Joel Osteen, the senior pastor of 52,000-member Lakewood Church, spoke with John Gray, pastor of Relentless Church in Greenville, S.C., in an hour-long conversation Monday about race.
“I stay away from political issues but this is not a political issue,” Osteen said. “This is a human issue. Wrong is wrong and we want to lend our voice — you know this — but to stand with our black brothers and sisters and stand against injustice and the things that have been wrong.”
Pastor Joel Osteen greets Lee Meritt, a lawyer for George Floyd’s family at a march in honor of George Floyd on June 2, in Houston, Texas. Members of George Floyd’s family participated in a march that went from Discovery Green to City Hall with support from the local chapter of Black Lives Matter. (Photo by Sergio Flores/Getty Images)
The Houston pastor marched in a downtown demonstration on June 2. Floyd was a former resident of the Third Ward and his final public funeral was held there Tuesday.
“The most dangerous thing that’s happened in the church — particularly the white evangelical church — is they’ve maintained neutrality,” Gray said, explaining that Jesus “would meet with people that society felt were unworthy, and now more than ever, the Jesus of the Bible needs to become the Jesus of the streets.”
Gray clarified that he believes it’s wrong to ask white people to apologize for being white and said black people can see right through churches trying to “pander to black people right now.”
Osteen, who planned to tour with Kanye West and his Sunday Service Choir this year until coronavirus restrictions prevented it, participated in #BlackOutTuesday last week in support of the African-American community.
“I know we can do better. I think this incident with George — and it’s not just him, it is what it represents — I feel like it is a turning point,” Osteen told Gray. “It has ignited something in me about, as I said, what can we do better.”
Gray was an associate pastor under Osteen at Lakewood before forming Relentless Church, and he still preaches at the megachurch regularly.