The recent shooting of police officers at the hands of black gunmen has religious leaders, especially black pastors, forced into tough conversations about race, gender and violence with their congregations.
It's a conversation that Pastor Darron Edwards of United Believers Community Church is facing head-on with a community forum at his church entitled A Conversation on Race, Gender & Violence.
Edwards will host a number of community members, educators, city leaders and law enforcement personnel at the one-day event. It will be held at his church located at 5600 East 112th Terrace in Kansas City.
“It’s been tough to stomach. It’s been a tough time in America, it’s been a tough time for the church,” Edwards said.
This conversation is a direct response to the shooting deaths of three Baton Rouge police officers at the hands of Kansas City native Gavin Long. Long drove to Baton Rouge from Kansas City and is suspected of planning the ambush of Baton Rouge police officers. Six officers were shot, and three died of their injuries.
Long left a number of personal videos on a YouTube page before being shot and killed by police. On one of his videos where he's talking directly to the camera, he said he is not affiliated with any organization.
“I’m affiliated with the spirit of justice, nothing else, nothing more, nothing more.” Long went on to say, “I thought my own thoughts, I made my own decisions. I’m the one who got to listen to the judgment, that’s it. And my heart is pure."
Carri Ellis is a Kansas City native. For her, it’s hard to believe the Baton Rouge gunman grew up in her city. But she in no way sees Long as a martyr and grieves for the families who’ve lost loved ones.
“I don’t consider him a martyr. Martin Luther King is a martyr. You can’t fight hate with hate,” said Ellis.
Edwards will have his forum on Wednesday July 20. It will start at 6:30 p.m. Edwards says all are invited to attend.
Lisa Benson can be reached at email@example.com.