A diverse group of 40 pastors gathered in a Detroit hotel today to hear a remarkable tale: how the pastors of Sanford, Florida, spared their city from the racially charged protests that erupted nationwide last month after a jury acquitted George Zimmerman of murdering Trayvon Martin.
Sanford could have understandably been the epicenter of outrage over the controversial July verdict, which inspired significant protests—some marred by vandalism and violence—from New York to Los Angeles. Instead, this commuter suburb of Orlando weathered the aftermath so successfully that its pastors are now on a mission to spread the progress they've made toward calm and reconciliation to urban centers nationwide.
Already on the list after Detroit: Toledo, Charlotte, New York, Denver, and Minneapolis.
"The timing is absolutely right for this. There is no question about it," said Derrick Gay, pastor of Sanford's Dominion International Church and an organizer of the tour. "We as the church have been given, according to 2 Corinthians 5, the ministry of reconciliation. There's no other institution on earth that has been given this authority—not the government, not the banks, not the education system that we have."
The collaboration, in which pastors across racial, ethnic, and denominational lines meet to eat, pray, and candidly air racial concerns, is even more notable in a city with the historical distinction of being where Jackie Robinson was ousted from minor-league baseball training in 1946.
Leading the charge is Sanford Pastors Connecting (SPC), the interracial, cross-denominational group first organized by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) to help the city of Sanford ...