George Floyd was murdered by a Minneapolis Police Officer on May 25, 2020. With his death the city erupted into the worst racial riots in generations. This post is a look at those riots and how EFCA churches in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area responded to George Floyd’s death and the protests and rioting that followed. This the first of two posts.
“And I must say tonight that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it America has failed to hear? … It has failed to hear that the promises of freedom and justice have not been met. And it has failed to hear that large segments of white society are more concerned about tranquility and the status quo than about justice and humanity.”
Martin Luther King
“Before anything else PRAY…. PRAY for healing, for racial reconciliation…”
Mike Richards of CrossPoint
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, and to love kindness,[a]
and to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8 ESV
Hope Community Church Senior Pastor Steve Treichler took this picture in a protest.
Note this video from the New York Times is graphic and hard to watch.
On May 25, 2020 at 8:08 Minneapolis Police Officers Alexander Kueng and Thomas Lane responded to a call at a convenience store on the corner of Chicago Ave and E. 38 St.. The call dealt with an attempt to use counterfeit money. George Floyd was pulled out of the car and cooperated and handcuffed. He was in the process of being put into the squad car when Floyd resisted due to claustrophobia. Floyd had said that he could not breathe. Shortly afterward Minneapolis Officer Derek Chauvin along with his partner showed up and pulled Floyd out of the cruiser at 8:19 and placed him on the ground where Floyd said again that he could not breath. Chauvin then placed his left knee on the neck of George Floyd for the next eight minutes and forty six seconds. Floyd cried out that he could not breath and cried out for his mama while a Minneapolis Police Officer coldly committed murder by leaning on his neck preventing him from breathing. The New York Times did a good video to watch however, it is also graphic and disturbing. The crowds first responded as protests, which some would consider to be greater than the 1968 riots broke out on May 26. That evening squad cars started to be vandalized and the anger spread to Los Angeles, New York, Memphis and Louisville. The following day the Minnesota governor brought in the national guard. And from there the situation deteriorated and violence spread to other cities such as Atlanta, Philadelphia, and elsewhere including Washington, D.C. which is where this blog is written from.
But this blog is also aiming to look at the Minneapolis riots and death of George Floyd from another angle. What you will see in these two posts are the result of an intense scrubbing of social media. These two posts attempt to capture how the EFCA in the Minneapolis and Saint Paul area responded to the death of George Floyd and the riots which took place. In writing these two posts this blogger listened to at least 13 sermons and closely examined how EFCA churches responded. What was said on Twitter or Facebook? What was said in church blogs and communications? How did some of the pastors or the North Central District leadership react to the violence and the death of George Floyd? That is what this post compiles. These two posts are the result of a lot of labor and early morning hours as I worked in an attempt to capture and preserve history to a national event that happened in the backyard of the EFCA in Minneapolis.
And there is a lot that took place. George Floyd was killed in the neighborhood not far from the oldest EFCA church in Minneapolis – First Evangelical Free of Minneapolis which is led by Joel Sutton. The riots and destruction also happened not far from Bryan Lair’s Trinity City Church in Saint Paul. Steve Treichler of Hope Community Church gave an emotional sermon about the situation and participated in a protest march on June 2, 2020 to the memorial where George Floyd was killed. Darrius Hubbard from the EFCA and Acts 29’s Antioch Community Church gave out food to those who were impacted by the destruction of grocery stores. Individuals from First Minneapolis Free, CrossPoint Church, Antioch Community Church and Wayzata Evangelical Free participated in the clean up of riot impacted areas. In the North Central District that overseas the EFCA in Minnesota, they were offering support to their churches. District staff preached in both Antioch Community Church and The Grove Church. North Central District Superintendent Brian Farone would also attend the memorial service of George Floyd. You can read about that in, “EFCA North Central District Superintendent Brian Farone Attends George Floyd’s Memorial Service in Minneapolis and Reflects on the Situation.” And against this backdrop of George Floyd’s death and rioting the North Central District Superintendent had a scandal on his hands. Over at The Grove Church at Maple Grove Senior Pastor Jon Platek was fired it appears for plagiarism. Brian Farone was there to address a number of issues that were ongoing.
This post is a compilation of how ten churches in the Twin Cities area responded to the worst urban unrest since possibly the late 1960’s. This blog will look at EFCA President Kevin Kompelien’s comments in another post. In this project The Wondering Eagle also looked at the churches of New Salem Church. Riverside Evangelical Free, and Faith Evangelical Free but didn’t find any response. They did not update their sermons on their website or have social media to study. So with that said let’s start by looking at Steve Treichler’s Hope Community Church.
Hope Community Church
Hope Community Church has three locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. The three locations are Minneapolis downtown, lower St. Paul or Columbia Heights. Steve Treichler‘s is the senior pastor of Hope and Cor Chmieleski is the senior associate pastor. This blog has spent some time trying to ascertain if there is any damage to Hope due to the riots and that can’t be determined. However, Hope has been involved in responding to the George Floyd death protests. Drew Zuehlke, associate pastor of visual communication and Columbia Heights gave a sermon of lament on May 31, 2020 at Hope. Bryan Silver followed him and talked about how the George Floyd issue affected him and how its important that black lives matter. Below you can see the social media that this blog has preserved in regards to the Minneapolis riots and protests in regards to Hope Community Church. It should be noted that earlier in May Hope had a town hall dealing with racial injustice involving recent black shootings. Hope Community has had a couple of town halls in the wake of George Floyd being killed.
Hope’s Senior Pastor Steve Treichler has been very involved in in some of the responses. In the sermon up above he speaks about how little sleep he had over the time-span of four days. He also spoke about how he lived in Minneapolis for 38 years and how he started Hope in 1996. In the protests that have taken place the senior pastor has participated in a march on June 2, 2020 to the memorial erected where George Floyd was killed.
First Evangelical Free Church of Minneapolis
The oldest EFCA church in Minneapolis which is considered the mother of all EFCA churches is First Evangelical Free Church of Minneapolis which roots go back to 1884. This church is led by Joel Sutton who is the senior pastor. The associate pastor is Jay Pound. When George Floyd died at the hands of the Minneapolis Police he did so in the neighborhood of First Evangelical Free Church of Minneapolis. While it appears as if this church has not been harmed by the riots the area around them has. When the situation came to light First Free responded to the injustice of Floyd’s death and that it happened in their neighborhood. You can read the reaction, listen to Joel’s sermon on May 31, 2020 and watch other pastoral staff offer advice. This church has responded and actually played a role in helping to clean up some of the riot damage. It has collected food, supplies and more for those who are affected. And what sets this church out is that its also discussing how the COVID-19 pandemic is hitting the African-American community hard.
Antioch Community Church in Minneapolis
Antioch Community Church is an Acts 29 church in the EFCA located in Minneapolis as well. Antioch is led by Andy O’Rourke who is the lead pastor and Matt Kinnick is the associate pastor. After the death of George Floyd, Dan Moose who does church multiplication in the EFCA’s North Central District of Minnesota was at Antioch to give the sermon. Dan started his talk where he discussed his anguish over the George Floyd situation. Amidst the anger and pain Dan believes that the response should be for Christians to respond in prayer to the Lord. So he preached on that topic. Antioch responded to the riots on Facebook. Coley Waataja who is the director of women’s ministry taught about Psalm 13 and asked how long? From the COVID-19 pandemic to the racism from George Floyd’s death. Coley reacted in a form of lament. Darrius Hubbard who is the pastor of community engagement talked about the death of George Floyd in the context of 2 Samuel 12.
In response to the riots and destruction of a number of grocery stores Antioch Community Church provided free groceries for the community. Provided were fresh vegetables and frozen beef, pork and chicken. This effort was quickly organized by Antioch in response to the devastation and in two days time this church distributed over 1,500 pounds of food to families affected by the riots. Darrius Hubbard worked this effort which you can see in the video below.
Elmwood Church of St. Anthony
Elmwood Church is a smaller Evangelical Free led by John Stromberg in the community of Saint Anthony. Here is how this EFCA church reacted to the George Floyd death and riots. Stromberg taught on John 8:12-20 but then he addressed the death of Floyd at the end of the sermon. You can listen to it above but the talk takes a turn to discuss the Minneapolis riots at 29:45. In light of what happened in Minneapolis Elmwood’s pastor asked how do we live as a community of light in the wake of George Floyd who died while in police custody? In how to respond Stromberg said his comments will be brief as he is still thinking about the issue. But he made several recommendations the first is praying like crazy and pray for those who experienced injustice. Pray for the police and first responders who are feeling the affects and pray for local leaders and system of government. Then they grieve and lament and should be angry over George Floyd’s death. In prayerful ways Christians should call for justice. But justice is not posting to social media and Elmwood’s pastor advised people to be careful about what they post to social media as it can make the situation worse. The last point is that the Gospel should be proclaimed, as the light of the Gospel heals heal this injustice. On Facebook Elmwood mentioned as to how their hearts are broken about what it happening in Minneapolis.
CrossPoint Church in Bloomington
CrossPointe is an EFCA Church in the suburb of Bloomington. The senior pastor is Mike Richards. Mike came to CrossPointe in 2011 and became senior pastor in 2017. This church had a reaction to what happened in Minneapolis. On Facebook, which you could see below CrossPoint said that satan was behind the evil going on. CrossPoint elder Brad Culley was so disturbed by the violence in Minneapolis that he asked the community to pray for the violence to stop. On May 31, 2020 elder Erik Gronvall prayed for the injustice, the pain that exists. He prayed that the violence would stop and that people would be safe, and that fear will end. Originally CrossPoint was to talk about moving forward after COVID-19, instead the Minneapolis riots changed that topic. That was followed by Mike Richards sermon. Richards also addressed the unrest in the city and the racial strife. He preached on the comparisons between 1965 and 2020. He preached about how we are love each other. One point this blog would like to factually correct Mike Richards after listening to his sermon. John F. Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963. He was not assassinated in 1964. And Lyndon Johnson was first sworn in in 1963. There is a famous picture a dazed Jackie Kennedy looking on while Johnson takes the oath of office while flying back to Washington, D.C. Toward the end of the sermon Mike Richards talked about how a member of CrossPoint had ties to a food warehouse that was burned down, and how CrossPoint is focused on helping. He also spoke about his discussion with North Central District Superintendent Brian Farone if partnering with two EFCA churches in Minneapolis itself. He ended the talk by reading from a segment of a book from John Perkins. Perkins is a pastor who dealt with racism and when he was 16 his 25 year old brother was shot by a white sheriff deputy. John Perkins emphasized how we should love our enemies and the church is dealing with racism.
May 31, 2020 update.
The events of this week have left me reeling with dismay at the horrific disregard of human life and the subsequent displays of senseless actions fueled by anger and injustice. These events I am referring to have not been taking place somewhere else in the world, but right here in our neighborhood.
When people ask how the Bible (written 1000’s of years ago) relates to life in 2020 – we only need to point them to events in the recent news.
What recent images come to your mind when you hear these ancient commands from God on how we are to live?
You shall not murder….
You shall not steal….
You shall not covet anything….
Have you wondered what God has to say about how to live? I invite you to join me this summer as we take a new look at the 10 Commandments through the eyes of Jesus. Starting this Sunday, May 31 and continuing through the summer we will discover God’s one instruction which directs and shapes all of our life.
Oxboro Evangelical Free Church in Bloomington
Another Evangelical Free in Bloomington is Oxboro which is lead by Ben Groen. While Oxboro’s Facebook account really didn’t discuss the situation on Ben Groen’s he had the following statement about the death of George Floyd.
Before the service started (by the way the service was taped on Thursday) Ben Groen’s wife Anne read the following prayer about the situation in Minneapolis.
Ben Groen did express his shock over what was happening in Minnapolis before preaching on Jonah. Oxboro also had a brief video on Facebook calling people to pray in a situation that feels overwhelming.
Wayzata Evangelical Free in Plymouth
Wayzata Evangelical Free is located in the western suburbs of Minneapolis. This EFCA church is lead by Kevin Meyer. This church has been deeply troubled by the riots in Minneapolis. When you watch the videos and prayers from Wayzata one can see how this issue weighs on them. The May 31, 2020 sermon, which was recorded a couple of days prior, started out with Andrea Hebeisen and George Kenworthy talking about how they had other church plans but the events in Minneapolis changed Wayzata Evangelical Free schedule. In a very solomn way they prayed for the city, the tension that exists and their city. After the prayer Mike Brinkman talked how Wayzata had served in their community and how COVID-19 changed their plans. Then they adjusted their plans and the Minneapolis riots and unrest changed that as well. A number of people from Wayzata has descended on the inner city and helped with cleaning up riot impacted areas. Mike showed some of the pictures in the talk.
On Facebook Wayzata Free shared other thoughts about the unrest in Minneapolis. One of the African-American members briefly reflected on the unrest when he applied a prayer to Minneapolis. You can watch that below.
On Facebook Wayzata Free also expressed how broken they feel for the life lost in the George Floyd tragedy. They also uploaded a video to discuss racial issues as well. You can watch that preview video below.