An open letter to the Kilgore community

We’ve all been shocked and horrified at the events of the last week: a police officer suffocating an unarmed black man, the destruction of businesses and government buildings, non-violent protesters sprayed with mace and tear gas.

In light of these events and the tension gripping our country, we met on Sunday afternoon at First Baptist Church in Kilgore to discuss how we might faithfully lead our community during these times. We would like to share brief points from our discussion and how we plan to move forward.

First, we believe that we must bear witness to the truth. God has created all of us in His image, and Jesus Christ died for the whole world. In Jesus Christ, we share a common creation and redemption. Thus, we unapologetically condemn the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police officers as a violation of the image of God that he shared with all of us.

George Floyd’s death is a symptom of the deeper disease of racism that plagues our society. We lament that for far too long people of color have been denied the dignity, respect, and fair treatment that all who are made in the image of God deserve. Therefore, we understand and share the grief and righteous anger at the discrimination and mistreatment of our black and latino/a brothers and sisters in our society.

Second, the events around the nation have become a catalyst for renewed self-examination as individuals and in our community here in Kilgore. We acknowledge and are grateful for the general goodwill that exists between whites, blacks, and latino/as in our city. We rejoice that we are able to live together, and in many cases work together, in relative peace and concord. Yet, we grieve that disparities still exist. We grieve that we do not see equal representation of all people of color in positions of civil and educational leadership.

Third, while we are thankful that our community has been spared from the violence and destruction that other communities have experienced, we acknowledge that we have work to do.

First, we will pray. We, the undersigned pastors and leaders, will meet again next Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m. at First Baptist Church in Kilgore to seek God’s guidance and direction as we work for God’s justice.

Second, we will listen. Listening to each other is the first step on the long road to racial healing and reconciliation. The burden of listening falls first and foremost on those whose voices have been most amplified up until now. We commit to be slow to speak and quick to listen.

To that end, we will be seeking input from you, the community, at an event to be announced in the near future. After receiving input from the community, we hope to identify specific and actionable steps that we can take in order to promote racial equality, harmony, and integration in Kilgore.

Many of us have heard Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s famous quote that “whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.” Thus, we believe we have the moral obligation to engage in the hard work of healing and reconciliation so as to make life better for all of us. We are encouraged and convicted by the Apostle Paul’s exhortation: Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

Sincerely,

Rev. Ben Bagley, St. Luke’s United Methodist Church, Kilgore

Victor Boyd, Kilgore City Council

Rev. Bobby Catt, First Baptist Church, Kilgore

Rev. Manny Cirillo, CrossepointeChurch, Kilgore

Jody Clements, Vision 2020 Ministries Inc., Kilgore

Jeneille LaGrone, First Christian Church, Kilgore

Michael Moore

Micah Shannon, CrosspointeChurch, Kilgore

Rev. Ella Mae Walker

Rev. Larry Washington, Post Oak Baptist Church, Kilgore

Rev. Will Wilson, First Presbyterian Church, Kilgore

Rev. Glenn Young, First Baptist Church, Kilgore

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