Trayvon Martin was killed less than 3 miles from our offices in
Lake Mary, Fla., which abuts Sanford. I’ve been in meetings the
last two days with local pastors and held a major press conference on
Friday covered by all the major media.
Thankfully, pastors in this city are beginning to work together.
And I believe the news conference gave opportunity for some of the
pastors in Sanford to talk about love and forgiveness and
reconciliation. I even met yesterday with the special prosecutor
Angela Corey, who said they are wanting justice for Trayvon and due
process for the man who admitted shooting him, George Zimmerman.
On Thursday I hosted a meeting of 75 pastors, most of them local.
My friends Bishop Harry Jackson and Dr. Raleigh Washington were in
town for other things and we brought them into the meeting. They both
spoke of healing and restoration. They both wanted to see where the
tragedy happened, so I drove them over to The Retreat at Twin Lakes,
where the shooting occurred. It’s less than half a mile from where
my 24-year-old son lives in a similar gated townhouse community in a
newer part of Sanford.
I have been working to bring racial reconciliation in Sanford for
years. I know it is a divided city, but I never dreamed Sanford would
have an incident that is now of major national and international
importance raising questions about racism. Because I can’t stay
glued to the news networks, it only slowly dawned on me that a local
killing had become a major issue. When the huge rallies happened, I
didn’t know about them until after the fact. And like many local
leaders, we didn’t know what to do or how to respond.
A week ago I attended a local ministerial association meeting. The
topic of Trayvon’s killing came up, but both black and white
pastors spoke of wanting reconciliation and healing—not marches and
protests. They talked about how Sanford has been prayed over and even
prophecies have been given about how revival would come out of
Sanford. It was a very different sentiment than what I was hearing in
the news media, which was quoting the New Black Panther Party for
Self-Defense as calling for racial violence if they didn’t feel
justice was done.
Then on April 6 I joined about 60 local pastors who met for a
specially called Good Friday prayer service at Holy Cross Episcopal
Church, the oldest church in Sanford. Both black and white pastors
gave wonderful talks and prayed prayers asking for God’s mercy and
forgiveness and healing. I invited several of the speakers to write
blogs, some of which we’ve already published and quite a few more
that we will post in the next week.
That meeting led to my hosting the gathering Thursday and working
with Washington and Jackson, who both wanted to help. There was great
discussion, which we videotaped and will make available later. But
late yesterday afternoon the group felt it was time to speak up by
holding a press conference. The question, of course, was: Would
anyone show up? Overnight we sent out an invitation to attend, and I
was surprised at the number of media that came.
But I was more amazed at how the Holy Spirit seemed to guide each
speaker. We are posting the entire news conference on our websites
and we are sharing it with other Christian media. I encourage you to
watch it. I think you’ll be touched. Leave me your comments after
watching the news conference and reading the blogs we previously
posted on our site.
In the next weeks I’ll write more about this situation and about
my own involvement. I’ll write about how we plan to deal with these
issues in our June edition of Charisma with “The Church’s
Response to Racism.”