Atlanta Pastor Unites the Religious and the Political

By: ALISEN REDMOND

Dr. Gerald L. Durley

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — For Dr. Gerald L. Durley, there is no separation between between the spiritual and the political.

“I believe in an issue, I have faith in that issue and I trust in God,” Durley said. “And when I trust in God I know it will be alright.”

The pastor of Providence Missionary Baptist Church in Atlanta Ga. leads morning prayer for the Georgia delegate breakfasts at the Democratic National Convention. These prayers always reference some aspect of social justice, something that is inseparable from his faith.

“Some people say Jesus Christ was crucified,” Durley said. “I believe he was assassinated by the powers that be. They assassinated him for his political convictions.”

Durley said these convictions were based in helping “the least, the lost, the left out.” This inspiration leads him to regularly discuss health care, the environment and the welfare of women and children from the pulpit.

Segregation plunged Durley into the political sphere in 1959 at the age of 18.

“I looked at things and I saw something was wrong,” Durley said. “And I think all your life you see something and know it is wrong and you fight it.”

Durley worked with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. around the right to vote and the right for housing.

“One of the great times I was when I was there at the 1963 march and I believed that it could happen — that we could make a difference,” Durley said. “Then, of course, the election of Barack Obama because I could see a 50 year difference. I could see that what we talked about in 1963 and what I saw in 2008 became a reality. There was a completion of a life-long battle.”

“What is probably not commonly known is that Rev. Durley and Rev. Jesse Jackson started together some 38 years ago on the civil rights track,” said State Rep. Billy Mitchell from Dekalb County. “Rev. Jackson became a pastor of the world if you will, and Rev. Durley became pastor of his own church. But they all started together in trying to bring civil rights to this community.”

Durley’s support for the Democratic Party comes from the way its current ideology and overall goals coincide with his religious views. He said he supports the party platform approved Tuesday at the Democratic National Convention because it includes “all of God’s children.”

“The overall goal of the Democratic Party coincides with my spiritual belief that all people are created equal before God, all equal at the foot of the cross,” Durley said.

Durley said it is impossible to fully agree with the entire platform of any party, but any personal disagreements, faith-based or otherwise, are resolved by recognizing that “our common good is larger than our differences.”

State Sen. Donzella James from Douglas and Fulton counties has known Durley for years.

“He is one that you can count on to take care of anything that is just, fair and righteous,” James said. “Righteous. See, I have to put the word of the Lord in there because that is how he thinks. That is what drives him.”

“When I introduced legislation to make it a felony to pimp or pander children 18 and under, he was right there,” James said. “He wanted to make sure those people were taken away and punished, and not the children being punished because they were already being abused.”

James said Durley also wants to make sure that formerly incarcerated people are able to find employment so they do not have to return to crime or violate their probation because of an inability to pay the fees.

“I make no separation nor apology,” Durley said about his politics and religious beliefs.

“I have seen religion abused in the political arena in terms of segregation. I have seen it out in Utah when they said we had no soul,” Durley said.

“I used to teach graduate studies at Illinois and I used to read a prayer that said ‘Dear God, thank you so much for helping us get rid of all the sin and diseases in our neighborhood.’ That was a prayer that the Ku Klux Klan prayed after every lynching and every burning. So, consequently, I saw them use religion to degrade and destroy people.

“So it depends on what you believe in, what you have faith in, and where you put your trust. I believe they put their trust in men rather than God.”

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