Church leaders issue statement on the George Zimmerman trial

July 15, 2013


While many in our nation, including members of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), are struggling with the recent acquittal in the case of Florida v. George Zimmerman, resultant from the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, it is important that we remember our faith commitment to pray for those persons directly involved. Irrespective of our opinions regarding the outcome of the case, both families have encountered a significant ordeal over the past year. Neither the Martin nor Zimmerman families will find an easy resolution or closure in the days ahead. Therefore, as people of faith, we must be steadfast in our commitment to pray for their healing. 

News reports are informing us that protests, legal procedures, and other responses to the verdict are already beginning. As people who believe in a “peace that passes all understanding” (Philippians 4:7), it is important that we demonstrate a commitment to peaceful means of displaying our reactions in this case. We remain witnesses to the unfinished work of the Kingdom of God and our willingness to model the faith is important in these times. 

We encourage all members and local churches of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) to declare a commitment to end gun violence in our local communities. As a church, our General Assembly has made this commitment to ending the pain caused by gun violence in this country through a 2010 statement entitled Gun Violence and Gospel Values: Mobilizing in Response to God’s Call. This document provides numerous ways that local congregations, communities, and individuals can become involved in challenging our national culture of violence and reducing the more than 30,000 gun deaths by which our nation is traumatized each year. 

Jesus reminds us that “blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9). Peace is not a passive response to times of human trial and pain. Peace is generated by our willingness to trust God while actively engaging in the difficult struggles of human life. Today, we place our faith in Jesus Christ while trusting that the Holy Spirit guides our path toward a world free of fear and violence.

Read in Spanish.

Neal D. Presa, Moderator of the 220th General Assembly (2012)
Gradye Parsons, Stated Clerk of the General Assembly
Linda Bryant Valentine, Executive Director of the Presbyterian Mission Agency

  1. This morning, I re-read Dr. Martin L. King, Jr.'s "Letter from a Birminghan Jail " in an effort to help me understand how the faith community responds to issues of racial justice after 40 plus years. I received some consolation from the challenge that he left with us.

    by Bettie J. Durrah

    July 22, 2013

  2. I appreciate it that the Church Leaders spoke on this issue. They missed the point totally. The issue is race and the lack of respect for all human life. People are distrubed by the Zimmerman trial because for millions, it was a clear example of how the system of justice diminish the humanity of Black people and others of color. Why is this fact so hard to see or understand by the majority of the culture?

    by Eugene Turner

    July 22, 2013

  3. If both George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin were of the same race, the case would not have received the national attention that it did. Our Newspapers are full of stories about both white-on- white and black-on-black crime. As much as the court room attempted to play down race as an element in the case, it was the under girding factor in the encounter between Zimmerman and Martin. This is more than just an issue about guns. Trayvon Martin was a boy who is now dead. That needs to be remembered here. His humanity needs to be remembered. We are not really the colorblind society some would like to have realized by now. Do we really want to be blind to one another’s unique humanity? We should strive for a society that celebrates the differences given to us by our creator. People are still being ‘judged by the color of their skin and not the content of their character’ in reverse of what Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr prescribed. Racial profiling is real. Racial profiling is still the experience of many in the African American community where it encounters the dominate society. An example of racialized attitudes in this society, is that often Africans coming to this country have to learn how to be ‘colored’ and become more conscience of skin color with regard to daily life. The individualized humanity of us all calls for respect and shedding light on the fallacy of a so called colorblind society. It is justice that is supposed to be blind to the victim's color, gender, marital status, religion, sexual orientation, economic status or national origin. Justice is what is called for by those who often cannot share their experience of past and present oppression with colleagues, court systems and society without being told that race had nothing to do with it. Finally, the reversal of 50 year old civil and voting rights laws along with increased usage of the expanded stand-your-ground-laws have left the taste of being expendable in the mouths of people of color. What do we say to our young children of color now when we send them out the door? What parts of our society really cares enough to say an encouraging and protective word to them? Rev. Elenora Giddings Ivory-HR

    by Elenora Giddings Ivory

    July 21, 2013

  4. This case was not about gun violence. If George Zimmerman had had a baseball bat, Trayvon Martin would be just as dead.

    by Anna Taylor Sweringen

    July 21, 2013

  5. I'm surprised/disappointed that no mention of racism was made. Have we gotten so into avoidance of the topic when things seem to go smoothly that we don't know how to speak about it when the need to do so is dire?

    by Bill Schram

    July 16, 2013

  6. Thank you for your comments in this letter. I agree guns are an issue, but so are all other types of violence...I wonder what we are doing to stop those?

    by Margaret French

    July 16, 2013

  7. Law and Evidence...they got it right, but equally sad are all the other victims of gun violence that happen every day, sometimes in Florida, too. Both families need our prayers.

    by c.t.jewett

    July 16, 2013

  8. Guns no, abortion yes....makes perfect sense

    by Nick

    July 16, 2013

  9. I am wondering what some of the ways you believe could work effectively to end gun violence and to encourage communication that would have led to talking rather than pulling a gun that ended in the death of this young person.

    by Rebekah Richey

    July 16, 2013

  10. thank you for your thoughtful leadership on these important issues.

    by Donna Weems

    July 15, 2013

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