Pastor sees need for systemic change

Jun 9, 2020

By Karen L. Willoughby

Andre Miller, founding pastor in 2010 of New Beginnings Christian Church in Mesa, has been working for police reform in Arizona for the last 10 years.

At the same time, the church has grown to a 150-person multicultural congregation.

“As an institution, there are systemic cultural issues in policing in America,” Miller said. “As a police officer, the system is that you have to show force. The system should be that of a peace officer with a desire to diffuse rather than escalate.”

Miller’s interest in police matters stems from his boyhood, when police officers in Detroit were from, understood and knew the people in their community. His father was a Detroit police officer. His cousin was Detroit’s first black mayor. His sons’ mother continues as a police detective in Detroit.

The changes in the culture of policing, the lack of change in the racial divide across the nation, and the growth of his five sons into teens and young adults fuel his desire to be part of the solution, Miller said.

“Right now I’m working with Arizona Police Association — APA — to look at actionable items for systemic change,” Miller said. “I’m in the process of connecting with others to get things done nationally.”

Transparency, accountability, community engagement and a “Brady list” to protect communities from police officers with a history of brutal behavior are important elements of changing the systemic culture of policing, Miller has determined.

Changing the policing system will reduce the amount of racial unrest experienced nationwide, Miller said.

David Johnson, executive director of the Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, listed seven biblical reasons racism is wrong. He wrote them in a column for Baptist Press written at the time of the Ferguson, Missouri, riots of 2017.

God created all races; He loves all races and Christ died for all races, Johnson wrote. Ultimately, all races will be together in heaven.

“The Bible gives us plenty of reasons to know that racism is wrong,” Johnson concluded. “We just need to believe it and live it.”

The column can be read here.

Southern Baptist leaders on May 30 issued a joint statement on the death of George Floyd, an unarmed, unresisting man in Minneapolis kneeled for nearly nine minutes by a police officer who had 18 previous complaints lodged against him.

“While we thank God for our law enforcement officers that bravely risk their lives for the sake of others and uphold justice with dignity and integrity, we also lament when some law enforcement officers misuse their authority and bring unnecessary harm on the people they are called to protect,” was one of the points made in the statement unanimously signed by all SBC officers, entity heads and state convention executive directors, including Arizona Executive Director David Johnson and Noe Garcia, SBC second vice president and pastor of North Phoenix Baptist Church.

The statement can be read in its entirety here.

“It is going to take all of us to fix all of this,” Miller said. “This is not a black problem, not a white problem, not a Hispanic problem. It’s our problem.”

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