of the Dakotas-Minnesota Area.

Dr. Martin Luther King astutely observed that “a riot is the language of the unheard.” Throughout our country’s history, subjugated, displaced, and unrepresented people have resorted to protests and riots to be heard and to compel national governments, state authorities, and community leaders to act. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am not advocating or justifying burning, looting, or anarchy. I am not advocating or justifying destroying the very businesses that provide the livelihood of and serve predominantly black and brown communities. I condemn the outside agitators and anarchists who are exploiting the situation and do not care for or honor the message intended by the protesters. I join the many faith leaders who are urging peaceful protests and honoring curfews designed to curtail senseless violence and destruction.

But I do want us, particularly those of us who are the beneficiaries of white privilege, to understand that our African-American sisters and brothers are gasping for breath. For 400 years, through slavery, lynching, apartheid (Jim Crow), the civil rights movement, institutionalized racism, and long-delayed police reform, the African-American community has been crying out, “I can’t breathe.” And yet, the knee of oppression, white supremacy, and inaction remains. If we see only riots and protests, we are not looking close enough. People of color and many others who have been left out and left behind are gasping for the oxygen of freedom. They are gasping for the oxygen of economic opportunity. They are gasping for the oxygen of equal justice.

Bishop Ough wrote this on Sunday. That same day, Rev Sullivan and I preached and prayed about ways that we might overcome divisions. The United States is visibly broken by the coming together of health, economic and racial issues just now. The death of George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery spark a new sense of sorrow and outrage that has been present for generations.  We can respond to this moment in ways that open up a better future for everyone.

On Monday, President Donald Trump pledged to deploy U.S. military on U.S. soil against U.S. citizens if governors did not follow his advice to fill the streets with National Guard troops. Trump chose not to meet with representatives of the demonstrators or other figures, to address the deep wounds in our society, but rather used law enforcement to fire flash-bang shells, gas, and rubber bullets into the crowd that seemed to have been peaceably assembled. He did so in order to stand alone in front of a church for a photo op.

The words and actions of our President adds to the chaos and division that is already widespread. Violence and looting are not to be condoned in any way. However, a blustery show of strength that inflames the anger, hurt and discord will not solve the underlying problems we face. If ever there was a time to pray for our country and its leaders, now is that time.  It is also the time to do the work of holding serous conversations and building real relationships of trust that can overcome the racism and hate that has been destructive to us all.

-Pastor Steve Larsen