On April 20, a jury found former police officer Derek Chauvin guilty on all three charges he faced for the killing of George Floyd: second-degree unintentional murder, third-degree murder, and second-degree manslaughter. In a pastoral letter, Bishop David Bard responds to the verdict and encourages us to continue the work of dismantling racial inequity:
Exhale. Breathe. Like many of you, I feel as if I have been holding my breath for days as the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin has been going on. Late Tuesday, the jury returned a verdict of guilty on all three counts for which Mr. Chauvin was on trial for the killing of George Floyd.
There is a measure of relief, breathing and sighing, and a profound sadness. No verdict can return a person from the dead. George Floyd is gone from the lives of his family and friends. The verdict represents the ability of a community to hold its law enforcement officers accountable. Such accountability is necessary, and I am heartbroken that such abuse of power and authority still occurs, with deadly consequences.
Good policing matters and is needed. The violence continuing to plague our communities, whether in the all-too-common mass shootings of recent weeks or the uptick in the murder rate in too many of our cities, testifies to the need for high quality law enforcement—law enforcement that works with community leaders to strengthen relationships and build trust. Good policing is accountable policing, and fair policing. Good policing applies the law equitably to every person, no matter who they are or what they look like. Not only was the killing of George Floyd an instance of an abuse of power, it was another instance of inequity in the application of the law, and that inequity is part of broader racial inequities which still mar our common life in American society. The recent killing of Daunte Wright at the hands of law enforcement is another tragic and heart-rending example of both racial inequity and misuse of power. There is much work to be done, and today we breathe a little easier as we witness justice.
Breathe. I am thinking of a post-Easter text from the Gospel of John: “‘Peace be with you.’ When Jesus had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (20: 21-22). Breathe. Receive breath, the breath of Jesus, the breath of the Holy Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit, the breath of Jesus for the continuing work of dismantling racial inequity, the work of justice, the work of peace, the work of reconciliation, the work of healing, the work of building Beloved Community, the work of love. Breathe, and recommit to the work described in Isaiah 58 of being repairers of the breach, menders of the walls, restorers of livable streets.
Breathe and pray. Breathe in fresh winds of God’s Spirit and allow God’s Spirit to pray with you, in you, and through you. Pray for Minneapolis. Pray for our country. Pray for our church and the work of racial reckoning. Pray for the Floyd family in their sustained grief as the death of their family member, George, was witnessed over and over again these past days. Pray God’s healing grace. Pray for Derek Chauvin, who is being held accountable for his actions and who remains a person in need of God’s grace.
Breathe, work, pray. Come Holy Spirit.
Bishop David Bard
Interim Bishop, Minnesota Conference
Minnesota Annual Conference of the United Methodist Church