A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.
The needless death of Walter Wallace, Jr. in Philadelphia has shaken the city we love and serve. We join in denouncing racist violence against our sisters and brothers of color—mourning another black life senselessly lost and standing against the unnecessary use of deadly force that should have been avoided. It is also heartbreaking, as Walter was suffering and in the midst of a mental health crisis. The lack of police training to deal with this medical condition is unconscionable.
As disciples of Jesus Christ, we must remember the way Jesus reached out and embraced all those who were suffering mentally, physically and spiritually. As disciples of Jesus Christ we must “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being.”
We confess that we have not lived up to that vow, because racism has infected not only our individual hearts, but also the heart of our churches and institutions, blinding us to the ignorance and prejudice built into the structures of our common life and ministry. Our own hearts must be changed in order to heal the wounds of racism inflicted on our black and brown brothers and sisters.
The time for talk has passed. We must act to prevent another such tragedy that tears the fragile fabric of our neighborhoods and engulfs whole communities in fear, disbelief and anger. We must envision new, community-based models of public health and safety that transcend mere “policing,” and seek to better understand the underlying social and economic factors that lead to violence and epidemics of mental health, economic disparity and substance dependence.
The Diocese will continue to spiritually challenge parishioners in its 134 churches to take action in their communities for the sake of common humanity, racial equity and provide the path for transformation; Episcopal Community Services will continue its core work of addressing the root causes of poverty, discrimination and blocked access to opportunity, which have at their core a history of racism.
We call on our respective communities to join together in this Gospel effort. We have work to do. We must allow God to change our hearts, so that we can heal our beloved city and all the communities that radiate out from the City of Brotherly Love and Sisterly Affection.
The Right Rev. Daniel G.P. Gutiérrez XVI
David E. Griffith