Rev. Paul M. Turner

Ebola: Pastoral Statement on the Virus and Our Response

If there was ever a time for the Christian Church to step up and step out, now is the time.  The Church has historically been not only slow but hesitant to stand up for justice and mercy.  It was too slow in responding to the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the genocides in Europe, Asia and Africa and certainly still struggles mightily with the LGBTQI community and HIV/Aids.  As a people of faith we cannot allow the institutional church to be slow again.  As a people of faith we  call on our church leaders and congregations to take social responsibility for being a people of healing and hope in this fragmented world.

Over 4,000 gentle souls have already died from the ravages of Ebola.  This is an echo when another disease (HIV/Aids) was killing people at a grotesque rate and very little was said or done during the early 1980’s.  We must speak out because we are connected with those who have died, their families and friends because we not on an island but are apart of the world community.  We are apart of this because we live in Atlanta, which resides in the spotlight.  Emory University Hospital is just up the street from where we worship.  Emory’s administration welcome any and all people who are ill, including those with Ebola.  The center for Disease Control is based here; the whole world is watching, and learning from what we do and say.

With all that said this is what we must do:

1) Pray for our neighbors in Africa,  Atlanta and anywhere in the world that a soul is stricken by Ebola.  We need to remember prayer has the power to overcome isolation, despair, evil intent, demonic behavior, separation, disease and yes even death.  Prayer binds us one to another through the power of unconditional love.  We must pray for healing, pray for stronger backs to bear this heavy burden.

2)  We must advocate for resources and help to be sent overseas to Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Ghana and wherever our help is most needed.  We are the richest country in the world, therefore we have no excuse for not adding a full measure of our resources.

3) Our African neighbors “need more money, more health-care workers, more troops to help coordinate relief efforts. In the short term, the only way to halt the epidemic is with better infection-control measures.” (Michael Spector, “The New Yorker”, October 20, 2014)

4) We must not panic!

5) We must not be afraid!  We will not give into fear.

6) We must not participate in hysteria or hyperbole, nor attempt to use this tragic disease and suffering for political gain or judgments about race, culture and socioeconomic status.

Now is the time for  all of us to come together, to work and serve on a united front, to set aside petty differences and find a common ground so that we might save human lives and build healthier communities.

We cannot, we must not forget that with the help of God we will overcome this challenge “for such a time as this!”

Rev. Paul M. Turner, Senior Pastor of Gentle Spirit Christian Church

Rev. Dr. James L. Brewer-Calvert, Senior Pastor of First Christian Church of Decatur