May  2017 18
Statement on the Acquittal in the Death of Terence Crutcher

Dear Tulsa Community Pastors, Religious Leaders, and Phillips alumni/ae and friends:

On the behalf of the Phillips Theological Seminary community, I want to express our deepest sympathies to the Crutcher family. The seminary’s connections with the Crutcher family are personal. Dr. Joey Crutcher is a seminary graduate. Members of the faculty and staff worshipped with and knew Terence.

Regardless of the reasons the jury voted to acquit the officer who killed Terence, the fact remains: an African-American man without a weapon was killed by a law enforcement officer. That is not only a tragedy. It is morally wrong. It is difficult, even impossible, not to see this wrong as one of way too many national stories of an African-American male, in “hands-up, don’t shoot” posture, killed by law enforcement.

The national sin of racism is showing itself in Tulsa, again.                          

Our thoughts and prayers are with all religious leaders this weekend, and throughout the summer. Within your congregations are parents who worry about their children surviving a traffic stop, members of law enforcement agencies and their families, and congregants who have wildly different moral reactions to this verdict.

It is exceedingly hard work to be a pastor to ALL the people you serve in times like this. The climate created by daily disruptions in Washington, the threat of Oklahoma’s elected officials driving our state further into misery, and the events such as this verdict is toxic. In addition, religious communities do not often know what to do with anger, let alone outrage, over systemic social injustices. In this toxic climate, you are called to lead.

Therefore, the seminary’s thoughts and prayers are with you who are called to the tough and even dangerous work of leading. Through your words and actions, you put yourself on the line as you frame questions such as, “What is going on?” “How do we, as people of faith, think about these matters?”, “What should we do with our fear or with our outrage?”, and “What are the fitting, faithful actions we should take?”

We pray that you find courage to say what should be said, what needs to be said, in a way that people can hear. We pray that listeners’ ears and hearts be opened.

And we pray that, whatever changes to policies and procedures community policing in Tulsa might bring, those changes would include options in tense encounters that choose life over deadly force.


Gary Peluso-Verdend

President, Phillips Theological Seminary

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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