California Faith Leaders Leverage Clergy Privilege to Stand in Support of Black Lives Matter

People gather for an evening vigil against police brutality and in support of Black Lives Matter in Pasadena, California, Sunday, May 31, 2020. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

PASADENA (RNS) — In the wake of the police killing of George Floyd, faith leaders say it’s necessary to leverage their privilege to support Black Lives Matter activists calling for police reform.

“I think this is a moment where communities are watching to see if people really believe in the Jesus they say they do,” Pastor Faith Romasco with First Church of the Nazarene of Pasadena, or Paznaz, told Religion News Service. “It’s a moment of choosing to be a credible witness and faithful to the gospel.”

“When all the churches in the community can get behind tangible action, what it lets us do is leverage that power and that capital to make real change,” she said.

Romasco was among the hundreds of people and faith leaders who gathered Sunday evening outside Pasadena City Hall for a candlelight vigil in remembrance of Floyd, who died after a white Minneapolis police officer kneeled on his neck for eight minutes.

They held signs reading “Racism is a killer virus” and “Stop killing black people,” while chanting “Black lives, they matter here!” Protesters sounded noisemakers and applauded during an eight minute shout of lament that represented the eight minutes Floyd was pinned down.

Activists and religious leaders called on the city of Pasadena to spend less on police and incarceration and more on youth programs and housing. Police were in the vicinity of the gathering.

LA Voice — a network of multifaith houses of worship, including synagogues, mosques and churches — co-organized the Sunday vigil in partnership with local congregations.

Artist and organizer Andre Henry addresses the crowds at the gathering in support of George Floyd and Black Lives Matter in Pasadena, California, Sunday, May 31, 2020. RNS photo by Alejandra Molina

“We are here on the day of Pentecost in one accord and we are on fire. Some of us are on fire with rage. Some of us are on fire with anger. Some of us are on fire with determination,” said artist and organizer Andre Henry as he addressed the crowds. “All around the world right now like a gale force wind people are saying Black Lives Matter!

“It makes me hopeful because when we’re unified and fired up, there’s almost nothing that we can’t accomplish together,” Henry added.

The Rev. Zachary Hoover, executive director of LA Voice, said if people of faith are not standing against racist policies, “What is our purpose?

“I could only speak for Christians, but we believe that Jesus literally speaks to us, that what we do to our brothers and sisters is what we do to Jesus,” Hoover, an American Baptist minister, told Religion News Service.

“The only reason I’m still part of the body of the people we call the church is because we can have this kind of witness,” he said. “What is the point of the church if we’re just getting together on Sunday to sing songs? If we’re not showing up when people are suffering and dying, it’s like abandoning our Lord on the cross.”

Click here to read more.
Source: Religion News Service