Two Baptist pastors in Florida have pledged to unite their churches to create an example of good race relations.
The merger is taking place in the state where incidents such as the one that unfolded between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman have created racial tension. One of the churches is in Shiloh, where a 47-year-old white man has now been indicted for the murder of Jordan Davis, a black teenager who was gunned down in late 2012.
The pastors, H.B. Charles, Jr. of the predominantly black congregation at Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church, and Michael Clifford of the predominantly white congregation at Ridgewood Baptist Church in the nearby community of Orange Park, have decided to merge their churches in order to present a united front for racial relations in the state. The merger is also expected to ease the financial problems of Ridgewood Baptist and will take place in mid-January. Both pastors believe the merger will strengthen their congregations.
Charles, whose church serves more than 8,000 people, has stated that his congregation has been supportive of the merger and is looking forward to the new opportunities it presents. He cites the good work done by Pastor Clifford as essential to the success of the merger plans, and the two pastors created a video for their first Unity Service, held on November 23.
While both pastors understand the difficulties, which could present themselves during the merge, they have both stated their optimism for a united congregation. The two pastors are confident their move will help ease racial tension in the area. Charles stated the merger “requires humility, unity and a willingness to change and grow, but they’re good challenges that we’re looking forward to facing.”