• Truett prof to preach at second anniversary of Charleston shooting

    Dr. Joel Gregory

    On June 17, 2015, parishioners at Emanuel AME Church, an historic African-American church in Charleston, S.C., were visited by tragedy.

    Gathered for a weekly Bible study, a visitor opened fire on the participants, killing nine, in a hate-fueled spree that shook the nation. In the aftermath of the shooting, survivors and family members of the victims demonstrated a moving picture of grace by offering their forgiveness to the unrepentant killer.

    This Saturday marks the second anniversary of the tragedy, and Emanuel AME is hosting a week-long series of events to honor the victims. Among the speakers will be George W. Truett Theological Seminary professor, well-known Baptist preacher and Baylor alum Dr. Joel Gregory, BA ’70, PhD ’83, who will deliver a Saturday sermon at the church’s ecumenical service.

    Gregory says the nine victims will be on his mind as he speaks; they ranged in age from 26 to 87 and included the church’s pastor, Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Many of their family members, whose forgiveness made an impact on Gregory, will be in attendance. They also helped inspire his sermon, based on Romans 12:9: “Abhor what is evil and cling to what is good.”

    Gregory, who draws from more than 50 years of ministry experience in his current role as professor of preaching and holder of the George W. Truett Endowed Chair in Preaching and Evangelism, continues to preach at churches across the country and hold continuing education seminars for pastors. Those experiences were his connection to Charleston, thanks to a longtime friendship with African Methodist Episcopal Bishop Samuel L. Green, who invited Gregory to speak and work with other pastors.

    In addition to preaching at the service, Gregory was asked to hold his seminars for pastor enrichment today through Saturday at Emanuel AME Church. Those seminars will take place in the rooms where the killing took place, in hopes of providing a redemptive use of rooms that one man used for evil.

    “This is an extraordinary grace from the AME church — for me to be invited into this sacred space with brothers and sisters of different colors,” Gregory says. “To be asked to try to say a reconciling word, in today’s world, is a treasured opportunity. I’m thankful and moved to be a part of a holy service to honor these nine men and women and hope to represent Christ, the church and Baylor in an appropriate way.”

    Sic ’em, Dr. Gregory!

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