UK Church leaders call for soul-searching after George Floyd death

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump and George Floyd's son, Quincy Mason Floyd, react as they visit the site where he was taken into police custody, in Minneapolis, June 3, 2020. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson(Photo: Reuters)

The UK Church is being urged to take a fresh look at racism in its midst after the death of George Floyd at the hands of white police officers in Minneapolis last week.

The Bishop of London, the Rt Rev Sarah Mullally, said on Twitter that the injustice of Floyd's death extended to the UK too, including the Church. 

"I want to join with people of colour and all those grieving the recent death of George Floyd and other men and women of colour whose lives have been unjustly lost," she wrote.

"The injustice we have seen is also a UK problem and sadly a church problem too.

"All people are made in the image of God and are worthy of dignity and justice whatever the colour of their skin. I do not have all the answers. But I know I have privilege that allows me to be part of the solution, and I, we, are ready to learn." 

Ben Lindsay, pastor and author of We Need to Talk About Race, called on the Church to pray and act in response to Floyd's death. 

"I truly believe that in same way the tragic and racist murder of Stephen Lawrence in 1993 exposed the institutional racism of the police, the racist murder of George Floyd is beginning to do the same to the UK church," he said.

"UK church this is a critical moment. Pray and act accordingly." 

The Moderator of the Church of Scotland General Assembly, Dr Martin Fair, said that people of faith needed to do their part to end the cycle of violence by being peacemakers.

However, he went on to say that it was necessary to build bridges within communities on this side of the Atlantic too. 

"Along with folks from around the world, we in Scotland have watched in horror at the turmoil that has spread from city to city across America," he said. 

"The cry of 'Black Lives Matter' is heard again on the streets and the frustration of one more black life lost in such a fashion has erupted into a catastrophic round of destruction and violence.

"Many will remember that Martin Luther King also said that, 'a riot is the language of the unheard' and that although he advocated non-violent responses, he condemned the conditions that led to such unrest in the first place.

"We plead for people of reason and goodwill from across every community to come to the fore to bring an end to the present cycle of violence but just as importantly to begin the mammoth task of addressing the underlying divisions that continue to be a scar through too many of our nations and communities.

"We call particularly on people of faith to give expression to Jesus' words that 'Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the children of God.'

"In saying as much, and in committing ourselves to pray, we remain mindful that there are divisions within our own society which are every bit as ugly and life-denying and which rear their head all too often. Let us not rest while barriers between one person and another remain and where bridges need to be built." 

Pentecost leader Pastor Agu Irukwu said in a video message posted to YouTube that the Church should lead the way in speaking out on racism in the UK.

"We owe it to ourselves to see what is happening in America as a mirror that has been placed before us. We need to ask ourselves: what is reflected in that mirror? What do we see?" he said. 

"We must not be under the illusion that we do not have our own very real challenges here. We do. The inherent inequalities in our own system here, the institutional racism that exists in many of our institutions must be named and addressed. I think it is fitting that the way is led by the Church." 

The General Secretary of the Baptist Union of Great Britain, Lynn Green, said Floyd's death was "an appalling act of injustice" that "reveals yet again the ugly reality of deeply ingrained institutional racism in the USA".

She added, though, that it required soul-searching from Christians in the UK too. 

"The authentic response of a people who follow a God who delights in justice and righteousness is to stand together in solidarity and protest in the face of such insidious evil," she said.

"The death of George Floyd must also drive us to some serious heart-searching of our own. The spotlight is not simply shining on 'them over there' but also on us here in our own context.

"Baptists Together hold a common value; that we are a Movement which shares a hunger for God's coming Kingdom and seeks to confront evil, injustice and hypocrisy and challenges worldly attitudes to power, wealth, status and security both within and beyond our Union.

"Right now God is presenting us with the opportunity to grow more deeply into this value and, in doing so, to unleash a prophetic call and presence in our communities and nations."

She continued: "The time for superficial platitudes and excuses really is well and truly over. My plea is that we seize this moment and take some giant leaps forward in terms of becoming the kind of Kingdom Movement that God is calling us towards – beautiful, just, loving and rejoicing in the richness of the global church and the whole of humanity."