Fifty years after the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. wrote a letter from a jail in Birmingham, Ala., urging white religious leaders to join the Civil Rights movement, Bishop Harry Jackson has teamed up with Bishop T.D. Jakes to host a closed-door meeting in Dallas with black and white clergy to attempt to craft an agenda on social justice issues.
The forum, “Healing the Racial Divide,” brings together a racially and theologically diverse group of more than 80 religious leaders.
The forum was the vision of Jackson, pastor of Hope Christian Church in Beltsville, Md. Jackson, who after years of preaching against same-sex marriage ballot initiatives, has made a “paradigm shift” to push for racial reconciliation between black and white pastors. He said he had a change of heart after the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo.
“In Ferguson, I really saw how extensive the racial problem was. The churches are doing a lot of good work in the region but it’s not multicultural and it is not multi-racial,” Jackson said. “The hopelessness and despair is because people feel trapped. It is not just about police brutality; there is a racial divide in this country in terms of economics.”
Attendees include former ambassador Andrew Young; King’s daughter, the Rev. Bernice King; and Bishop Vashti McKenzie. Among the prominent white ministers in attendance are televangelists like John Hagee, James Robinson and Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family. Also in attendance are prominent black evangelicals such as A.R. Bernard, senior pastor of the Christian Cultural Center in New York, and Tony Evans, pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas and host of the nationally syndicated show “The Urban Alternative.”
Jackson, Jakes and more than 80 pastors met behind closed doors Thursday, which would have been King’s 86th birthday. Jackson said the goal is to build “Bridges of Peace” in four areas: education, criminal justice, economic development and civic involvement.
But there was criticism of the event before it got underway. The Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of the Third Street Baptist Church in San Francisco, said many traditional civil rights leaders were not invited to take part in the conference, and he questions Jackson’s sincerity in now wanting to bring people together.
Source: Washington Post | Hamil R. Harris