The tragic death of George Floyd: A word of lament from NWC Superintendent Mark R. Stromberg

Dear Northwest Conference Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus (May 27, 2020),

There are moments when it is difficult to know what to say as leaders. Many of us find ourselves in such a moment as we try to comprehend the terrible circumstance that led to the senseless taking of George Floyd’s life in Minneapolis just two days ago. And this, following the heinous murder of Ahmaud Arbery in recent weeks. And the life before that … and the one before that …

Yes, it is hard to know what to say. After all, words are just words if not followed up by actions.

However, to say nothing can also be understood to be saying something, even if unintended. Therefore, this tragic loss of life and the injustice these recent events illustrate cannot be ignored or explained away. Actually, these have never been things to explain away, though sometimes some of us may have tried to do so.

What will it take before we fall on our knees before God and plead for forgiveness? How long will it take? We can no longer say that it is always the “other guy” who is responsible for these reprehensible deeds. For even as we bear responsibility for the nailing of Jesus to the tree, we bear responsibility as part of “Adam’s race” for the dehumanization and mistreatment of others for whom Christ died; for those we are called to love.

I know that I am not alone in feeling heart-sick today, but also feeling a bit helpless. I don’t always know where to turn to or what to do with my thoughts or feelings, lest I do or say something that adds further pain, though unintended. However, on behalf of all of us on the Northwest Conference staff, I express deep sorrow for the pain and dismay that our sisters and brothers of color are experiencing as we know that these are both deeply felt and justified.

We also cannot continue to say that we are “in It together,” unless we are also willing to be in “all of it together.” Our togetherness cannot only remain so long as it serves our own self-interest, without regard to how it is impacting those we claim to love. After all, we are reminded in Scripture that when one part of the body suffers, we all suffer. Or do we?

Personally, I am sorry for not suffering enough alongside those of you that do. I am sorry for the blatant disregard of those in our own communities that have not been given equal treatment or respect as men and women, boys and girls created in the image of God and the nobility that suggests. I am especially sorry for the burdens born by our African-American sisters and brothers at this time, though this is nothing new … just more of the same … tragically.

We have to do more, and we have to do better as the people of God.

Merciful Lord, we are weak but You are strong. We are burdened with grief; our hearts are heavy, our spirits are crushed. Be our strength in times of weakness. Be our shelter from the storm. Be especially near and dear to our African-American sisters and brothers on this day as they feel the weight of this latest tragedy most acutely. Be their rock and shield. Forgive the rest of us for the times we have turned a blind eye to the injustices facing so many in communities of color. Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. AMEN.

Mark R. Stromberg,
NWC Superintendent