GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. — With a recent string of shootings in Grand Rapids, one pastor says the faith community is being underutilized in the response to stop the violence, he says, inevitably comes each summer in the city.
“They have the greatest barometer of what’s going on - we’re either sometimes shunned, not engaged, or underutilized,” said Reverend Jerry Bishop. “This is a very redundant call to action that we have literally every summer, and very humbly, it seems as if people are never listening until people start dying.”
Reverend Bishop joined city officials and police Friday at their press conference to address the violence. Speaking to FOX17 afterwards outside his LifeQuest Urban Outreach Center, he said churches and other faith-based organizations have the infrastructure and personnel to help support change, they just aren’t being asked.
“We have vast campuses of real estate that could be utilized for skilled development within safe distance, all the protocols for COVID protection,” he said. “The cellphone robberies, the gun store robberies, the gambling in the public parks - these are just byproducts of too much empty time with no purpose.”
With more and more calls to divert mental health and substance abuse calls to health and social professionals, and away from armed officers, Reverend Bishop said many faith-based groups already have those people ready to help.
“I’m not an adversary of the Grand Rapids Police Department, but I am an advocate for doing things differently because what we’ve been doing hasn’t been working,” said Reverend Bishop. “Lives will continue to perish as long as we remain reactive instead of proactive.”
For more information on LifeQuest Urban Outreach Center, click here.