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Pastors comfort mourners, exhort churches at George Floyd funeral

HOUSTON (BP) — Speaking comfort to mourners at the June 9 funeral of George Floyd, Houston pastor Ralph Douglas West posed the question: “Where was God in all of this?”

Where was God when Floyd repeatedly begged for breath in the last 8 minutes and 46 seconds of his life? Where was God when Floyd was declared dead after his neck was pinned under police officer Derek Chauvin’s knee?

“God was and is where God has always been,” said West, senior pastor of the Church Without Walls, who went on to paraphrase Romans 8:28. “God didn’t cause it, but God can certainly use it. Unfortunately, we’ve almost turned it into cliché, but it’s Christian bedrock belief that all things work together for the good of them who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose.”

West, whose church is a member of the Union Baptist Association (UBA) of the Baptist General Convention of Texas, said Floyd belonged in history books as someone whose death sparked an international outcry against injustice, racism and police brutality.

“No one would have guessed that God had birthed someone who would have a rightful place in history,” West said. “We all began in obscurity; we don’t know where we’ll land in history.”

West was among several clergy and civic leaders who addressed several hundred mourners during the funeral at The Fountain of Praise Church, according to the Associated Press. Thousands attended a Houston memorial service a day before the funeral. In the previous week, others mourned Floyd at memorial services near his birthplace of Raeford, N.C., and in Minneapolis, where he died.

Steve Wells, senior pastor of South Main Baptist Church in Houston, issued a challenge to fellow “white churches” during his remarks at the funeral.

“We are better than we used to be but we are not as good as we ought to be, and that is not good enough, which means you have to take up the work of racial justice,” Wells said. “Racism did not start in our lifetimes, but racism can end in our lifetime. But only if I ask and you ask, ‘What am I going to do about it?’

“At my church, it is easy to dismiss as politics the economics of hundreds of years of systemic racism, but not talking and not acting is the path to destruction.”

Wells, whose church cooperates with the Union Baptist Association, praised the mourners as “a model not just for America, but for the whole world,” in the way they have responded to the tragedy. “And now we must follow your good example, calling out anything that doesn’t honor George or any of the rest of us domination, injustice, oppression, racism.”

Southern Baptist leaders have issued a joint statement grieving Floyd’s death.