A statement from our president, Tom Taylor

June 2, 2020 by Tom Taylor

Dear friends in Christ,

I am writing because it is not appropriate to be silent after the deeply disturbing incidents occurring in recent weeks. These include the deaths of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who was killed by a police officer holding a knee on his neck for nearly nine minutes, and Breonna Taylor in Louisville, who was killed by police officers executing a ‘no-knock’ search warrant at the wrong home. And the death of Ahmaud Arbery, who was shot to death outside Brunswick, Georgia by civilians attempting to act as police officers while he was out for a run.

This past week and especially this past weekend, we’ve seen protests demanding change in the wake of these and other deaths, including violent clashes in Louisville. One man, David McAtee, a community pillar and owner of YaYa’s BBQ, was shot and killed by police during the protests. Even as I write this, protests continue around the world, including Germany and New Zealand.

Our nation is deeply politically divided. But when deaths like these occur, surely they cannot be politicized. People dying means the loss of sons, daughters, spouses, other family relations, significant others, and friends. It has brought about a laser focus on a justice system and the many thousands of police officers of all color, gender, and background trying to faithfully do their jobs with excellence, even as some within their ranks have behaved in what appear to be racist and illegal ways.

I was touched by the response and characterization of our tragically troubled times in a recent Tweet by former President Barack Obama:

“It’s natural to wish for life ‘to just get back to normal’ as a pandemic and economic crisis upend everything around us. But we have to remember that for millions of Americans, being treated differently on account of race is tragically, painfully, maddeningly ‘normal’ — whether it’s while dealing with the health care system, or interacting with the criminal justice system, or jogging down the street, or just watching birds in a park.

. . . it falls on all of us, regardless of our race or station — including the majority of men and women in law enforcement who take pride in doing their tough job the right way, every day — to work together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions or our hearts.”

Our own Foundation family, and the PC(USA) that we serve, is a diverse body all coming together with our own backgrounds and life experiences, including painful ones. I miss being with you in person now more than ever, and so wish we had the opportunity to gather this year at General Assembly to pray, sing, commune, and lament together. I pray that we each might be agents who boldly live and speak God’s truth, love, justice, and healing of our nation.

I also strongly commend to you the words of our other PCUSA leadership. I especially urge you to read the words of Brian Blount, President of Union Presbyterian Seminary, and to view this video statement by J. Herbert Nelson, Stated Clerk of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) You can also read a news story of a Service of Lament held for PC(USA) staff on Monday, during which Diane Moffett of the Presbyterian Mission Agency offered a reflection. I lift up their voices as you reflect, protest, mourn and pray.

May God bless you and keep you in these days ahead.

Tom Taylor
President and CEO
Presbyterian Foundation