Prominent Christian leaders quickly issued statements and used social media to voice their concerns shortly after a St. Louis grand jury decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown on Aug. 9.
St. Louis County prosecuting attorney Robert McCulloch announced the grand jury's findings during a Monday evening press conference at 9:22 p.m EST.
"The single antidote that will truly alleviate the tension and angst in Ferguson, Missouri, resides in the peace that only Christ can render," said Rev. Samuel Rodriguez, the president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference/Conela. "The prophetic and conciliatory concept of 'Shalom' — a peace where nothing stands missing or broken — presents the prescription for a community divided by race and fear."
Rodriguez added: "In the wake of the long-awaited decision by a St. Louis County grand jury, we pray for peace. We plead for reconciliation. We yearn for all parties to recognize that both Michael Brown and officer Darren Wilson represent individuals created in the image of God. In the name of Jesus, we call upon the God that heals to enable truth, love, justice and forgiveness to silence the voices of hatred, division, strife and violence."
Derwin L. Gray, founding and lead pastor of the multi-ethnic Transformation Church in South Carolina wrote in his blog shortly after the grand jury decision that Americans may wish they "lived in a post-white/post-black world, but recent events affirm that we do not."
"While we may never know all the details of what went down in Ferguson, we do know that black Christians and white Christians interpret these types of situations very differently," wrote Gray. He points out that a recent poll showed that 54 percent of nonwhites, including blacks, Latinos and Asians, say Wilson should be charged with murder, while just 23 percent of whites agree.
"So inside the church and outside the church, it appears that black people (and other minorities) and white people see events like the tragedy in Ferguson from totally different perspectives," he wrote. "As a pastor of an intentionally multiethnic, multiclass church, I believe Jesus' church can bring healing to the deep wounds in our country by being a testimony of how the cross and blood of Jesus can bring about reconciliation and justice."
Pastor Mark DeYmaz, founder of the Little Rock, Arkansas-based Mosaic Church and of the Mosaix Global Network, told The Christian Post that what has transpired goes beyond Ferguson and affects the nation and American churches.
"For the pastors and people of multiethnic churches a conversation on race did not begin tonight; it remains ongoing, as does our love for one another across the distinctions of this world that so often an otherwise divide," DeYmaz said. "The need to move the conversation beyond mere rhetoric to results, however, is not just an issue for Ferguson, Missouri, but for America, as well; and as significantly, for an American Church for too long silent on systemic segregation within its own ranks.
"Indeed, an increasingly diverse and cynical society is no longer finding credible a message of God's love for all people as proclaimed from segregated pulpits and pews. Likewise, systemic inequities in society cannot be dismantled until they are first dismantled in the church."
DeYmaz concludes, "Sadly, while the American Church remains enamored by all things missional, America remains divided over all things racial as once again evidenced tonight in the town of Ferguson, Missouri. In this moment, then, and for the sake of the Gospel, Evangelicals must embrace the biblical fact that lament, repentance, reconciliation, and justice, is not peripheral to the Gospel but intrinsic to it; and more than that, address their churches accordingly."