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Baptist leaders react to Chauvin guilty verdict

Baptist leaders in Texas and around the country offered their prayers and comments in response to the verdict of former police officer Derek Chauvin as guilty on all counts in the death of George Floyd.

The jury issued its verdict after ten hours of deliberation, and almost 11 months after a bystander videoed Chauvin, an 18-year veteran of the Minneapolis Police Department, kneeling on Floyd’s neck for 9 minutes and 29 seconds after detaining him May 25, 2020, when Floyd used a counterfeit $20 bill to pay for cigarettes.

His death that day touched off nationwide protests and violence. On April 20, Judge Peter Cahill read the verdict: the jury found Chauvin guilty of second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter. Chauvin was taken into custody immediately and will be sentenced in the coming weeks.

David Hardage, executive director of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, expressed his prayer concerns and hopes on Twitter.

“Prayed this evening for the family of George Floyd and hoping that a better day is ahead for this country and his church,” Hardage tweeted.

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‘How far we have to go’

Stephen Reeves, executive director of Fellowship Southwest, posted on Facebook: “Grateful for the unanimous verdict, but the fact that it was such a surprise to so many tells you how far we have to go to achieve justice. Now we await a stiff sentence commensurate with the brutal crime and the necessary systemic reforms that will make such deaths much less likely.”

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Leaders of Fellowship Southwest also issued an official statement commending the jury in Chauvin’s trial for “their commitment to truth, fairness and decency.”

“We’re grateful they ‘believed their eyes,’ refused to look away, and confirmed what the world witnessed when we watched the video of this murder,” the statement read. “While we resonate with the relief of George Floyd’s family, we also share their lament. He should be alive, and no verdict—no matter how just—will bring him back. So, we continue to mourn with and pray for his family. We pray not only for them, but for all families who feel their pain, who remember their own losses when they recall the knee on the neck of this beloved son, brother and father. Officer Chauvin will be held accountable for his actions while many others have not.

“We join the millions who pray this conviction becomes a turning point in our struggle toward racial justice. We also realize our prayers alone are insufficient. So, we pledge action. We will continue to join all people of goodwill who advocate for racial justice in every system and sphere of our communities, nation and world. May God grant us all the compassion, humility, courage and perseverance necessary to prevail on behalf of justice for all people.”


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On the Delvin Atchison Ministries Facebook page, Pastor Delvin Atchison of Westside Baptist Church in Lewisville wrote: “We are grateful that the justice system has delivered what we believe to be the correct verdict. We pray for God’s guidance for a sentence befitting the severity of the heinous crime. Please continue to pray for God’s comfort for the family of George Floyd and the healing of our land.”

The Facebook page for Friendship-West Baptist Church in Dallas, quoted Pastor Frederick D. Haynes III as saying, “In order for there to be peace, there must be justice and liberation.” The post also included the comment: “God bless George Floyd’s family and loved ones and God rest his soul!”

‘A right a just step … but it is just a step’

Sen. Raphael Warnock, pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Ga., said: “First and foremost, I’m thinking about George Floyd’s children and his family, and I’m thankful that they received something that approaches justice today after the trauma they’ve endured—one we’ve seen visited upon Black people and communities of color time and time again, and that never becomes less painful.

“As a voice for Georgians in the Senate, and as a Black man, I hope today’s verdict is the beginning of a turning point in our country where people who have seen this trauma over and over again will know it is possible to have equal protection under the law.”

The jury in the Chauvin trial “heard the evidence, reflected on the testimony, and reached a conclusion that is just and right,” said Paul Baxley, executive coordinator of the Cooperative Baptist Fellowship.

“We should be grateful for their diligence to the oath they took. Ever since we heard George Floyd gasp for breath in his final minutes almost a year ago, and as we watched him die with a knee on his neck, we knew that his life had been taken in a criminal act of police brutality. This verdict is a right and just step. But it is just a step, and against centuries of racial injustice, we must also affirm that there are many more steps that must be taken,” Baxley said.

“History has taught us time and again that steps like this, by themselves, are no guarantee that we are on a path toward justice or beloved community. If there is to be justice for George Floyd or any other child of God, there is more required.

“Those next steps are far more important than this step. How do we dismantle structures that breed white supremacy and condone police brutality? What is required from our government? What is required from each of us as individuals? What is required from the church? How does the church, in word and in deed, cultivate beloved community by inviting genuine repentance, honest friendship, and real actions that repair the devastations of many generations? The verdict that matters more will be the one that is rendered in light of the next steps we are called to take.”

‘Help the healing process’

While lamenting Floyd’s death, several Southern Baptist leaders said they were thankful justice had been served.

“The jury in this case deliberated and made a unanimous guilty verdict. Unfortunately, the guilty verdict won’t bring George Floyd back to the dinner table with his family and friends,” said Marshal Ausberry, pastor of Antioch Baptist Church in Fairfax Station, Va., and SBC first vice president. “It is a tragic loss, and there are no winners.”

Ausberry, who is also president of the National African American Fellowship of the Southern Baptist Convention, added: “The death of George Floyd is one more horrific memory added to the historical trauma that African Americans live with every day. While we don’t know Derrick Chauvin’s motivations, his actions resulted in a needless and senseless death. I pray for Derrick Chauvin and his family as they also have to live with the consequences of his actions.

“I pray for George Floyd’s family as they grieve their loss and that God grants them peace. I pray that the justice delivered will help the healing process for them and their community. I hope that the death of George Floyd will bring about police reform throughout the nation. There are many good and dutiful law enforcement personnel—we cannot taint all of them with the actions of Derrick Chauvin. But when law enforcement personnel cross the blue line, they need to be subject to swift justice.”

Ronnie Floyd, president and CEO of the SBC Executive Committee, echoed those sentiments.

“While we are extremely grateful for our law enforcement officers who risk their lives daily to protect us in every way, we are also saddened when any misuse of authority causes harm to the very people they seek to protect,” Floyd said. “When that happens—as the jury determined in this case—justice must be served.

“Our path forward as a nation should be one paved with standing together, mourning together, committing to truth, and resolving to press forward together in the spirit of Christ, our Prince of Peace.”

Emory Berry, pastor of Greenforest Community Baptist Church in Decatur, Ga., near Atlanta, urged others to see the verdict as a starting point to healing.

“Like many Americans who have watched our country go through political instability and racial injustice over the last year, it is vindication to see that the justice system did, in fact, carry out its civic duty in a way that is moral, ethical, and right,” Berry said. “As we grieve for the Floyd family and all of those who have died senselessly at the hands of law enforcement, our souls also grieve for those who still cannot see the wrong that was committed on that horrific day.

“My prayer is that this will move us toward healing and greater police reform. Over the last year, I’ve gained a lot of hope by seeing various cultures, nationalities and races come together in the hopes of seeing a better America.”

‘Grateful for justice rendered’

SBC President J.D. Greear, pastor of The Summit Church in Durham, N.C., acknowledged the historical significance of the verdict for Black Americans and the push for all to speak up for racial justice.

“I know that for persons of color, today’s verdict ties into long-standing questions about justice and equal treatment under the law,” Greear said. “As we said in the wake of this incident almost a year ago, we cannot remain silent when our brothers and sisters, friends and/or people we seek to convince of Jesus’ love are mistreated, abused or killed unnecessarily. I have prayed for our leaders as they sought justice and am thankful for their work to that end.”

Southern Baptists joined others on social media, making the verdict the top trending topic on Twitter.

Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, was among them, tweeting: “Grateful for justice rendered in Minneapolis. Let’s remember today the family of George Floyd. And let’s work together for a new era of racial justice and American hope.”

Compiled from reporting by Managing Editor Ken Camp, Scott Barkley of Baptist Press and the Religion News Service staff.

 




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