We, the Christian community of Bay County, Florida, with a desire to exemplify Christian character, demonstrate Christian unity, and obey Christ’s command to love one another make the following statement to affirm our love, care, and concern for all humanity, in particular, our brothers and sisters of African descent.

We believe that all humanity is created in the image of God, and God’s breath fills the lungs of every human being. We recognize that acts of God developed diversity of culture and ethnicity within humanity. We acknowledge and affirm that all individuals of African descent are image bearers of God and born with the essence of God; therefore, persons of African descent deserve the same quality of life as all other human beings enjoy, especially the majority of society in our country and community.

Furthermore, we affirm that the historical atrocities, discrimination, and segregation towards Blacks in America, such as slavery, Jim Crow laws, and other forms of systemic oppression, as well as subtle and overt attitudes and acts of racism from individuals and hate groups are evil and biblically unethical.

It is without question that all lives matter! Considering the current state of affairs, however, it is necessary that we do not negate the fear, concerns, anguish, and anger which resides in the hearts and minds of Black citizens in Bay County as it relates to the senseless deaths of Black Americans throughout our nation. Therefore, we affirm that the lives of Black Americans are precious and must be protected as much as the lives of those in the majority of society.

Therefore, we denounce all forms of hate speech, hate groups, and any system, groups, or individuals who jeopardize the decency of life for Black Americans. We will not promote nor engage in conversations that degrade one another and activities that suppress one another. We promise to bear one another’s burdens instead of being a burden to one another.

Furthermore, we will work together to ensure the principles of America’s pledge are exemplified in our local community by living under God’s rule and guide, becoming one community— undivided by our ethnicity, denomination, or class in society, and promoting justice for all citizens.

Therefore, we denounce the unfair process and procedures which have delayed the progress of Black citizens in our community. We will work to balance the scales of education, economics, and justice so that all citizens, especially Black citizens, will be unrestrained in pursuing life, liberty, and personal happiness.

Furthermore, we denounce the fruits of racism, hate, and discrimination which are being harvested in our communities and fed to future generations through some of our homes, churches and schools. We will work diligently to pursue peace through Jesus Christ by breaking down walls of division and building bridges of reconciliation so that we might become one church and one community.

As bridge builders, we embrace the biblical principles of community and promise to love and accept one another, pray for one another, tell the truth to each other, be kind to one another, bring joy to each other, serve one another, be patient with each other, comfort one another, forgive one another, be generous with each other, and honor and respect one another. We will encourage our pastors to preach peace, love, and unity. We will encourage our congregations to love our neighbors as ourselves and treat others the way we want to be treated.

We recognize that sin still exists, and that we are not perfect; however, in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., a drum major for justice, peace, and righteousness, “the most important single imperative is that we continue moving forward…”

Therefore, we will endeavor to be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord until we act justly, love mercifully and see “justice roll down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream” for Black citizens in our country and community.

This declaration is our affirmation of solidarity and sincerity in denouncing past and present evils in our society and community toward Black Americans. We believe that God Almighty has a plan for us which will bring Him glory as we hate evil and embrace good, which will demonstrate our obedience to Him and devotion, love, and honor for one another. In the name of Jesus, we submit this declaration. Amen.

Signed by all Lynn Haven UMC pastors, life-giving practice heads and age-level ministers as well as many other Christian leaders in Bay County, Florida, June 2020