Methodist Ministers Respond to Greenville Church Burning


By Tamica Smith Jeuitt, Communications Specialist, Mississippi Conference

Photo courtesy Angie Quezada, Delta Daily News.
The Rev. Johnny Davis of Revels Memorial United Methodist Church offers a message of forgiveness to whoever is responsible for burning and spraying the words "Vote Trump" on Hopewell Missionary Baptist Church (an African-American congregation) in Greenville, Mississippi. It happened Tuesday night on Nov. 1. Davis is the pastor of a primarily African-American congregation. His church is about one mile from Hopewell.
"God will forgive you no matter what. We put our arms around the person. No hate. No animosity. As Christians, we have got to keep on loving in spite of what's happened," he pleaded. 
Another United Methodist clergyman, Rev. Justin White, alerted Davis about the tragedy. White serves on the mayor's faith council in Greenville. He joined with city leaders and law enforcement for a press conference about the crime that made national news headlines. White shared the updates on Facebook and organized a community prayer vigil in downtown Greenville. Approximately 70 people attended.

Photo courtesy Angie Quezada, Delta Daily News.
"There seems to be so much that is trying to divide us. We need to be in solidarity on so many other things like, what it is that unites us, and that is the love of Christ. We need to claim that and shout it out very loudly," said White of First UMC Greenville, a predominantly Caucasian church.
The Rev. Anjohnette Gibbs has lived in Greenville nearly 40 years. She preaches at two United Methodist churches -- Hales Chapel and Evans Chapel -- located about 45 minutes from Greenville. Both congregations are majority African-American. Gibbs said she had several phone calls from family and friends outside of Mississippi expressing their concerns.   However, she urged them, not to worry.
"I think the intent was to stir up something, but it had a reverse effect of what could have happened. The black community could have become angry and people up in arms with retaliations, but people are coming together in prayer, crossing racial lines and denominational lines. We are concerned about what can we do to help this church in a crisis that has lost its place of worship," she stated.
The Rev. Lauren Porter of Grace UMC (a predominantly Caucasian church) in Greenville spoke about the political and racial overtones of the vandalism. Still, he remained optimistic that Hopewell and the community will prevail.
"I know from my time in this area and watching the response of pastors and the Christian community, I have no doubt that we will all be surrounding Hopewell with prayers and help them find a place for worship in the coming Sunday's, but also to help them rebuild over time," said Porter.

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