How can we separate Church and Hate?
Last month, a group of pastors met in Dallas to find practical solutions to the racial divide in this country, continuing a tradition that dates to the days of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s.
Two members of King’s family, his daughter Bernice and niece Alveda, attended “The Reconciled Church: Healing the Racial Divide,” along with one of his closest advisors, Andrew Young.
Bernice King made a point at the summit that continues to resonate now, as we observe Black History Month.
“Most people, when they think about my father, often forget that he was a pastor,” she said. “We always have to remember that the movement was not a group of civil rights leaders. It was a group of pastors who came together and made a commitment to unite and to fight these social injustices in the South.”
Many of King’s key associates were ordained ministers, including Young, Ralph Abernathy and John Lewis. Instead of observing the so-called “separation of church and state,” they crusaded for social and political causes, sometimes at the risk of their lives.
Abernathy, perhaps King’s closest associate, led the Southern Christian Leadership Conference after his death.
“Ralph was really the pastor to Dr. King,” Young said. “He was a source of strength to us all.”
Young went on to become mayor of Atlanta, a congressman from Georgia and U.N. ambassador under President Jimmy Carter.
Lewis, a congressman from Georgia since 1987, helped lead the march of more than 500 civil rights activists across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama, on March 7, 1965 that was dramatized in the movie, “Selma.” The day became known as “Bloody Sunday” after state troopers and a county posse attacked the marchers — Lewis suffered a fractured skull and still bears scars from that day.
Lewis attended seminary but never pastored a church. “I saw the Civil Rights movement as an extension of the Church in a sense,” he said.
It’s a calling that we as members of Jesus’s church be continually striving to follow today.