Kwame Kilpatrick Should Quit, his Ex-pastor, Rev. Edgar Vann, says
One thing that may get lost in the endless stream of information about the mayoral scandal is this: Six years ago, Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and his family attended the same church as veteran police officer Gary Brown, whose lawsuit became the mayor’s Achilles’ heel. And the Rev. Edgar Vann ministered to both. Vann helped get Kilpatrick elected as Detroit’s youngest mayor, and the mayor stood next to Vann as the pastor built dozens of homes near his sanctuary, Second Ebenezer, ran successful youth programs and nurtured a booming congregation.
Vann said he was watching a shooting star.
But now Vann believes the time has come to extinguish that star. He says he intends to call on the city’s spiritual community to stand up, speak up and work together to convince Kilpatrick to put the city before himself.
“I just feel that the mayor came into office with a lot of promise, a lot of potential, some very unique gifts to help Detroit be better,” he said. “I think that what we have over the city now is this abyss of darkness that prevents us from moving forward. … And so I think the time has come for the mayor to resign.”
Besides Detroit’s business community, no group of leaders has been criticized more than the city’s ministers for the silence of their voices, which are so strong and powerful when confronted with injustice. It was ministers who led the civil rights movement. It was ministers who fought for falsely accused prisoners, ministers who counseled cheating spouses. It has been ministers who have answered the call to the front lines when trouble comes.
But in Detroit, which is facing one of its greatest crises of leadership, the ministers have been absent in the mayoral scandal.
Time for spiritual leadership, unity
Vann, the 52-year-old minister whose new church now is home to a 5,000-member congregation and who is whispered about as a possible mayoral candidate, wants ministers to practice what they preach and unite with the community in ending the scandal the only way possible.
“I believe that there comes a time when we as religious leaders have to speak with our prophetic voice, even to powers that be, and say what needs to be said.
“I think that the private conversations that people are having right now are all about a quick resolution or an expeditious resolution of this situation. There are sentiments on both sides. But I think that everybody wants this to be over.”
Vann said the scandal has taken the city’s focus off of larger problems that are growing unchecked.
“I’ve been doing funerals of young people all summer,” he said. “This has been a tough summer. Funerals of young people whose blood is being spilled in this city nonsensically, and I just believe that there are other issues right now that are not getting any attention.
“We have an imploding educational system that is rife with corruption, it appears,” he said. “We have a brutal economy that is ravaging our region. We have middle-class families who have left the city and many who have left the state looking for greater opportunities.
“It’s hard to get things done these days. It’s hard for people to get together and talk about anything.”
Ministers across the city and some in the region have preached tangentially about the scandal, he said. But the time has come for more.
“A lot of ministers have been preaching messages that revolve around themes of hope in the middle of despair,” he said.
Answering critics, Vann said that men and women of God do not work according to a human clock.
“It shows wisdom for people not to be so reactive to everything,” he said. “They’re not at everyone’s beck and call as to how and when they react. I think it is wise to understand human frailty and to understand that people make mistakes. So when you look at it from a spiritual standpoint, the elements of forgiveness are always there.”
But the mayor can be forgiven and still not remain in office where his presence keeps the city in turmoil.
‘Right now we’re hurting’
Vann, one of the most prominent ministers yet to call for the mayor to step down, joins the Rev. Nicholas Hood III, pastor of Plymouth United Church of Christ, and the Rev. Kenneth Flowers, pastor of Greater New Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, in seeking the mayor’s resignation for moral, if not legal, reasons.
Vann said he believes Kilpatrick is conflicted.
“I believe he truly loves the city,” Vann said. “But you’ve got to love us enough to know when you’re hurting us. … And right now we’re hurting. Our visible and conversational image worldwide has just reached an all-time low, and this has to stop. I believe that the city is in God’s hands, and that we will survive.
“But the time has come for him to resign.
“If you accept the creation story, which I preach, then you know that God always forms things out of chaos,” Vann said.
“I still believe in this city. I’m invested here. I live here. I raised my family here. I believe that the city will rise again. I believe this city can thrive again.”
Source: Detroit Free Press