Two Powerful Messages for Our Times

| Present

From The Council of the Society of Biblical Literature and Executive Staff of the Society of Biblical Literature

A Statement on Black Lives Matter, Right to Protest, and Bible as Prop

The Council of the Society of Biblical Literature and Executive Staff of SBL issue the following statement:

We are appalled at the murder of George Floyd on 25 May 2020 by police. We grieve the murder of Breonna Taylor and many others who have died because of anti-Blackness.

We are committed to the clear and unequivocal assertion that Black Lives Matter.

We applaud the spirit of protest that has emerged around the world as a result of that heinous act, while lamenting the violence that has also broken out in pockets of that otherwise peaceful and necessary protest.

Black Lives Matter.

The Bible matters.

We protest the actions by the president of the United States, who, on the evening of 1 June 2020, called for military action against US residents on US soil, had peaceful protesters tear-gassed out of his way, stood uninvited before an Episcopal parish, and waved a Bible.

We call out the president for abusing what is for many a treasured spiritual resource and symbol, and we deplore his violation of sacred space.

We call out political leaders to engage the Bible in thoughtful and responsible ways. The Bible should not be brandished as a weapon to attack humanity or to violate the dignity of the human spirit. We commit to the work of studying and exposing how the Bible has been and continues to be used in this way.

Black Lives Matter.

The 2017 JBL Forum on Black Lives Matter for Critical Biblical Scholarship is available for free download here, beginning on page 203.

Efraín Agosto, Chair
Ehud Ben Zvi
Christian Brady
Marc Brettler
Tat-siong Benny Liew
Monica Melanchthon
Laura Nasrallah
Judith Newman, Secretary
Jorunn Økland
Hugh Rowland Page, Jr.
Adele Reinhartz, President
Chris Rollston
James C. Vanderkam, Vice President
Sidnie White Crawford
John F. Kutsko, Executive Director

2 June 2020

From the Rt. Rev. Dr. Shannon MacVean-Brown, Episcopal Diocese of Vermont

Reaffirming Our Renunciation of Evil: A Message from Bishop Shannon

June 2, 2020

Dear People of God in the Diocese of Vermont,

Yesterday, members of our diocese prayed and fasted as we joined people of many faiths to mourn the deaths of over 100,000 people from COVID-19. We also grieved the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, Sean Reed, Tony McDade and countless others whose lives were taken because they were black. We lamented the grip of white supremacy that has allowed them no justice. We lamented and mourned morning, noon and night. We prayed and read our sacred texts, a balm in this troubled time.

Last night the president used military force to violently disperse peacefully gathered people, including our siblings of the Diocese of Washington. Just moments before, the president said he supports peaceful demonstrators. Clearly, this was a lie. I denounce the use of force required to clear his way to pose with a Bible in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church, Lafayette Square. Using precious objects of our faith as props in a display to uphold white dominance and violence is a blatant display of evil.

The words of our Bible are the lifeblood of our prayers. They teach us about peace, love and justice, and sustain us when we need hope. The words of the Bible connect us to the life and teachings of Jesus. Through him we have learned to love our neighbor and build beloved community.

The circumstances of the pandemic and the current unrest have brought this nation to a place where we can no longer deny the brokenness of a society that is built on the subjugation and oppression of many while a few control most of the economic wealth. The church must call out this systemic callousness and disregard for the dignity of human beings. We must realize that striving for justice and peace will make us uncomfortable and challenge many to give up their privilege.

We must reaffirm our renunciation of evil, and renew our commitment to Jesus Christ. Please pray for the people of St. John’s. Pray for the healing of our nation; that we would be healed from the viruses of racism and COVID-19.

Peace and blessings,

Bishop Shannon