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Sumter pastors back peaceful protests, emphasize King's nonviolence

When violence occurs, nobody wins, Sumter’s Gibson and Newton say

BY BRUCE MILLS
bruce@theitem.com
Posted 6/4/20

Two local African-American pastors say their views on protesting are guided by their Christian faith and that there is a right way to do it and a wrong way.

Bishop Anthony Gibson of Grace Cathedral Ministries and the Rev. Marion Newton of Jehovah …

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Sumter pastors back peaceful protests, emphasize King's nonviolence

When violence occurs, nobody wins, Sumter’s Gibson and Newton say

Posted

Two local African-American pastors say their views on protesting are guided by their Christian faith and that there is a right way to do it and a wrong way.

Bishop Anthony Gibson of Grace Cathedral Ministries and the Rev. Marion Newton of Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church spoke Wednesday to The Sumter Item about ongoing protests across the U.S. and locally following the death of George Floyd, a black man who died in the custody of white Minneapolis police officers on May 25.

Many protests and demonstrations in U.S. cities have been peaceful, but there have been pockets of arson, vandalism and looting by white and black people alike. There has been violence on both the sides of protesters and law enforcement in varying degrees, according to reports. According to the S.C. Press Association, the Nieman Journalism Lab reports that U.S. police have attacked journalists at least 120 times since May 28.

Gibson and Newton said people in America have the right and privilege to protest and march. However, they don't have the right to loot, burn buildings down and vandalize, and both pastors said they are against those actions.

Both pointed to the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as a "nonviolent man" who got effective results in the Civil Rights Movement and that when violence occurs, nobody wins.

Newton and Gibson said timeless principles can be learned from the Bible and the life of Jesus Christ in addressing wrongs, including racism, in a positive way.

Gibson described the events surrounding Floyd's death last week as "heartbreaking," and he said he understands the tension but called on community members to meet and dialogue on issues.

He also said all church leaders must stand up and be honest with themselves and address the inequalities from the pulpit. The more people talk and deal with the issues, then people's hearts can change and increased equality can be the outcome.

He said Jesus often confronted social issues because he wanted to see equality.

"If he confronted certain things, we must also do so at times," Gibson said.

Newton agreed and said people must come to the table to work on racism and inequalities. He also said now is a good opportunity for more young people to get involved locally in civic activities and "be the change" they want to see.

The longtime pastor of Jehovah Missionary Baptist in South Sumter, Newton said he has been encouraged to see a much more diverse group of people protesting nationally at this time against racism. Historically, he said, that wasn't the case.

"In this case - I don't know percentage-wise - but as I look at the media," Newton said, "we have a lot of white people and young people who are demonstrating. This says something. This situation is very crucial to have blacks and whites being affected by what has happened. I believe we can educate each other."

He said he thinks the current outcry is not just related to George Floyd's death last week, but it's a situation that's been building over time.

Both pastors said they are in support of Mayor Joe McElveen's decision on Wednesday to implement a curfew in the City of Sumter.

Gibson said if local residents believe in Jesus Christ, then they should care about social issues and equality. Action is necessary, not just talk, he said.

"God is love," he said. "If you have God, then you are going to love everybody. That's the only thing that's going to heal this. That's the only thing that can fix this. If we have His love, then we will love everybody."