To our sister home of faith, The African Methodist Episcopal Church, to Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, and especially to the family and friends of The Nine who were so heartlessly slain on June 17th, we extend our love and prayers on behalf of the Philadelphia Presbytery of the Presbyterian Church in America.
We acknowledge and honor you for your long history of faithful Gospel witness, from the harsh days when Denmark Vesey and others who helped found Mother Emanuel were then hanged for alleged crimes against the slave powers, through the revival of your congregation in the fires of the Civil War, and down through your exemplary leadership in the quest for equal civil rights. Through our own blessed acquaintance with your very first A.M.E. congregation here in Philadelphia at Mother Bethel, we have known you to be a church faithful to the God of Scripture and courageous in the pursuit of freedom to worship him who has called you into the light of that beloved community of the children of God for which Martin Luther King, Jr. also gave his life.
We have been profoundly shocked and grieved that an evil enemy would invade the sanctuary of your Bible study hour to perpetrate a hateful and vengeful act aimed at you because of your courageous championing of the dignity of all African Americans. Yet in this dark hour, we have witnessed, along with the watching world, a brilliant light of Gospel witness from the hearts and lips of survivors and family at Mother Emanuel who have shown us all a picture of grace and forgiveness. It was none other than our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, who said, ...if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. (Matthew 6:15)
Therefore, along with a grieving nation and united body of faithful believers, we honor those who fell in the midst of a hallowed congregation:
· Rev. Clementa Pinckney, your beloved senior pastor
· Cynthia Hurd
· Susie Jackson
· Ethel Lance
· Rev. DePayne Middleton-Doctor
· Tywanda Sanders
· Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.
· Rev. Sharonda Singleton
· Myra Thompson
Be assured of our ongoing love and respect as you lay these faithful shepherds and stewards of the mysteries of faith to rest and memorialize their service among the congregation and the whole community of Charleston. They will be remembered, as the others in that long list of heroes of the faith in the book of Hebrews, in the words of its author, ...the world was not worthy of them... therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses...let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of God. Consider him who endured such opposition from sinful men, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart. (Hebrews 11:38 & 12:1-3)
We trust that the great Author of our salvation, now our great Intercessor at the throne of God, will give you peace and assurance of his blessing, now and forevermore.
In the love of Christ,
The Fraternal Relations Team and The Coordinating Team of the Philadelphia Presbytery
Presbyterian Church in America
Glenn N. McDowell, Moderator