Leaders gather after Orlando shooting; denounce hate, racism and homophobia
On the heels of one of the most horrific mass shooting in American history, a group of political and religious leaders joined hands on June 19 to send a message of unity and prayer.
Assemblymember Mike A. Gipson organized the special service in collaboration with Bishop W. Todd Ervin Sr. of Church One in North Long Beach. Members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer/Questioning), Muslim, African American, Latino and other communities gathered to pray for the Orlando victims and all victims of gun violence. They also called for unity against hate and racism.
Gipson and Ervin were joined by Congresswoman Janice Hahn, State Senator Isadore Hall, Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, Tarek Mohammed of the Islamic Center of Long Beach and Donte’ Morrison, LGBTQ .
“It’s an honor to open the doors of Church One to the larger community of God’s children including all faiths, all colors and all orientations,” said Bishop Ervin. “I’ve struggled with the subject of homosexuality and the church for a very long time. My quandary finally ended with church member, Donte’ Morrison, whose pain was as palpable as his desire to love and serve God. He sparked within me the reminder of God’s greater truth – we are all His children. We’re not here to condemn or condone; we’re here to embrace. This prayer service represents an even wider outreach of God’s grace.”
“I believe that we serve a God that loves us unconditionally,” said Gipson. “We come together as a community to build each other up, irrespective of our color, faith or who we choose to love. Love will conquer hate and racism.”
Gipson went on to share the words of the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., “We will have to repent in this generation not merely for the vitriolic words and actions of the bad people, but for the appalling silence of the good people.”
Hahn agreed with Dr. King’s words and said, “We can’t be silent. But know, that in this country, love will prevail.”
“We need to love in spite of who one is, who they choose to love or the color of their skin. That’s the way God loves us. Period,” said Hall. “The African American church has been some of the last to wrap their arms around the LGBT community. Bishop Ervin, thank you for this bold act of love for all God’s children.”
Mayor Garcia spoke about love and unity and cautioned, “We will continue to lose our Black and Brown sons and daughters, whether it’s at the hands of terrorists or the hands of a criminal element in this country, if we don’t do something about guns.”
Terek Mohammed said of the Orlando shooter, “… You make me ashamed… you describe yourself as a messiah. I’m telling you, you are a false messiah.” He further went on to remind us that Islam is a religion of love not hate. He spoke of solidarity and peace.
Donte’ Morrison said, “The church is supposed to be a sanctuary yet is often a ground of persecution. Our LGBT hurt runs deep but our love for God has never failed. I thank Bishop Ervin for being my pastor and for Church One as my sanctuary.”
The powerful prayer and unity service ended with a release of 49 white balloons representing each of the Orlando shooting victims.