Episcopal and Lutheran bishops in Georgia respond to the verdict in the McMichaels-Bryan trial
The jury charged with handing down a verdict in the case of three men accused of murder for their roles in the death of Ahmaud Arbery issued its decision today finding Travis McMichael guilty of malice murder and other charges, Gregory McMichael guilty of felony murder and other charges, and Roddie Bryan guilty of felony murder and other charges. We give thanks for the dedicated work of the judge and jurors who served in a charged atmosphere with intense public scrutiny. Any verdict arrives too late to offer true justice in this case. Ahmaud Arbery is dead, and the court cannot return him to his family. Nonetheless, this moment is an important one.
We prayed for the court to bring earthly justice and the court has acted. But it took a public outcry and the release of video of the incident to force the system into action. The three men who are now convicted of crimes were initially shielded from facing their accusers in court. Until we can bring equity to the system that initially protected them, the rest of us will not have done what we can to create the just society for which we long. Our country has not dealt with the racism built into the system at its founding and perpetuated until this day. Living into our faith means addressing directly any sin we see in our lives and in our communities. Divisions around the human-made concept of race are an offense against our faith which teaches that all people are made in God’s image and likeness. Jesus taught us to love God and love our neighbor as ourselves. Through his parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus made it clear that all are our neighbors. Any racial divide breaks the heart of God.
One bright spot of hope we have seen emerge following Ahmaud’s tragic death has been the interfaith group of clergy in Glynn County. Their clarion call for justice after the video surfaced was critical in getting attention to this case. They followed this call by engaging in candid conversations that drew them together even as other forces could have deepened divisions. Participants included clergy from all five Episcopal Churches in the county and those of many other denominations, as well as leaders of Jewish and Muslim congregations. News stories have often quoted the clergy who were consistently engaged, offering a non-anxious presence on the courthouse grounds. They have witnessed to the dream of God: all of us becoming beloved community, not divided by ethnicity, but united in our common humanity. We know that long after the cameras and reporters are gone, the clergy in Glynn County will still be working together toward that dream.
We hope not just for good to overcome evil, but for God to redeem even the worst tragedies and the gravest injustices. While the court has acted, the work of healing and justice remains. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
The Episcopal Diocese of Georgia offers the following resources: https://gaepiscopal.org/racialhealingresources/.
The Southern Synod of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America offers resources here: https://www.elca-ses.org/racialjustice.
The Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta’s resources can be found at the Absalom Jones Center for Racial Healing here: https://www.centerforracialhealing.org/virtuallibrary.
It does not take an evil person to do an evil act. Murder is evil. Ahmaud’s killing was evil. But we need to guard against demonizing anyone or denying their basic humanity. The accused have been convicted. They will serve their sentences and need our prayers that they may be awakened to repentance. In this, as with all of us, we pray that God will bring all who are guilty to repentance and amendment of life and give us all hope for the future. In that spirit, we offer this prayer:
Eternal God, we give thanks for the judge and jurors charged with bringing earthly justice in the death of Ahmaud Arbery. Be with the Arbery family and all in the Brunswick and Glynn County Community as they seek further healing. Be with Gregory, Travis, and Roddie and their families as they serve their sentences and work toward their own repentance. Be with all of us as we seek repentance and healing for ourselves, one another, and our communities. Give us all the grace to hunger and thirst for your righteousness that we may work together to become the beloved community to which you call us. This we ask for the sake of your Son our Savior, Jesus Christ, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns now and forever. Amen.
May God grant us grace to see the healing needed in our lives, our families, and our communities.
The Rt. Rev. Frank S. Logue, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Georgia
The Rt. Rev. Rob C. Wright, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Atlanta
The Rev. Kevin L. Strickland, Bishop of the Southeastern Synod, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America