GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A group of Grand Rapids pastors held a news conference Thursday to speak against systemic racism following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
“We need to acknowledge that racism is real and not just a fabricated of people of color’s mind,” Pastor James Jones of Oakdale Park Church said. “And we need to take action to address it, to look at ourselves, to call it out, to call on God to help us to combat this sin of racism.”
The Grand Rapids Association of Pastors, G-RAP, spoke at 12 p.m. at the steps of Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church, located at the intersection of Franklin Street SE and College Avenue SE. G-RAP speakers included pastors from across the denominational, racial and economic spectrum.
“We want the destruction to stop. Violence begets violence,” Pastor Sam Moffett of House of God Family Life Ministries said. “And we need the root of this to be faced. Racism is what’s breaking out in our community.”
“Really, as people of faith, we probably are overcomplicating this. We probably just need to sit and pray and ask God to really direct our steps,” Pastor Jerry Bishop of LifeQuest Ministries said.
The faith leaders knelt together for nine minutes to honor Floyd, whose death after a police office knelt on his neck has sparked renewed calls for police reform and protesting across the country, some of which as turned violent.
Grand Rapids City Manager Mark Washington said the show of unity was encouraging.
“A symbolism I also saw is as we rose, we rose together as a community, resolved to do more than we could when we were down on our knees,” he said.
Faith leaders signed an online statement about Floyd’s death and biased policing, saying that “we must respond as a community here in Grand Rapids, to hold our police officers and city officials accountable to police is which protect the dignity of black and brown people.”
“We, the clergy of Grand Rapids, believe that God is able to work in this community, to make a way out of no way. We believe that God can reconcile us one to another, that God can heal our city and heal our nation. And we recognize that pain is always a part of true healing,” the statement continues. “We resolve to work together, across the lines that have divided us. We resolve to use our power and platforms to name the legacy of systemic racism that has traumatized people of color.”
—News 8’s Heather Walker contributed to this report.