Statement on Tulsa’s Saint Francis Hospital Campus Shooting

On May 31–June 1, 1921, dates which “live in infamy,” the Greenwood District of Tulsa, Okla. was destroyed by hatred. Fake news fueled the flames of rage that burned to the ground the signs of Black pride and self-determination. As I stood in memoriam on the corner of Greenwood and Archer at a 10:30 p.m. candlelight vigil on May 31 remembering the lives and livelihood lost during the Tulsa Race Massacre, I was aware of my hyper-vigilance as I surveilled the cars filled with passengers cruising by the Greenwood Rising Museum. Would someone shatter the peaceful gathering of the night with a drive by shooting? A prayerful vigil in the name of peace, forgiveness, and reconciliation should not be a moment of embodied fear.

As citizens of Tulsa remembered the trauma of the past and imagined a vision for the future on June 1, 2022, we were again reminded of what it means to live every day in terror. We had not recovered from the traumas of a super market in Buffalo, NY, a church in Laguna Woods, Calif., and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas when the Natalie Building at Saint Francis Hospital, near 61st and Yale in Tulsa, reported an active shooter who claimed four lives. A building set apart for the restoration of ailing bodies has been declared another unsafe space. Is no place sacred for embracing and celebrating life? Our hearts continue to break as another act of gun violence has further implanted fear in our bodies.

The Phillips Theological Seminary community prays for the families of the victims whose lives were taken by the shooter whose suffering caused him to take his own life too. We pray for the City of Tulsa that has experienced complicated grief from another instance of gun violence on the 101st anniversary of the Tulsa Race Massacre. We are dedicated to promoting fellowship and advocating a courageous spirituality that does not surrender to the terror of the day or night. We stand and walk with all our neighbors who love peace and justice. We declare and affirm that, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. (I John 4:18)”

Lee H. Butler, Jr., Ph.D.
Acting President
Vice-President of Academic Affairs and Academic Dean
William Tabbernee Professor of the History of Religions and Africana Pastoral Theology