The date was June 28th 2015, two days after the SCOTUS ruled that “Same Sex Marriages” will be legal in all fifty states creating a continental divide among Americans; people of faith and church families found themselves divided and at war over this issue. It seemed that back then and even more so today, our country is still struggling with equality as we still are healing from Dylann Roof’s brutal murders of 9 victims at the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston South Carolina. One thing is for sure, America is crying out for leaders to step forth and guide us through these nasty tributaries of hate and find fertile ground of love and UNITY.
I have realized that you don’t have to look too far when searching for such leaders of distinction and grace that have the ability to galvanize communities and capture the hearts of diverse peoples. Pastor Shaun King of Johns Creek Baptist Church located in an affluent mostly white suburb in North Atlanta decided to shake things up a bit and invited a fiery black preacher named Dr. Gregory C. Ellison II to bring a divine message of empathy to your fellow man. This was a groundbreaking event because very few black ministers have ever graced the podium of this prestigious church that is the backbone of a powerful community consisting of CEO’s and wealthy entrepreneurs.
Pastor King opened the service by addressing the SCOTUS ruling and saying firmly that he is not an advocate of gay marriage; BUT he is a strong proponent for LOVING EVERYONE that Christ brings into his life and that ALL PEOPLE were welcome at Johns Creek Baptist. Just like the court ruling of 5 to 4 for the controversial case, the parishioners were split about his comments but all agreed to follow his lead and consider opening their hearts to people that may be different.
After allowing a few moments of reflection for his flock, Pastor King transitioned his attention to introducing Dr. Ellison II by reading out an impressive list of accomplishments topped off with being the Associate Professor of Pastoral Care and Counseling at the Candler School of Theology for Emory University. Not knowing the outcome of bringing in a black man to speak to a 98% white congregation during a time of racial unrest in our country was a bold move that took courage. His faith in God did not go unrewarded as Dr. Ellison II stepped forth and the presence of God was immediately felt in the church.
Ellison wasted no time as he brought forth a message based from the Biblical book of Luke chapter 10 verses 30-35. The scripture depicts a person being robbed, beaten, stripped of his clothes and left half-dead on a popular road connecting Jerusalem and Jericho. Ellison points out that after this savage crime against this individual; priest as well as powerful officials from the Levi tribe all PASSED by without offering aid or concern. Ellison brilliantly shaped his message by exploring the fact the we have ALL felt PASSED by and hurt by loved ones and people that are supposed to protect us.
By opening the flocks mind to being able to see themselves as the person that has been victimized and passed by; the proverbial walls were broken down and replaced with an enormous sense of empathy for others that are suffering. I was blessed to witness this moment as I looked at my fellow church goers and felt a wave of positive emotions for folks to cast away old divisive hurts and replace them with a new urgency to help people heal.
The service at Johns Creek Baptist Church was powerful and effective, but it is not unique as millions of Americans are embracing UNITY over bigotry. The challenge is not creating “FEEL GOOD” moments on Sunday, but it is the decision to continue our righteous cause to actually LOVE people we may not agree with Monday – Saturday. The simple conclusion that Christ LOVED us REGARDLESS of how messed up we ALL are indicates that we should do the same for others. I believe we can do it because Pastor Shaun King and Dr. Gregory C. Ellison II just showed us how and they are NO different than any of us!
Family Leadership Authority