Thousands Gather on Stone Mountain to Renounce Racism, Demonstrate Christian Unity

Following years-long effort to unite the Atlanta region, more than 20,000 believers gathered at site of historic injustice to repent, reconcile and believe for revival.

On Saturday, August 25, more than twenty thousand believers gathered at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta, Ga. for a prayer and worship event entitled OneRace. Civil rights icon Dr. John Perkins (pictured at right) was among the many speakers.

By Josh Shepherd Published on August 27, 2018

“I have a dream that one day on the red hills of Georgia, the sons of former slaves and the sons of former slaveowners will be able to sit together at the table of brotherhood.” Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. 

On Saturday, those red hills echoed with the resounding realization of Rev. King’s dream. A remarkably multi-ethnic group of over 20,000 Christians joined at Stone Mountain Park in Atlanta for the inaugural OneRace Gathering. Eight-plus hours of prayer, worship, dialogue and celebration of unity centered on themes from the Christian gospel.

“We’re determined that the church will lead the way in racial healing,” said Bishop Garland Hunt, co-executive director of OneRace and pastor of The Father’s House in Norcoss, Ga. “Christians right here in this region have said, Enough is enough. We’re tired of giving in to racism that is hidden in religion. Jesus said, Let them be one as we are one. The Church is one blood and one race together.”

The large-scale gathering represented the culmination of a years-long vision among diverse leaders to bring believers together across ethnic, denominational and generational lines.

Civil Rights Icon Addresses Gathering

An all-day event in 87-degree Atlanta heat, it was a far cry from typical race relations events. Such forums have tended to engage intellect more than body and soul. OneRace began with thousands of millennials hiking Stone Mountain, a 1.6 mile uphill ascent. At the top, over 3,000 people gathered for prayer and high-volume praise.

Dr. John Perkins

Dr. John Perkins

To be heard over the din of voices in prayer, musicians played so loud they briefly blew out the sound system. The gathering continued at the base of Stone Mountain, with a larger group including young families and diverse congregants. Those on-stage led prayers, songs and responsive acts of worship.

“I’ve been longing for this day!” shouted Dr. John Perkins, a leading evangelical voice of the civil rights movement. “ — When we would come together across cultural barriers and become the people of God. You’ve fulfilled my dream. You’ve fulfilled my hope by taking responsibility.”

A revered civil rights figure who marched alongside Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., eighty-eight year-old Perkins was unreserved in his acclaim of the gathering. “That crowd out there looks like the church!” Perkins told The Stream in an interview. “There ain’t no majority here. Whether white, black or whatever, we’re all minorities. Isn’t that beautiful?”

To gather for such a purpose at Stone Mountain — in the shadow of Confederate figures carved in stone — seems contradictory at first glance. Or destiny.

Past Injustice, Present Repentance

During the decades of Reconstruction after the Civil War, many black Americans gained rights for the first time and saw community renewal. However, in the early 1900’s, racism reemerged as a dominant force … starting at Stone Mountain.

In 1915, the long-dormant Ku Klux Klan (KKK) was reborn when crosses were set ablaze at the summit. That same year, the United Daughters of the Confederacy commissioned a carving of Confederate figures on the gray dome. For 50 years, an annual Labor Day cross burning was held at the site.

“I’ve been longing for this day when we would come together across cultural barriers and become the people of God! You’ve fulfilled my dream.” – Dr. John Perkins

Those at OneRace spoke honestly of such painful, racist history — and its present-day implications. Two black leaders who had lost family members in the Charleston church shooting addressed the prayer gathering. In June 2015, a 21 year-old white man gunned down nine black members of the Emmanuel AME Church.

“One hundred years after the cross was burned on this mountain, my father Reverend Daniel Lee Simmons Sr. fell to the hand of racism,” said Dr. Rose Simmons. “But he has risen today in glory and he stands with the Father in the love of Jesus Christ! We are here proclaiming [that] racism is no more.”

Rev. Anthony Thompson, whose wife was killed by the gunman, also addressed the crowd and urged forgiveness. He was followed by Pastor Ferrell Brown, a direct descendant of KKK founder Nathan Bedford Forrest.

“I stand here today as a representation of the racism of the white man against African-Americans, against Jews, against Hispanics,” said Brown. “I repent and I’m asking forgiveness.”

Finding Each Other in Forgiveness

Called “one of the most moving moments” by Atlanta’s most-read newspaper, what Simmons, Thompson and Brown shared silenced the raucous praise heard only moments before. The leaders illustrated how racial healing works, as thousands followed their lead.

“Ferrell, I respond to your plea for forgiveness and I forgive you,” said Rose Simmons. “May God bless you. Thank you for the work that you have done in the Body of Christ so that we may take this movement all around the world.”

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Millennials gathered atop Stone Mountain huddled in small groups to share and pray through their own personal histories with race issues. Thousands more watched and participated at the base of the mountain. Over the next hour, another picture of reconciliation came into focus as the participants merged into one assembly.

The Cast-Iron Kettle … Set on a Table of Brotherhood

Black minister Will Ford brought out a cast-iron kettle, noting it had been in his family for two centuries. He related the dehumanizing treatment his forefathers had endured as slaves. Yet, in recent years, Ford had come to discover that his longtime friend Matt Lockett was a descendant of the family who had owned his ancestors.

In a climatic moment of the OneRace Gathering, leaders pray before serving communion. L-R: Will Ford, Matt Lockett, Garland Hunt, Billy Humphrey.

In a climatic moment of the OneRace Gathering, leaders pray before serving communion. L-R: Will Ford, Matt Lockett, Garland Hunt, Billy Humphrey. (Peter Phillips / OneRace Movement)

Ford and Lockett recently coauthored a book, The Dream King, which chronicles their multi-layered story. They recounted the words of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. He said in his famous 1963 speech: “With this faith, we will be able to transform the jangling discords of our nation into a beautiful symphony of brotherhood […] Let freedom ring from Stone Mountain of Georgia!”

OneRace organizers set up a “table of brotherhood” on-stage, where Ford and Lockett related their histories and the truths they see revealed in the threads. For those gathered, such moments carried greater meaning after months of building relationship together.

OneRace, One Day, Several Years in the Making

Billy Humphrey of International House of Prayer-Atlanta and Bishop Garland Hunt spent the past two years reaching out to Atlanta-area pastors, urging them to meet and pray together.

By August the number of weekly gatherings in the region had multiplied to dozens, with more than 500 pastors participating. Still, they often encountered resistance. Pastor Johnson Bowie of Victory World Church in Buford, Ga. was one of the original five friends who launched OneRace alongside Humphrey and Hunt.

“If you go into an all-white church and start talking about race, the walls go up very quickly,” Bowie told The Stream. “I’m seeing pastors here, specifically white pastors, who haven’t come to any of the OneRace gatherings. That’s the sign people are starting to be more open to this. We’re going to continue the momentum in these prayer groups across this region.”

First Steps to Reviving the Culture: The Atlanta Covenant

Whitney Milord

Whitney Milord

To close OneRace, Humphrey and Hunt invited all to sign the Atlanta Covenant. It outlines the responsibility of the Church to take the lead in eliminating racism and seeking cultural restoration. Advocacy groups the And Campaign, Be the Bridge and others involved in acts of justice were highlighted throughout the day.

Participants in the day’s events were quick to point to prayer as the first step. Whitney Milord, who attends church in Lawrenceville, Ga., quoted familiar words when asked why she came.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done,” stated the young African-American woman. “Unity is God’s kingdom at work. There is no black and white; there is no him or her. If you have been to even one prayer meeting, you would know this is God’s work. OneRace is not a Billy or Garland Hunt thing; God had to do this.”

Civil rights icon Dr. John Perkins concurred in his remarks. “It took faith to get us here,” said Perkins. “I’m going to follow you just to encourage you. This is your time.”

Watch below as Dr. John Perkins prays over millennials gathered on the summit of Stone Mountain. Learn more about the OneRace Movement and how to get involved.

Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect new attendance information from Stone Mountain Park officials.

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  • tz1

    Virtue Signalling.

    My problem is the 90% nearby in Alabama that voted for rabidly pro-abort Doug Jones. Lets not talk about Abortion, fornicaton, out of wedlock births. Just talk about racism and force whites, many who weren’t around for Jim Crow, much less Slavery to grovel and agree to pull down monuments to slaveholders like Washington and Jefferson.

    Some may remember the Promise Keepers rally on the Washington Mall two decades ago that supposedly was about the same thing.

    Will blacks ever take yes for an answer, or will there be continal hectoring into the 22nd century about how evil whites are and need to make repairations and grovel before blacks? And ignore the white genocide in South Africa although it will cause starvation and millions of deaths.

    The focus should be on content of character, which has been DECAYING AND GOING LITERALLY TO HELL since the civil rights movement. 80% of babies in Detroit are born out of wedlock. Does that matter to anyone? Will anyone condemn black women? Or those in NYC where MORE THAN HALF are aborted and not allowed to be born? No? But must talk about racism, always evil whites, never blacks – or asians, or jews – that are horribly evil and have collective and ancestral guilt!

    Will there EVER be a non-racial similar march against abortion? Sexual impurity? Divorce? Usury with payday loans, student loans, credit cards? Theft by currency devaluation and interest rate manipulaton?


    Why is racism continually the whipping boy when there are far greater evils? Well, it is an easy target and you can be totally apostate or lukewarm and oppose it and everyone will cheer. The hard techings? oh, I don’t want to rock the boat!

    Too much emphasis to a trivial and rare sin of comission will not cover up the clear and gross and far more numerous sins of omission.

    • Starlord616

      I wouldn’t worry about Doug Jones because he will probably be a conservative Democrat. He has voted with Republicans on the tax cuts and he will probably vote to approve trump’s supreme court picks .Roy Moore was just a terrible pick for a Senate candidate. He was way too full of himself. Anyway racism hasn’t gone anywhere. Look at the people who pay lip service to christianity yet believe that they are saved because of skin color and believe that the European race is the savior of society.

      • Paul

        “Anyway racism hasn’t gone anywhere. Look at the people who pay lip
        service to christianity yet believe that they are saved because of skin
        color and believe that the European race is the savior of society.”

        In all my days I have yet to meet a Christian who believes they are saved because of skin color, nor have I heard or read it. That’s not to say there isn’t a handful of loons who believe such nonsense, but if you could be specific I’d appreciate it.

        • Starlord616

          I have read that on a quite decent number of
          conservative blogs in the
          comment sections over the yrs. I been trying to convince them that they are wrong for years.

          • Paul

            There will always be the nut jobs out there no matter what we say or do. Have you ever heard either a Louis Farrakhan or skin head rant session? Proof that loose screws come in all skin shades.

      • tz1

        Moore was elected in the Primaries – the voters picked..
        I know of no one who believes they are saved because of race – except Jews and maybe some evangelicals that give them a pass even if they reject Jesus, and Western Civilization is European, and consider they are the savior as without their inventions and culture, many in Africa and Asia would be starving.

    • Kevin Carr

      Racism is easy, it is the media’s favorite rock to throw at whites. It also lets blacks off the hook in terms of personal responsibility. I agree with Wynton Marsalis when he said rap music has done more harm to blacks than statues. White people are not making black people kill each other at the rates we see, they are making us abort our own, or father children out of wedlock then abandon them, we do that to ourselves. Those are moral failures 1Thessalonians 5:23: Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your
      spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the
      coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Note the order Spirit, soul and body. What is wrong in the spirit works itself out in the soul, then out in the body. The inner man needs change. All the bleating about what is out side and blaming others solve nothing. Has anyone ever noticed the black “leaders” always telling us the white man is keeping you down, they have bachelors, Masters, and PhD’s and make six and seven figure salaries. How did the man miss them? I don’t see the need for people to apologize and ask forgiveness for things they didn’t do.

  • Paul

    I don’t get how a person asks for forgiveness for something they didn’t do, can someone please explain that?

    • Al Cruise

      It’s much easier than repenting of one’s own sins.

      • Starlord616

        I read it as them repenting for their sin of racism. It could be that it was for their church who was racist

        • Paul

          From the article:

          “I stand here today as a representation of the racism of the white man
          against African-Americans, against Jews, against Hispanics,” said Brown.
          “I repent and I’m asking forgiveness.”
          (Just for clarity, Brown is the pale skin guy.)

          No, he wasn’t speaking about a church, but somehow believes he represents all pale skinned people and feels he has something to ask forgiveness for. I’m pale skinned and he doesn’t represent me. Nor my ancestors. He may feel some ownership of slavery in the US in his ancestry but it isn’t in mine. As an immigrant myself my ancestry hasn’t been involved in slavery for close to a thousand years and when they did they enslaved Europeans. This culture wants to sell me some white guilt because of my skin shade but I ain’t buying.

    • Ray

      Part of priestly intercession, seems to me.

      • Paul

        can you further explain this?

    • SophieA

      This is my question as well. At least we are assured that the sins for which we are responsible, when confessed and repented, God washes away that sin and remembers it no more.

      I fear a never-ending guilt trip, collective repentance, and then pleading for forgiveness cycle ahead.

      • Paul

        If we’re supposed to somehow repent of the sins of our forefathers then I wonder how far we should go back. My ancestors enslaved, looted, pillaged and killed many in England and elsewhere, not sure how this is supposed to work.

        • SophieA

          As a person of English descent, I do not hold you or anyone else responsible for these offenses.

          How can I? Why should I? To what end?

          I refuse to permit the hijacking and sacrifice of my conscience on the altar of virtue signaling.

    • Bryan

      I believe there is a certain power to a corporate repentance, meaning a church or a body of believers publicly repenting of sins from their past. This extends beyond race but race can be a part of it.
      That said, it can quickly become virtue signaling or something to judge others against. If after this event, another is held by the same group regularly, then it’s power diminishes. It becomes a virtue signaling thing. If after this event, those who attend judge those who don’t or won’t attend or do something similar as being less holy than themselves, then it’s a judgmental thing.
      There is precedent for this sort of thing in the Bible: recall that the religious leaders who questioned Jesus as he was to heal the blind man, asked who sinned, this man or his parents? This comes from the OT tradition where God talks about the sins of the father passing to the third and fourth generation. (And conversely the blessings to the 1,000th generation I think.) Now Jesus said of the man he was healing that he was born blind so that God’s glory would be revealed when the Christ healed him. So not every situation is one where some past sin causes some present or future problem.
      The case of racism is complex. There are active sins everyday. Undoubtedly, some of the most egregious come from the most vocal against racism. (Maxine Waters and Rev. Jessie Jackson jump to mind but I can’t figure out why…) Then there are systemic issues. Then there is people who are bearing the scars of sins past (think the community that can’t break the welfare cycle that LBJ candidly said would have people voting Democrat for years).
      I think as a country we were beginning to get a glimpse of Martin Luther King’s Dream in the ’90’s and early 2000’s. At least that was my school aged kid’s perspective. I notice the skin color of others but the content of their character was the driving force behind my assessment of people.
      Coming back to the recent event in GA, the two ministers who discovered their ancestors had a slave and slave owner relationship, is, as they say, the embodiment of Dr. King’s speech. Their story should inspire us to continue forging ahead to recognize all men as equal and as valuable. Does that mean everyone has to follow in their footsteps? No! Not every white person owned some other black person. But celebrating this as the microcosm fulfillment of Dr. King’s speech is worth it. Also showing that race, which divides so often, has no power over them anymore, should be celebrated. That will destroy the message to Progressive Left continues to push: the oppression of one group over another. The only group that benefits in that philosophy is the group that makes the rules.
      So as SophieA mentioned below, the cycle of continual forgiveness is not or should not be the goal. The goal is to live as Dr. King dreamed: to judge character and to believe that character matters above the other factors.

      • Paul

        “the two ministers who discovered their ancestors had a slave and slave
        owner relationship, is, as they say, the embodiment of Dr. King’s

        Yes, their personal stories/histories are compelling and I see the value of drawing attention to that. But it doesn’t resonate for me personally. Yet because of my skin shade there’s cultural demand that I’m somehow connected to it. I feel like an outsider looking in and wondering when will these people get over it already.

        Reminds me of something I witnessed the other day, seated in the doctors waiting room with my sick father. His doctor is running late (found out later another patient needed to be hospitalized) and we’ve been waiting now over 30 mins past the appointment time (eventually got in over an hour late). A woman comes in the door and from the conversation at the window she arrived about 45 minutes late for her own appointment and being her first visit she needed her insurance card (which she didn’t bring) and fill out the medical history (which she didn’t want to do). After unsuccessfully attempting for about 15 minutes to get someone on the phone who could locate and send a pict of her proof of insurance, the receptionist politely informed her that the doctor simply could no longer see her today and needed to reschedule and to please bring her proof of insurance (which is required of everyone unless you are prepaying in cash). So this woman gets on the phone with a friend and loudly complains that she wasn’t being seen by the doctor because she is black, that she is the only black person in the office (she couldn’t see the very diverse staff of this incredible practice and judged the whole place based on the skin shade of the receptionist) and stormed out saying that she was being discriminated against and wasn’t a privileged white person and no longer wanted to be helped here anyway. It was a really sad display of a mindset disconnected from reality, seeing everyone as out to get her because of her shade of skin, never mind everything she did wrong that day. There is no reasoning with that jaded world view, and I doubt a group hug on Stone mountain will break through that.

        • Bryan

          “Yet because of my skin shade there’s cultural demand that I’m somehow connected to it.” I can find myself feeling the same way from time to time. As I mentioned before this kind of event quickly becomes virtue signaling or judgmental in the exact ways you describe. We need to be careful as a community of believers not to get caught in the emotionalism of the event and turn against our brothers and sisters. At the same time we don’t need to criticize the event just because it is. There is some value to it and in some communities it may be a powerful force for revival and reconciliation.
          The woman you described is jaded and full of her victimization. Yet she is conditioned in that way due to the continuance of racism from the people who purport to be most against racism. Is there reasoning to be had with her? Perhaps but likely only in a direct relationship with a person who sees her as valuable for who she is, not her skin color. The group hug in Atlanta may not change the nation overnight. It might be the start of transformation locally that spreads though.

          • Paul

            “At the same time we don’t need to criticize the event just because it
            is. There is some value to it and in some communities it may be a
            powerful force for revival and reconciliation.”

            I can understand that.

            I was part of a church whose new pastor wanted to take the entire congregation down that road, projecting his prejudices and white guilt on everyone else from the pulpit. We weren’t buying what he was selling and we left.

        • Less than 5% of whites have any ancestral ties to slavery.

          • Paul

            TBH I’m not even sure what “white” is supposed to mean anymore. My neighbor who moved from Spain was forced to become “hispanic” in our crazy culture, something he doesn’t personally identify with. But a Norwegian or Italian are “white”. If my neighbor has kids with his Irish wife, I wonder what they are supposed to be. I’m pretty pale skinned, but am neither anglo saxon or caucasian, there’s no box for Scandinavians. Identity politics can be so confusing.

          • Exactly! It’s not based on science, and it’s also certainly not biblical! It’s neo-Marxist, and it’s based on tribalism/political affiliation, and Lord knows that never ends well!

    • Paul, This is certainly an area that many Christian believers have not considered. My wife sees issues of justice and intercession through the lens of the prophets Daniel and Isaiah, which she studied extensively in Bible school.

      She discussed biblical themes of ‘collective guilt’ in part of an article last year… perhaps some helpful info here:
      christianheadlines (dot) com/contributors/josh-shepherd/as-a-white-christian-here-s-why-i-mourn-today-with-brothers-and-sisters-of-color (dot) html

      How the Prophet Daniel Responded to Collective Guilt

      The Lord made clear that His chastisement of the Jewish people through exile was in response to their continued rebellion and wicked deeds, specifically in shedding innocent blood — as revealed in 2 Kings 21:11-16 and Jeremiah 15:4.

      This was decades before Daniel was even born. He was just a teenage boy when he was marched off to Babylon to be subjugated to Nebuchadnezzar. Rather than giving in to despair at his lot, indignation at his forefathers, or offense and rebellion to the pagan ruler he was forced to serve, he set his heart on honoring the Lord and seeking the welfare of the city. One can just imagine him recounting the story of Joseph with the other three Israelite men as they tried to encourage themselves in the Lord.

      Whatever wrestling with the Lord’s sovereignty and the depravity of man that Daniel went through, the testimony of the Lord over his life was that Daniel was esteemed as a model of righteousness (Ezekiel 14:14). So how did this great man respond when viewing the sins of past generations, ones for which he could rightly say he had no part in?

      Fast forward decades and we find Daniel now in his late 80s peering into the Scriptures of Jeremiah. The weeping prophet had written the Lord’s promise that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years. Can you picture this noble but tired man? Daniel has seen not just kings, but empires, come and go in a night. He has stared down murderous tyrants and starving lions. Perhaps the memories of Jerusalem are starting to feel more like a dream than a real, tangible city he once saw in his youth a lifetime ago.

      Here before him is a sacred promise from the God of Israel that He would return the Jews to their homeland and rebuild the city of the Great King. I can just picture tears in his eyes. He does the math from his own march to Babylon and realizes this is it: he is living in the promised time.

      Does he start to ponder if he can even survive the long desert road back, or will he be consigned to watch out his windows as caravans of Israelites embark on the journey? But how will God fulfill this promise?

      Daniel does something that astounds me every time I read it. He doesn’t go to the king to appeal to him; that’s someone else’s calling. He doesn’t gather friends to start packing their bags, or form a committee to gather petitions. This weathered saint “turned to the Lord God and pleaded with him in prayer and petition, in fasting, and in sackcloth and ashes” (Daniel 9:3).

      This righteous man repents, but not for what they had done. Instead his prayer was filled with taking on the corporate guilt of his people. Just look at a sampling from verses 4-19:

      “I prayed to the Lord my God and confessed… we have sinned and done wrong. We have been wicked and have rebelled; we have turned away from your commands and laws. We have not listened to your servants the prophets…we are covered with shame… because of our unfaithfulness to you.

      Our sins and the iniquities of our ancestors have made Jerusalem and your people an object of scorn to all those around us… We do not make requests of you because we are righteous, but because of your great mercy.”

      Daniel neither sat back just awaiting God in His sovereignty to make good on His promise, nor prayed for “those people.” In an act of intercession, he counted himself amongst the sinners and pleaded for the Lord to have mercy on his people, and in justice fulfill His purposes in restoring Israel for His name’s sake…

      // Reading the full article may help place this in context
      christianheadlines (dot) com/contributors/josh-shepherd/as-a-white-christian-here-s-why-i-mourn-today-with-brothers-and-sisters-of-color (dot) html

      • Paul

        Thanks Josh for the detailed reply, gives me something to think about.

        • Bryan

          You know something must be up when the author’s own comment is put into the moderation black hole.

          • Paul


          • Paul

            That comment is still stuck in the moderator black hole, can’t imagine at all why it got sucked in. It’s a Stream mystery

    • That’s the key question, the modern left which is opposed to Christianity, believes it’s all about power, and is really neo-Marxist in its orientation. So they say it’s about the “system of oppression.” It’s not about individual sins. My wife is black, and I’m white, and race is not an issue for us at all. We’re both conservative Christians. One race sounds promising, since saying there is only one race on a college campus is deemed racist somehow. Thanks again leftists for that! But bottom line, black racism is much, much bigger problem today, along with the collapse of the black family, and standards of morality within the black community, and I don’t know what white people can do to fix that?

  • Al Cruise


  • Ray

    We pray, “Thy kingdom come..” , and we should know that the kingdom of God is……righteousness, peace, and joy, in the Holy Spirit, (see Rom 14:17) , and I know there is much more coming.

  • Lemon Drop

    Considering the left’s hatred for Confederate monuments, you know that Stone Mountain, the biggest Confederate monument on earth, makes their blood boil.

  • Dwight Gingrich

    I have friends who attended this event. No one event will ever come close to undoing the failures of the past or the present. But there is no doubt in my mind that whenever sin is mourned and whenever common ground is found in Jesus, something good has happened that opens new possibilities for the future. Thanks for this article!

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