Sumter-area pastors took another step in uniting for justice in God's eyes with the signing of a unified statement against racism and for nonviolence Monday afternoon.
About 20 pastors of different races and Christian denominations gathered in …
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About 20 pastors of different races and Christian denominations gathered in the lobby at Alice Drive Baptist Church and placed their signatures at the bottom of the unified statement, committing to love others across ethnicity and the barriers that divide.
The finalized statement was written by a nine-member taskforce working on a larger strategy against racism and for nonviolence for all Sumter clergy. In a pastoral gathering last week, about 45 preachers provided their input on the statement, and a few tweaks were made before it was agreed upon.
The movement comes amid rallies and protests across the world following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died at the hands and under the knee of a white police officer in Minneapolis five weeks ago on May 25.
The unified statement is four paragraphs and a total of 23 sentences. Theological elements are woven throughout, and it condemns racism as "a sin and lie against humanity and God."
Sumter clergy said they were grateful for the signing but realize it's only a step and that they hope to do more as far as racial reconciliation.
"It's only a step, but it's an important step," said the Rev. Marcus Kaiser, rector of Church of the Holy Comforter. "It's easy to make a statement, but we've worked hard to find that common ground in our faith; so, I am very grateful for this. But, as we keep saying over and over again, `It can't end here.' This is a signal of our intent to do better, to work together as members of the church, and most importantly to listen better."
The statement concludes by calling on every community clergy member, and every "Jesus follower" to work to build relationships that honor God.
It closes with, "This, by God's grace, is a work of the Holy Spirit which will bring about transformation in our churches, homes and communities."
Following Floyd's death and others in recent months, the Sumter-area clergy met for the first time in early June and led a community-wide march with law enforcement on June 14.
The Rev. Marion Newton, senior pastor of Jehovah Missionary Baptist Church, and one of the conveners of the local movement, described the signing "as one of the greatest events taking place in the church in terms of racism" with pastors of all races and denominations coming to sign.
He said he is pleased with the statement.
"The statement is saying a lot," Newton said, "and I feel it will motivate people to do more about racism and nonviolence."
By 5 p.m. Monday, at least 25 pastors had signed the statement, according to Mandy Easton, creative pastor at Alice Drive Baptist. The unified statement will remain in the front lobby at the church through Wednesday at noon for clergy to sign.
Easton said the church will release a video of taskforce members reading the statement later this week on its social media channels. She also said it will also be published in The Sumter Item on Saturday in the newspaper's Weekend Edition for the Fourth of July weekend.
Newton added the plan is for Sumter clergy to sign and read it from their pulpits. At a later date, he said, the pastors plan on putting the unified statement in a public place/location for the general public to read and view.
Another group gathering of the Sumter-area clergy is planned for next month.
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