Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, called for unity and denounced racism in the church after the failure of a grand jury to indict the police officer who was videotaped choking Eric Garner to death.
Speaking on ERLC's program "Questions and Ethics," Moore said he was "shocked and grieved" by the news.
"Romans 13 says that the sword of justice is to be wielded against evildoers. Now, what we too often see still is a situation where our African-American brothers and sisters, especially brothers, are more likely to be arrested, more likely to be executed, more likely to be killed," he said.
"And this is a situation in which we have to say, I wonder what the defenders of this would possibly say. I just don't know. But I think we have to acknowledge that something is wrong with the system at this point and that something has to be done."
In July, Garner, an African American man, died in Staten Island after a police officer put him in a chokehold. On Wednesday, a New York grand jury cleared the officer of any wrongdoing, a decision that has drawn condemnation from elected officials on both ends of the political spectrum and touched off a wave of protests.
In light of Garner's case, in addition to the ongoing crisis in Ferguson, Moore has called for "churches that come together and know one another and are knitted together across these racial lines."
"I have gotten responses and seen responses that are right out of the White Citizen's Council material from 1964 in my home state of Mississippi, seeing people saying there is no gospel issue involved in racial reconciliation...Are you kidding me?" Moore exclaimed incredulously.
"Some of these issues are going to be complicated, and some of these particular. . . when it comes to Ferguson we're going to have different understandings of what the grand jury should have done and how they should have handled it. There are going to be some differing interpretations. But folks, when we've got police officers killing a man on video with a chokehold, can we not say there are still some problems in American society when it comes to race?"
Moore concluded by lamenting that "we have some real problems in our society" which are unfortunately rooted in "our own hearts and in our own churches:"
"We have a group of people-a small group of people, not a lot of people-some unreconstructed racists in American society and we have some who continue to come and to sit in pews of churches and pretend as though they are disciples of Jesus Christ. And we have some other people who are willing to speak to any possible issue, from the framework of Scripture that goes on in the world until it comes to the question of whether or not we maybe do have some legitimate problems being faced by our African-American brothers and sisters in Christ, and then at that point they become completely silent and say the gospel doesn't speak to this. I think that's wrong."