There Is Only Lamentation: Bishop Lee on Ferguson

November 26, 2014

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

For many people there seems to be little justice and no peace in the decision of a St. Louis County grand jury not to indict Darren Wilson for the killing of Michael Brown. There is only lamentation.

We don’t do lament very well in our society, but I believe that is what is called for now. I can’t get the picture of Michael Brown’s father at his son’s funeral out of my mind. The agony of a parent’s grief crosses all barriers of race and class. 

Bishop Wayne Smith of Missouri and others have reminded me that systems of privilege thrive on racism and fear, and they can strip away our recognition of each other’s humanity. In Ferguson and too often everywhere else, young black men are perceived only as threats, not as human beings made in the image of God.

But I believe Jesus came so that all of us would have our humanity, in all of its fullness and beauty, revealed and honored.   

In our baptismal covenant, we pledge to respect the dignity of every human being. Among other things, this means that those with power must learn to share it and even give it away. We must work together to dismantle structures and systems that favor white people over all others, that give automatic privileges to one class over any other, that keep any group of people from realizing their full freedom and potential as children of God. Jesus loves all of us, equally and without reserve. We are called to put that love into practice.  We are called to be agents of God’s justice, healing, and mercy. 

Let us commit to pray, listen, learn, and act for a world surely more like the one God wants to see.


The Rt. Rev. Jeffrey D. Lee

Bishop of Chicago


Our diocese’s Anti-Racism Commission offers workshops on critical cultural competency and organizing for anti-racism. Learn more.

Earlier this year, Janee Woods, a former attorney who works with communities on racial equity and community engagement, wrote a blog post about how to be a white ally to black people in the wake of Michael Brown’s murder. I have found it helpful. Read the post.

Dean Mike Kinman of Christ Church Cathedral in St. Louis has been an active, faithful leader in Ferguson. Read his blog for a first-hand perspective suffused with love.