June 2, 2020
To the Pastors and Clerks of Session of the Savannah Presbytery,
Attached is a statement on the murder of Ahmaud Arbery that has been adopted by the Savannah Presbytery’s Council to be shared with churches and within our community. In light of all that has happened over the past week, I felt it was necessary to bring you up to date on the work of this document.
After two weeks of hard work, a subcommittee of our Presbytery’s Council, working hard with a subcommittee of the council of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, created this document to speak to the issues of racism as seen through the lens of the Ahmaud Arbery murder in Glynn County (Brunswick), Georgia neighborhood. The day after this was approved by our council and the day before it was approved by Greater Atlanta’s Council, George Floyd was murdered by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Unlike the case of Ahmaud Arbery’s death, in which it took two months for the video to be made public, videos of the white police officer putting his knee to the neck of Mr. Floyd were spread across social media almost immediately afterwards. Protests have broken out across our country. Some have turned violent.
As followers of Jesus, we are called into a family where all people, regardless of race, are one in Jesus Christ. While this statement does not address the death of George Floyd and others, it is important that we speak out on injustice within the boundaries of our presbytery. I encourage you to share this letter with our churches and within our communities.
Let’s live into that vision created by that childhood song we all sang in Sunday School which reminded us that we’re all precious in Jesus’ sight.
In Christian Hope,
Chair of the Savannah Presbytery’s Council
May 28, 2020
We, the Council of Savannah Presbytery, in alliance with the Council of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta, honor the life and grieve the death of Ahmaud Arbery, beloved child of God. Further, we hear God demanding faithful action in this teaching from Jesus: “’Lord, when did we fail to help you when you were hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in jail?’ God will answer them, ‘Whenever you failed to help any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you failed to do it to me’” (Matthew 25:44-45). God calls all persons of faith to notice how we indeed fail our neighbors, especially our brothers and sisters of color. The murder of Mr. Arbery in a neighborhood in Glynn County (Brunswick), Georgia, is a tragic case in point.
Re-committed to the struggle for racial justice, we highlight the anti-racism statement of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.)*:
+ We affirm that “Racism is the opposite of what God intends for humanity. It is the rejection of the other, which is contrary to the Word of God incarnate in Jesus Christ.”
+ We affirm that “Racism is a lie about our fellow human beings, for it says that some are less than others.”
+ We affirm that we “will stand against, speak against, and work against racism” whenever it is expressed in the world around us, in our homes, in our workplaces, in our neighborhoods, and in the church.
We invite all who believe in the redemptive power of God’s justice, truth, and love to stand with the Councils of Savannah Presbytery and the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta in our pledge to:
+ Pray for all parties involved in Ahmaud Arbery’s murder;
+ Walk alongside his family as they endure the journey of grief and the quest for justice;
+ Hold local and state officials accountable as they investigate this crime;
+ Watch for God’s reign of love with hopeful eyes, grateful hearts, and unwearied hands.
Working together we can — we must — eradicate the sin of racism. Please join us.
Rev. Dr. Alan Baroody
Transitional General Presbyter of Savannah Presbytery
Rev. Aisha Brooks-Lytle
Executive Presbyter of the Presbytery of Greater Atlanta