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Providentially, renown civil rights activist John Perkins speaks at Baltimore’s Unplugged Conference days before Baltimore riots

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Providentially, renown civil rights activist John Perkins speaks at Baltimore’s Unplugged Conference days before Baltimore riots

BALTIMORE, Md.—As Baltimore simmered and tensions heightened over the death of Freddie Gray, a young man who died in police custody on April 19, over 300 Baltimore pastors and church leaders attended “Unplugged,” an annual conference at Freedom Church held to equip and encourage leaders ministering in and around Baltimore.

The conference, sponsored by Mid-Atlantic Baptist Network, and led by Network Church Multiplication Team Strategist Michael Crawford, included sessions on race relations and reconciliation. It was planned over six months ago and providentially one of the keynote speakers was Dr. John Perkins, minister, community developer, founder of John & Vera Mae Perkins Foundation and a prominent 60’s civil rights activist who now shares the Gospel of Jesus as the way to peace and reconciliation.

Though all knew the city was tense, no one was aware of the violence that was about to erupt within the next 48 hours. Following Gray’s funeral, the city broke out in chaos and riots resulting in 15 officers injured, and significant damage and destruction to property, arson, and looting. Huge fires raged in the city and a nervous nation watched it unfold on their news channels and social media feeds causing many to recall the disturbingly similar scenes from 1968.

As anxiety increased in and around the city, church leaders were praising God and praying at Freedom Church. Joel Kurz, pastor of The Garden Church, Baltimore, prayed for the family of Freddie Gray and for the city. Another Keynote Speaker Ellis Prince emphasized the importance of prayer and led leaders to get on their knees before God in prayer. Maina Mwaura facilitated a panel discussion about racial issues in the church, and John Perkins called for reconciliation and justice.

The 84-year-old Perkins said though the early leaders of the nation were deists, they made the greatest statement of human dignity in the history of the world, “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights…”

“They didn’t create these words; they were inspired by God,” Perkins said.

“They were just the mouthpieces. We know they didn’t keep them. We’ve been living in an apartheid state. We’ve been fighting for civil rights but civil rights are God’s rights. If we are created in his image why shouldn’t it be just?

“I believe God has given us another chance, ….God is the God of the second chance. We are at a pivotal point in history. We know the solution. We started off with the solution this morning—prayer.”

Perkins quoted Micah 6:8, “’He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?’

“What is sin but rebellion against the Holy God? We’ve got the problem. All have sinned and come short [of the glory of God]. The solution is redemption. “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land,” II Chronicles 7:14.

“It all begins when we pray. What is prayer? Prayer is listening to God.

“The church is the best way on earth to mobilize our people. I would put one in every neighborhood so we could love our neighbors…

“About 20 years ago we discovered reconciliation. Remember Promise Keepers? But we discovered it outside the church…it failed.

“Reconciliation is at the center of the gospel. Salvation is saving from our past, present and future." Perkins continued.

“We have to put reconciliation back… We have to put justice back in there then we won’t practice slavery and accommodate injustice because God is redeeming us from that. We have to preach a whole gospel to a whole people. We have to take the whole gospel on a whole mission to the whole world.

“We’ve got to affirm all folks that come to us – affirm their dignity. We’ve got to get a new language and sing a new song,” Perkins said.

“We’ve got to preach a Gospel that can reconcile people to God, to each other across racial culture and economic barriers. We have accommodated a so-called black church, a so-called white church. That’s a heresy. That’s in rebellion to what God wants to do. God is building His Kingdom. In the end… we’re going to look at that kingdom and there will be people from all nations, all nationalities, all cultures praising God together. That’s the way we’ve got to go.”