Bishop Harry Jackson, leader of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches, a racially diverse group with more than 200 congregations worldwide, has spoken out about church leaders of all stripes in Sanford, Fla., working together to address racial divisions in America in light of the Trayvon Martin case.
"We are going to have a meeting with Sanford black church leaders and then a few hours after that we will meet with leaders from all over Sanford and the greater Orlando area," Bishop Jackson said in an interview with CBN.
The meeting will largely be based on fallout over the Trayvon Martin case, in which the 17-year-old African-American teen was shot by part-Hispanic neighborhood watchman George Zimmerman, in what some are calling a racially motivated crime.
Bishop Jackson revealed that church leaders will discuss how the church can take the lead in healing the 400-year-old problem of racism in America. "Sanford has a history of racial violence – people have been lynched here," he said.
"God wants to reach back and bring some repentance, reconciliation, and hopefully there's going to be an opportunity for a fresh start not only in Florida, but for the rest of the nation," Bishop Jackson added.
He said that he, along with other church leaders, wrote a letter in 2008 declaring that they can cure the "segregation on Sunday morning problem" – referring to the many churches across America that attract only one racial group. "We can cure it if churches began to evangelize across racial boundaries right now."
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Jackson said that some programs that will be discussed at the meeting include scholarship programs in the name of Trayvon Martin saying that "one life was wiped out, but another one can now begin." The bishop added that church and government leaders will try to initiate a process of racial healing that will be a model for the rest of the nation.
According to Bishop Jackson, churches in Sanford are already holding integrated church services.
"We want to take it a step further with more of these tributaries of unity and racial harmony," he said. "Our job is to be a force of reconciliation; our job is to be an instrument of healing. Our job is to cool things down."
The bishop also talked about the New Black Panther Party, a revolutionary leftist party whose leader issued a $10,000 bounty for the capture of Zimmerman.
"You may not know this, but yesterday, the Black Panthers were here in town, and had there been some hesitancy on the part of law enforcers to arrest Mr. Zimmerman, the Black Panthers were poised to induce a race riot. Police were on alert, threats were going out, and there was real tension at that moment."
Bishop Jackson highlighted the incident as the kind of attack on racial harmony that the church and society as a whole need to fight against.
"The church's biggest job is to use its considerable influence, both in higher places and on the Earthly realm, to bring forth peace," he concluded.
The bishop explained that some of the biggest obstacles toward race healing remain groups who have kept hidden grievances, and he urged for openness and understanding at the upcoming meetings in Sanford so that the roots of the racial tensions can be addressed and overcome.