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Pastors aim to keep peace at Zimmerman trial
Pastors such as the Rev. Robert K. Gregory Jr., the Rev. Lowman J. Oliver III and the Rev. Joel Hunter hope to play a peacekeeping role during the George Zimmerman trial.
June 24th, 2013
07:57 AM ET

Pastors aim to keep peace at Zimmerman trial

By Mark I. Pinsky, special to CNN

Sanford, Florida (CNN) – As opening arguments begin, courtroom seats are at a premium at the trial of George Zimmerman, charged with second degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, an unarmed black teenager.

But in an unusual arrangement, four seats in the second row, just steps from the jury box, have been assigned to a group called “Sanford Pastors Connecting.”

The multi-racial ministerial association has pledged to bear witness to the high-profile proceedings during the trial and to keep the peace afterward.

All of the clergy in the courtroom project have agreed to support the jury’s verdict in the racially-charged case, which sparked large rallies and marches led by civil rights figures like the Rev. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

As needed, the pastors will report courtroom events to crowds expected to gather outside the courthouse, as well as to their congregations, and have agreed to head off inflammatory rumors.

“Regardless of what the verdict is, we can avoid the violence," said the Rev. Robert K. Gregory Jr., of the Good News Jail & Prison Ministry in Sanford. "If we work together, trust can be built.”

Zimmerman, a member of the Neighborhood Watch in his gated community, is accused of stalking and fatally shooting Martin, who was staying with his father, on February 26, 2012.

The defense claims that Martin, returning from a convenience store, turned on Zimmerman, who then fired in self-defense.

The Zimmerman trial: What you need to know

Two dozen media spaces on the courtroom’s polished wooden seats have been assigned by lottery, with an equal amount set aside for the general public. Another twelve spots in the rectangular chamber are reserved for the Zimmerman and Martin families.

The pastoral rotation is the idea of the U.S. Department of Justice's Community Relations Service. A Seminole County Sheriff’s inspector, who is also an ordained minister, handles the scheduling. Among the Christian clergy who have signed up, there are evangelical and mainline congregations; tiny, urban parishes and suburban megachurches.

“We’re looking at providing leadership, to comfort people through the word of God and prayer,” said the Rev. Sharon Patterson, of Getting Your House in Order Ministries, a small African-American congregation.

“We want our presence to encourage them to understand that as long as God is in control, everything will work out all right,” the pastor said.

Patterson brings a particular past to her courtroom witnessing. She once aspired to be a lawyer herself, spending summers when she was first teaching public school, and had no air conditioning at home, going from trial to trial.

While most Sanford-area African-American congregations rallied around the Martin family and their call for justice immediately following the shooting, some predominately white churches and clergy were divided.

The Rev. Alan Brumback, pastor of Sanford’s Central Baptist Church, was one of the first – and few – local white clergy to join the predominately black marches and demonstrations in the wake of the Martin shooting.

However, Brumback, whose congregation is multi-racial, said he would not be a part of the courtroom program.

“I am calling my church to pray for our city and to share the only news that can bring reconciliation,” he said, “the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That is my only agenda.”

Live blog: Zimmerman trial begins

Whatever it is, the verdict will be God’s will,  said the Rev. Lowman J. Oliver III of St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Sanford.

“We pray that the outcome will be just and fair to all parties,” he said. “How will it look? I’m not able to answer that. Our roles are as peacemakers. It’s more important that we send a message that we sustain the peace.”

However, Oliver said, peaceful acceptance of a verdict does not mean people will have to agree with it. They can certainly have “a righteous response,” as long as it is nonviolent.

“There is a history of division in this community, and there is a history involving violence against black youth” that must be addressed, said the Rev. Joel Hunter, of Northland Church in Longwood, Florida. A prominent evangelical, Hunter is also a close confidant of President Obama's.

After a long, tedious day of sitting together during jury selection, Hunter, Oliver and Gregory were finishing each other’s sentences.

Laughing, they admitted that they were unused to sitting still and silent in unpadded pews for so long – while others did the talking.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Christianity • Crime • Politics

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  4. Jerrell Jagger

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    August 8, 2013 at 5:35 pm |
  5. Kindness

    Kindness
    This is my experience... Thank you.

    MY personal testimony.
    A thought to consider without an ego response

    I Accepted Jesus christ as my lord and saviour. You never know how soon is too late. Transcend the worldly illusion of enslavement.
    The world denounces truth....

    Accepting Jesus Christ (for me) resulted in something like seeng a new colour. You will see it .....but will not be able to clearly explain it to anyone else..... Its meant to be that way to transend any selfism within you.

    Also... much the world arranges "surrounding dark matter into something to be debated" in such a way that protects/inflates the ego.

    The key is be present and transcend our own desire to physically see evidence. We don't know anyways by defending our own perception of dark matter.

    Currently.... most of us are constructing our own path that suits our sin lifestyle. Were all sinners. Knowing that we are is often an issue. But both christians and non are sinners. Even once we are saved by christs merciful grace we will still experience adversity to mold us to adhering to the truth.
    We will slip... But not fall of the ship ...carrying us onward to perfection in christs grace.

    We don't like to Let go and let god. We want control to some degree. This is what Jesus asks us to do. "Follow me".
    It's the hardest thing to do... but is done by letting the truth of scripture lead you (redemptive revelation)... as I said .

    Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale.
    See the truth...
    do we do what it says in todays society... is it relevant... so many have not recently read and only hinge their philosophy on what they have heard from some other person...which may have been full of arogance pride or vanity..

    Look closely at the economy ponzi, look at how society idolizes Lust , greed , envy, sloth, pride of life, desire for knowledge, desire for power, desire for revencge,gluttony with food etc .

    Trancsend the temporal world.

    Just think if you can find any truth you can take with you ....in any of these things. When you die your riches go to someone who will spend away your life..... You will be forgotten.... history will repeat iteslf.... the greatest minds knowledge fade or are eventually plagerzed..... your good deeds will be forgotten and only give you a fleeting temporary reward . your learned teachings are forgotten or mutated..... your gold is transfered back to the rullers that rule you through deception. Your grave will grow over . This is truth .

    Trancsend your egoism and free yourself from this dominion of satan. Understand you are a sinner and part of the collective problem of this worldly matrix... Repent.... Repent means knowing (to change) The Holy spirit (within) will convict you beyond what you think you can do by yourself. Grace is given to those who renounce the world. That are" in" the world but not "of " the world.

    Evidence follows faith. Faith does not follow evidence..... Faith ....above reason in Jesus Christ.

    Faith comes by Reading or Hearing the word of god from the bible . Ask Jesus in faith for dicernment and start reading the new testament... You will be shocked when you lay down your preconceived notions and ....see and hear truth ... see how christ sets an example ... feel the truth....

    Read Ecclesiastes. Read romans or corinthians.

    You cant trancend your own egoism by adapting a world philosophy to suit your needs. Seek the truth in Christ.

    Sell all your cleverness and purchase true bewilderment. You don't get what you want ....you get what you are by faith above reason in christ.

    I promise this has been the truth for me. In Jesus christ .

    Think of what you really have to lose. ...your ego?

    Break the Matrix of illusion that holds your senses captive.

    once you do . you too will have the wisdom of God that comes only through the Holy Spirit. Saved By grace through Faith. Just like seeing a new colour.... can't explain it to a transient caught in the matrix of worldly deception.
    You will also see how the world suppresses this information and distorts it

    You're all smart people . I tell the truth. Its hard to think out of the box when earthly thinking is the box.
    I'ts a personal free experience you can do it free anytime . Don't wait till you are about to die.. START PUTTING YOUR TREASURES WHERE THEY REALLY MATTER >
    Its awsome and It's just between you and Jesus

    my testimony

    Romans 10:9

    "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved

    Last eve I passed beside a blacksmith’s door,
    And heard the anvil ring the vesper chime;
    The, looking in, I saw upon the floor
    Old hammers, worn with beating years of time.
    “How many anvils have you had,” said I,
    “To wear and batter all these hammers so?”
    “Just one,” said he, and then with twinkling eye,
    “The anvil wears the hammers out, you know.”
    And so, thought I, the anvil of God’s Word,
    For ages skeptic blows have beat upon;
    Yet, though the noise of falling blows was heard,
    The anvil is unharmed – the hammers gone.

    Truth is..exclusive

    July 18, 2013 at 12:32 am |
    • Smithsonian

      "Try reading corinthians and see if it makes sense to you. Try it without a pre conceived notion of it being a fairy tale."

      It is a fairytale. The Bible is primarily a book of religion, a guide to faith. it was not a book of history, poetry, economics, or science. It contains all sorts of literary genre, which are used to teach about the relationship between God and mankind. Even biblical history is edited history: events were chosen to illustrate the central theme of the Bible. The Biblical writers did not pretend they were giving a complete history; instead they constantly refer us to other sources for full historical details, sources such as "The Annals of the Kings of Judah" (or Israel).

      It is therefore not possible to try to "prove" the Bible by means of checking its historical or scientific accuracy. The only "proof" to which it can be subjected is this: Does it correctly portray the God-human relationship? In the best analysis, the Bible is a religious book, not an historical document.

      July 18, 2013 at 12:29 pm |
  6. Free

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    July 17, 2013 at 5:17 pm |
  7. Byrd

    Earth to Creator: A significant percentage of the human race, especially in America, has lost the ability to reason or even know the difference between right and wrong. Divine intervention is hereby authorized. Mercy is optional.

    July 16, 2013 at 3:54 pm |
  8. Stephen Hawking is an Idiot!!!!!

    [youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_LkZwwD1zpE&w=640&h=390]

    July 14, 2013 at 10:06 pm |
  9. jhoffer

    Pastors push all sorts of bull crap for publicity. If Zimmerman is acquitted there will be trouble perpetrated by those who demand "justice" as they define it which has nothing to do with the justice system or the law. Remember the L.A. riots of 1992?

    July 13, 2013 at 11:21 am |
    • Shamen

      I'm thinking that a certain group of people who have been behind 500 year wars,world wars,nuclear bombings,and basically every other heinous act against humanity,only understand one thing. And yet they get all uppity when the oppressed give them,what they've been giving others for as long as they've been able to walk upright. We do know who the real thugs are,and those are the people who would kill their own mothers for a quarter while robbing everyone else blind. The neanderthal has come a long way from the caves,but there are things that they still understand.

      July 14, 2013 at 5:45 am |
      • Steve Finnell

        JOINING A DENOMINATION?

        What are the spiritual benefits of joining a denominational church?

        1. Joining a denominational church does not bestow forgiveness of sins.
        2. Joining a denomination does not grant you admission into the body of Christ.
        3. Joining a denomination does not save anyone.
        4. Joining a denomination does not make you part of the kingdom of God on earth.

        The Scriptures do not speak of joining a denomination; nor do they tell us to join any church.

        The Lord adds the saved to His church. You cannot join the Lord's church. You cannot buy your way into the Lord's church. You cannot inherit membership in the the Lord's church.

        THE LORD ADDS THE SAVED TO HIS CHURCH!

        Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

        WHY WERE THEY BEING SAVED, AND ADDED TO THE CHURCH BY THE LORD HIMSELF?

        A. They were being added because they believed the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. (Acts 2:29-32)
        B. They were being added because they accepted Jesus as Lord and Christ. (Acts 2:36)
        C. They were being added because they obeyed the apostle Peter's command to repent and be baptized in water. (Acts 2:27-38)
        D. They were being added to the church because they believed Peter's word and were baptized. (Acts 2:40-41)

        The 3000 on the Day of Pentecost were added to the church by the Lord, because they were saved!

        THEY DID NOT JOIN A DENOMINATIONAL CHURCH NOR WAS ANY CHRISTIAN IN THE FIRST CENTURY EVER TOLD TO JOIN ANY CHURCH OF ANY KIND!

        THE LORD ADDS THE SAVED TO HIS CHURCH, YOU CANNOT JOIN IT!

        Posted by Steve Finnell at 12:31 PM You are invited to follow myChristian blog at: steve-finnell.blogspost.com or you can google search, steve finnell a christian view.

        July 25, 2013 at 6:08 pm |
  10. foodlifefitnessart

    I'm not an advocate for violence... I'm generally very strategic in resolving issues, and I often get great results! However, we've all been in situations where we've had to step outside of our element and show their a ss, to get sh it done...

    This is the time to step outside of the element.

    July 12, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • Berta

      I feel the same way. I so believe at peace at all costs, but if Zimmerman is allowed to walk out of that courtroom a free man, its time people need to stand up to the injustice. An injustice done to one is an injustice done to all.

      July 12, 2013 at 5:27 pm |
    • Ron

      then they come out to help after the fact, and try to calm the people so they can show Washington, DC. that they are good slave over see-ers

      July 12, 2013 at 6:43 pm |
  11. Slolo7

    No PEACE without JUSTICE

    July 11, 2013 at 12:27 pm |
    • j hudson

      They need to stand in front of the flatscreen shop when you and the culture arrive

      July 11, 2013 at 12:36 pm |
    • Diann

      KNOW justice, KNOW peace. #JusticeforTrayvon

      July 11, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • Ron

      Now you have these Jesse Jackson ass wholes coming out of the swamp! they need to burn that state down in a riot; if that killer get off!

      July 12, 2013 at 6:37 pm |
    • SONICCASH

      To tommy, ur an ass, those white people who still think about plantation days, wake up it's 2013 stop teaching ur kids bad habits, anyway back to reality an this case, if ur walking through the rain would u walk up right or hunch forward? Also this was a teen who thought as a teen, a man is following him at night, I too would run an stop an wait to lose him, he was hiding, not enough for merder 2 but enough for manslaughter!

      July 13, 2013 at 12:03 pm |
  12. deegee

    @Tommy..who is the real race? and what do they stand for? I feel you are stereo-typing people..so who do you relate to as a thug, violence, and lazy ppl...because that could be any race!!!

    July 11, 2013 at 8:55 am |
  13. deegee

    I really hope there is no riots..we do not need anymore killings....I know there will be hurt on either side, but if there are riots, more pain is not what either family need at this time or the oommunity....

    July 11, 2013 at 8:43 am |
    • Saraswati

      If there are riots I would blame the media for so poorly representing the facts. The most dishonest thing the mainstream media does is to regularly conflate Not Guilty with Innocent. Every member of the jury may think a defendant committed the crime and yet vote him Not Guilty, yet the media will always portray it as though they declared him innocent.

      July 11, 2013 at 8:53 am |
  14. Pattherealist

    So four whaco pastors, get special seats in the courtroom to keep the peace! I thought that we had a division of Church and State. These charlotan parasites should not be getting involved in this.

    July 10, 2013 at 1:37 pm |
    • Ray Hammons

      Thats a bunch of nonsense you wrote.

      July 11, 2013 at 2:05 am |
    • Cpt. Obvious

      Pat, that's a bunch of sense you wrote.

      July 11, 2013 at 12:45 pm |
  15. TOMMY

    Them Folk gonna be riots no matter what the verdict it....Thems already bes ready on dat porch with thems pants pulled down....

    July 10, 2013 at 12:59 pm |
    • sunshun

      Why would you say such thing it seems you are a bit prejudice your self to stereotype people but I am going to t pray for you because I know we believe in the same God, and our blood is the same RED.

      July 11, 2013 at 9:25 am |
    • Richard Cranium

      How do you know you believe in the same god?

      July 11, 2013 at 9:28 am |
  16. notraitors

    Funny how there was no need to call for "calm" after the OJ Simpson verdict.

    One of the reasons they need to call for "calm" is because race hustlers like Sharpton and Jackson have turned this into a racial issue when it isn't. Should Zimmerman have gotten out of his truck? No. But that doesn't make it a racial issue.

    July 8, 2013 at 10:06 am |
    • MoMO

      actually it was a racial issue.......had treyvon been white, Zimmerman would never had gotten out of his car.

      July 8, 2013 at 12:20 pm |
    • Michael, Chapel Hill

      You need to include our President aslo in the name of racists. His initial statments without knowing facts tells what he is.

      July 8, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      What basis did Zimmerman use to determine that Martin was suspicious? Zimmerman didn't know him. Martin was not "casing" apartments.

      July 8, 2013 at 1:57 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Michael, What did Obama say?

      July 8, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
    • Really-O?

      @Michael, Chapel Hill -

      I've included the link to President Obama's comments on the Trayvon Martin case. I see, perhaps, a veiled acknowledgement that racism is still alive and well and that we must be vigilant; however, I don't see how any of his comment can be construed as racism.

      http://whitehouse.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/23/president-obama-statement-on-trayvon-martin-case/

      July 8, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
    • DLJonesTwo

      That's a very ignorant statement you've made. Based on the evidence from the trial, both parties involved made this a "race thing" when they decided to stereotype each other that night. Martin and Zimmerman are both products of their environments and BOTH had a false belief about the other based on that. Racism kills... this trial is proof.

      Know your culture before you spout of nonsense. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Sharpton both know that anything they say moving forward can cause a lot of problems, so please don't take their silence for granted. Their silence over the last few months speaks volumes.

      July 10, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • TOMMY

      The world will see the REAL race and what they stand for....THUGS , Violence, And lazy ppl......THEY will RIOT no matter what the verdice is....It's in "that blood"......

      July 10, 2013 at 1:05 pm |
  17. sebastian

    as Dennis replied I didnt know that a single mom able to profit $5821 in 4 weeks on the internet. did you look at this website http://www.jazz77.com

    July 7, 2013 at 8:00 am |
  18. DWN

    I am not sure what the point is. Is it feared that white people will riot and loot if Zimmerman is found guilty? Almost impossible. So what are they worried about?

    July 6, 2013 at 10:52 am |
    • Dilworth

      Well.. if it isn't the whites who would be rioting .. could it be the Blacks?? No .. tell me it is not so .. Could there be other ignoramus' out there similar to Jeantel?? Or is she the only one with a single digit IQ out there? This entire trial would not be taking place if it was not to appease the Blacks who went nuts after Trayvon was shot. The Sanford situation is pathetic.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:30 pm |
    • jazzguitarman

      Dillworth; The Sanford situation is pathetic as it relates to the police department and local SA. They didn’t even interview the girl Martin was talking to on the phone. If they had done a better investigation the local SA would have been able to explain why they were not filing charges against GZ. Instead the hard right Rick Scott had to appoint a non local SA. Based on what I have seen so far I doubt there will be enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt to conflict GZ. But the reason there is a trail is poor police work and a weak local SA not because of the media.

      July 6, 2013 at 8:58 pm |
  19. nuclear mike

    Have the black pastors go back to their nieighbrhoods & communities to force change upon their gangster youth for some real change and none of this would have ever happened...

    July 6, 2013 at 10:03 am |
    • Diann

      Err. . . umm . . . actually, if GZ had stayed is behind in his vehicle - as he was instructed - none of this would have happened. Thank you.

      July 11, 2013 at 1:40 pm |
  20. Rev Dr Felix Nwosu

    Someone said if we work together. trust can be built. i so much believe in that statement and see it as the key way of BROTHERHOOD.the holy bible said in the book of Amos3vs3 can two work together accept the agree. the book of matthew 5vs9 said blessed are the peacemakers;for they be called children of God. your actions are right.

    July 5, 2013 at 11:56 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.