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Louisville Seminary Professor, Student Arrested in Recent Ferguson Clergy Demonstration

Oct 16, 2014
Ferguson photoOn October 14, Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary welcomed back three students and one professor who participated in an interfaith clergy demonstration that took place in Ferguson, Missouri, October 13. The Louisville Seminary envoy was organized by Louisville Seminary Theology Professor Rev. Dr. Shannon Craigo-Snell. Joining her were seminary students David Wigger, Zach Heimach and Beth Ruhl. Craigo-Snell’s son, Jacob, and Wigger’s wife, Amy Wadsworth, were also part of the envoy.

About 500 people participated in the October 13 march, which capped off four days of public events that included demonstrations, panels and interfaith services across Missouri to build a movement against systemic racism. The “Moral Monday March” began at a local church and proceeded to the Ferguson Police Department, where protestors called for an indictment in the August 9 police shooting of Michael Brown.

Craigo-Snell and Wigger (who took the photo above) were arrested along with dozens of other clergy leaders and activists, including author and national media commentator Cornel West; Pastor Michael McBride, director of the PICO National Network (People Improving Communities through Organizing); and Jim Wallis, president and founder of Sojourners. The two seminary representatives were released from jail Monday evening.

“It was an incredible gathering of people from many different religions—rabbis, priests, imams, pastors, seminarians—from around the country,” said Craigo-Snell, who participated in peaceful demonstrations in Ferguson in September as well. “Together we repented of our participation in the structures of racial injustice and invited the police in Ferguson to repent with us, as a step forward in working for greater equality.”

At one point in the demonstration Craigo-Snell and Wigger led the huge crowd of clergy, seminarians and people of faith in the chant: “Tell me what theology looks like! This is what theology looks like.”

“There is something special happening in Ferguson,” said Wigger, who is pursuing his Master of Divinity degree with a concentration in Black Church Studies. “We are at the dawn of a new tomorrow. Black youth have protested night after night since Mike Brown was shot. They have stood up and demanded to be heard. The unconscious and systematic racism that is woven throughout white society will no longer be tolerated by these youth. They demand to be treated like the children of God they are.”

Louisville Seminary Trustee and Saint Louis resident Rev. Mary Gene Boteler greeted Craigo-Snell and Wigger upon their release. Boteler, who is pastor of Second Presbyterian Church in Saint Louis, was especially pleased to see her seminary and her faith tradition represented.

“Those of us who have been involved in the daily protests for two months are encouraged by those who traveled to Saint Louis to march with us on Monday,” said Boteler. “I was especially grateful that my own seminary was one of the seminaries represented. We hope that all of those who stood with us on Monday will return to their own communities and raise their voices there, even as they continue to pray for us. There are Mike Browns in every community."

Their participation in the demonstration came with the full support of Louisville Seminary.
“I commend them for their willingness to put themselves on the line for justice,” said Louisville Seminary Dean Susan R. Garrett. “We look forward to hearing more about their experience, about their vision for what lies ahead and how we can all support their work.”

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Read David Wigger's poem #FergusonOctober about his experience in Ferguson on the website, Unbound: An Interactive Journal of Christian Social Justice.

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