December 1, 2014

Dear Friends and Family of the Diocese of Eau Claire,

Like you I have been following the events in Ferguson, Missouri. Was the grand jury right in not indicting the police officer? Several bishops, including the Presiding Bishop, believe it is necessary to speak out or write about the injustice of this. Are they right? Was the grand jury racist? While I know the legal system is often unjust, how can an outsider really know what happened? Was the officer justified in killing Michael Brown? Could it have been avoided? As Bishop of Eau Claire should I judge something or someone when I have little or no knowledge?

Of one thing I am certain. It was wrong to loot and burn stores in response to the grand jury’s decision. What did the store owners do that was wrong? Why should they have their businesses destroyed? I confess to having negative opinions about the media. The news channels publicize the potential violence, the violence itself, and make money as Americans are glued to their TV sets. The New York Times printed the address of Officer Darren Wilson and told the world his new wife’s full name. The Times had the legal right to do this, but was it morally correct to provide information so others could possibly harm them?

Lurking behind the specifics of the Ferguson case is a bigger problem. Today it is called profiling. It is another word for prejudice. Usually it is wrong to pre-judge others. In this season of Advent we look to the second coming of Christ. Unlike the Christmas story, Jesus won’t come as an infant. He will arrive as an adult and ready to bring an end to the world. The question is, will we recognize him? What if he has black skin and wears a hoodie? We could end up profiling Jesus as someone we don’t want near us. In the end he will judge us while we are stuck in our own prejudices.

In Advent we are called to be watchful. Like the old railroad crossing sign, we are to stop, look, and listen for the signs of the second coming of Christ. Instead of categorizing people through profiling, we would do better to reach out to others looking for as Martin Luther King said, “the content of their character rather than the color of their skin.” There is nothing sadder than for Jesus to be in our midst, and we fail to recognize him. In this new Church year let’s make a corporate resolution. Let’s put an end to profiling. Then we can be ready for the second coming of Jesus. With my love and best wishes, I am,

Your brother in Christ,