THE Chaplain of Dallas Police Department, the Revd Oliver Lee, has responded to last week’s killing of five police officers in the city by calling for people to “think more intentionally about living a life of love, grace, and forgiveness”.
The call was made in a sermon during a requiem mass and service of prayer for the city at St Matthew’s Episcopal Cathedral on Sunday. Mr Lee, the Rector of Trinity Episcopal Church, also serves as a hospital chaplain. He rushed to Parkland Memorial Hospital on Thursday of last week, as news emerged that 12 police officers and two civilians had been shot. He knew two of the dead officers.
“Imagine a society without police. Life as we know it would not exist,” he said. “Think about it. Our nation would be reduced to fiefdoms of petty warlords who would be a law unto themselves.”
The officers were shot as they policed a peaceful protest that was being staged after the deaths of Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, who had been shot and killed by police officers in Baton Rouge, Louisiana; and St Paul, Minnesota.
The incident came to an end when the shooter, Micah Johnson, was killed by a C-4 explosive device. Police used a robot to deliver the explosive device to the second floor of El Centro Community College, where Mr Johnson was hiding out, reportedly singing and laughing at police, and threatening to kill more officers.
Responding to the shootings, the Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church in the United States, the Most Revd Michael Curry, spoke of the “time of great pain and turmoil for us as a country”.
In a video message, filmed in Toronto where he was attending the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada, Bishop Curry said: “In the last few days we have seen acts of violence in which children of God have been killed in Dallas, in Louisiana, in Minnesota. . . This has been going on for a while before our very eyes, where children of God have been killed.
“The holy scripture reminds us in the very first chapter of Genesis that all people have been created in the likeness and image of God. We are, therefore, children of God, created in God’s image and likeness. And we are all — all of us, as human beings — of infinite value and worth and dignity.
“The loss of any human life is a tragedy for us all. Injustice or wrong done to anyone — regardless of who they are — is an injustice and wrong done to us all. We who follow Jesus, we who are people of faith, we who are people of goodwill and decency — whoever we are — know that we can and must find a better way; for we are all children of God, and brothers and sisters of one another.”
He called on the Episcopal Church to pray “for our country and our culture . . . that we will find a better way that honours all of us as children of God”; and for a “national conversation” to find “a way that allows all of us in this country to be the children of God and accorded the respect and honour that is due all of us as God’s children.”
The Bishop of Dallas, the Rt Revd George Sumner, said that the shootings in Louisiana and Minnesota “offer no warrant for murder”. He said that the shootings in Dallas should not be associated with “legitimate and peaceful demonstration”.
The Bishops of Louisiana and Minnesota have also spoken out. “It is true that a deep and systemic racial divide permeates our country,” the Bishop of Louisiana, the Rt Revd Morris King Thompson Jr, said. “It is true that we can have the highest regard for those who serve and protect us, while still wanting there to be policies that protect our most vulnerable community members.
“And it is also true that we must work to make this world a better place for our children and grandchildren. We are proving ourselves unworthy of them.”
The Bishop of Minnesota, the Rt Revd Brian Prior, said that “the violence that plagues our communities continues, the violence that permeates our culture continues to grow. . .
“Our call is clear, our voices must be strong and resonant. We all must examine our own hearts. We must root out any violence that resides there. We must stand together to dismantle the systems and structures in our society that perpetuate violence. We must seek to live fully into God’s call to reconciliation and to justice.”
President Obama, and the former President George W. Bush, attended a multifaith memorial service in Dallas, on Tuesday.