While images of looting and burning buildings have filled television screens across the country amid protests over the killing of George Floyd, many Christians also joined the chant for change this past weekend, including members of the Church of God based in Greenville, Ohio, who expressed their outrage while singing hymns and sharing the Gospel.
The Church of God, which says it is not a denomination but “the church of the living God, as we read about in the New Testament,” has emerged with a video of them singing with placards that has racked up more than 23 million views on Twitter alone.
Members of the church have been shown in pictures also listening to hurting members of the black community and comforting them with hugs.
Days earlier, the church, led by Chief Apostle Ray Tinsman, released a statement declaring Proverbs 29:2, which says: “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice: but when the wicked beareth rule, the people mourn.”
“As the Church of God, we send our deepest heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of George Floyd, as well as to the people of Texas, Minneapolis, and the entire United States who are touched by this tragedy. The video footage of this killing is absolutely inhuman, and this senseless act must be condemned by all people,” the church said.
“Tragically, many other African Americans have fallen victim to similar violence without the benefit of having it documented via video recording. What happened to George Floyd is not a single and isolated act of brutality but evidence of a system which mass-produces these heartbreaking results. Racism is not dead in our country. This tragedy affects all of us. Injustice and oppression will be defeated only when we stand together in solidarity as one human family for the cause of truth.”
Floyd, a 46-year-old African American, died in police custody on May 25, after he was restrained for several minutes by Minneapolis Police Department officers. One of the officers, Derek Chauvin, was caught on video kneeling into Floyd’s neck as he begged for his life until he stopped breathing. Last Friday, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman charged Chauvin, who has since been fired along with three other colleagues, with third-degree murder and manslaughter. Protesters are demanding that the other officers involved in Floyd’s death also be arrested.
Other spiritual leaders like Pastor Micaiah Young with Life Center Church in Milwaukee also joined peaceful protests on Sunday, seeking to counter rioting that he believes detracts from the fight for justice.
"We're crying out, saying we're not going to take it anymore, but we're peacefully using what we have to make an impact," he told Fox 6.
"If we are not peaceful, then we will have chaos, and in chaos, nothing significant can be accomplished."
“The somber, grief-filled makeshift shrine to George Floyd brings me to tears. In my mind’s eye, I’m there too, kneeling in tears, asking for forgiveness, praying he is the last black man to die this way in America,” she said.
Carl Lentz, senior pastor of Hillsong Church NYC who joined peaceful protesters in West Harlem, Manhattan, on Saturday said Sunday that America’s system of justice needs to change because it isn’t working for everyone.
“When people say ‘the system is broken,’ that’s wrong. The system is working well. And that’s the problem. We need a new system. Despite that, there are good men and women that have taken an oath to serve and protect. It’s a high calling that has been severely tarnished due to evil and murder and systemic injustice,” he wrote in a post on Instagram.
“If you can’t understand the vitriol towards law enforcement, it’s because you have never been victimized by it. The reports of overt brutality at these protests are REAL. I’ve seen it. And the reports of police men and women doing the exact opposite are true to. We pray for them in the middle of this madness. We need our police to fight WITH US for justice. Uproot the evil and demand change. To those doing that, I salute you. I’m thankful for you. I’m praying for you,” he said.
Charles Blake Sr., presiding bishop of the Church of God in Christ who also leads the West Angeles Church of God in Christ in Los Angeles, said in a recorded statement shared on Facebook Sunday that the impact of racial violence on the black American community was worse than the coronavirus, which has killed more than 100,000 Americans and disproportionately impacted the black and Hispanic communities.
“Over the past three months, this country has put forth cautionary restrictions and attention to stop the spread of a deadly virus and to save lives. But within the last 30 days, three black lives — Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and George Floyd — have all been brought to prominence with the common thread of having their lives snuffed out and snatched by a plague even more vicious than COVID-19,” he said.
“This plague unlike COVID-19 is not invisible. We’re seeing it far too much. And it’s time for every legislator, leader of a city, state department, government agency to put forth the same effort and urgency that has been put into the cure for COVID-19.
“We as black people deserve better. We are human beings, created in the image and the likeness of God. Just like all people. No one has the right to crush the very life out of us. Our black, brown, young men and women of color were not created to be executed in the streets by those who’ve taken an oath to protect life or by anyone else for that matter. Our lives are worth protecting.”
The leader of COGIC, which is the largest Pentecostal denomination in the U.S., urged protesters to send their message peacefully and avoid looting and destroying buildings.
The Rev. Jamal Bryant of New Birth Missionary Baptist Church in Georgia, who turned his first drive-in service into a “parking lot protest” on Sunday with his congregants, agreed.
"Peaceful protests have accomplished more than violence," Bryant said during his sermon, according to Fox5. "You cannot find in the history of this county one thing that riots have accomplished."
He further noted that the Church cannot be absent in the path toward a solution.
"The civil rights movement was birthed out of the Church. So while we are in this crisis, the Church cannot be distant, invisible and mute, but the Church has got to lend its voice," Bryant said. "So in the tradition of Dr. King who is the son of Georgia's soil, it was appropriate for us to speak to the times."
Prominent New York City megachurch preacher A.R. Bernard, who is founder, senior pastor and CEO of the 40,000-member Christian Cultural Center in Brooklyn, said in a statement Sunday that while he doesn’t condone the rioting, he understands it.
“This week in America, a Black man was tortured and murdered right before our eyes, by a white police officer whose actions represent a cancer in the American social system. The nation reacted with both peaceful and violent protests. I don’t condone the violence, but I understand the violence. Because when change is necessary, failure to change becomes destructive,” he wrote on Twitter.