By Tyronda James
The death of Daniel Prude, 41 has left many people in the Rochester community, emotional, outraged and confused. September 9 marks the eighth day of protest of those demanding systematic change and reform.
With groups of activists like Free The People ROC, Community Justice Initiative and others maintaining such visibility in the community, folks have often wondered where the church stands.
Minority Reporter talked with Pastor Melvin Cross Jr., senior pastor of Glory House International. Both Pastor Cross and his congregants have been involved with the recent events and demonstrations around the Prude incident.
Cross began the church in 2014 and has about 200 members (most of them under 30 years old). He has a passion to teach people to live in purpose and fulfill their destiny and to provide an atmosphere where people can have a life changing experience with God.
You and many of your church members appear to be very involved in the recent demonstrations. Can you explain your level of involvement and why?
Yes… a lot of my congregation, my parishioners and myself, we’ve been involved nightly, whether it be in the forefront or just as a support system. The reason why we’re involved is because we are a church that is outwardly focused. And by that, I mean, we have a heart for the city. And so, we believe that spirituality isn’t something that’s just secluded to four walls. A part of our spiritual obligation is to see justice had, even in our community. And so, while our community grieves, we grieve along with our community. So, we want to make sure that we have a presence, that we have a voice and that we push and support those who are protesting. Our level of involvement. Most of us are just support. We’re there just to march with protesters. There are some who are “security” to protect and you know to defend and keep order.
What place does or should the church have in these events? The evangelical churches have been absent and some of the leaders have spoken out against these types of protests. What is your message for them?
The reason why there is a civil rights movement, the first civil rights movement that ever happened outside of the church is because we’ve been silent. And so, our silence leaves a void and a vacuum that will be filled with other voices, with other ideologies. It’s always disheartening when evangelicals remain silent on the matters of race and injustice. They’ll speak up about masks and they’ll speak up about them being forced against their rights to wear a mask, but they won’t speak up when a Black or Brown man is killed by police. And so, it’s always disheartening. I completely have lost faith in that part of the Christian family because they fail us time and time again. And two, I believe it is the responsibility of the local church to be able to speak in these moments with articulation, intellect and yes, even passion. We should know what’s happening. We should be able to feel the pain of those who are grieving. While still standing in the middle ground to speak truth and wisdom to those who are in authority. And so, as a pastor and as a church, a Christian Church, it’s our responsibility to stand that middle ground. Yes, we want justice. Yes, we want accountability. And, at the same time we have to also work as those who bring restoration.
As a spiritual leader of a mostly younger or youthful congregation, how do you put into perspective the societal issues that they are facing within the context of a biblical perspective?
Well, I always, I have a saying where I say, “justice is a God idea!” It’s not something, it’s not social justice. It’s not just race and politics of government. Justice is a God idea. Period. So, I tell them all of Jesus’s life was a big protest. He protested hell. He protested the old religious rule and he protested the Roman government. That’s what Jesus did, he carried himself in a way that spoke against the powers that be. And so, it is, we are to be that exact representation in the earth. And the problem is that we’ve relegated our faith to a Sunday morning gathering or to a, you know, to a song and a sermon. But now our faith should be demonstrated in our day to day living. Yes. Even in these areas of protest and government and policy.
What are some of the things that your congregation, the youth/the younger ones are saying and how has this all resonated with them?
They’re crying and asking for justice. Justice for the Prude family. They are avid supporters and protesters, which I am completely okay with because I want them to exercise their right. And also at the same time doing it from a biblical vantage point. So, that’s what they’re asking for, justice for the Prude family. We want there to be righteousness and justice on every front.
Talk a bit about your connections. You’re probably connected to different groups of ministers and/ or community leaders. What are their concerns, needs or messages or demands?
Well, I’m connected to an organization, it’s called the Faith Roundtable and it is a collective of pastors across the city, across denomination. And so, we are asking for the resignations or the firings. We want these several police officers to be indicted. That’s what we’re asking for. Even in that we are saying that we support the mayor and also want accountability from her.
When you’re out in the protest, what are the messages that you hear from the protestors?
Oh, they want to do away with the entire system. They believe the system has failed them time and time again. And this generation, this generation doesn’t know a win. We have not had a win, as it pertains to victory and law enforcement…. We can remember Rodney King, right. And them (the police officers) getting off, the next thing you know there’s the LA riot… and then we get Trayvon Martin and so on and so forth. The list goes on and on and on. And, so we don’t know, we haven’t had a win. Hence the reason why they have such a disdain and such a disheartening toward law enforcement. So, they are crying for reform, requiring that they (the police officers) be held accountable for their actions.
Do you feel that there’s a connection between the voices of today and those of yesteryear, the 50s and 60s?
I do. I do and hindsight is always 20/20. And so, I believe that Malcolm and Martin would have worked for the war. They would have sat and had these conversations so we can learn from their method, their message. And we want justice. We won’t be peaceful until we see it. We also want reform. We want transformation from a biblical stance. We want repentance. All of those involved they need to repent because at the core it’s a heart matter. But we always ask that age old question, what would Jesus do? Jesus would point them back to repentance. And say we want the heart of the father to be done in all of this situation.
What would you say to those who feel the need to be involved and want to involve themselves in protest or change and reform?
What would I say? I would say we get registered to vote and register to vote and register to vote. That’s how we can affect the change that we need, protest and vote, protest and pray, protest and legislation.
We just want it to be known that we have a church, Glory House International. We are fervently praying for our city. We are fervently praying for our community and all those involved.
How can people get in contact with you or the church?
They can go to our Facebook page. And we are on all social media outlets, Glory House International on Facebook, Glory House International on Instagram, and Glory House International on Twitter. GHI can also be found at www.ghiny.org.