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The Journal Gazette

  • Courtesy Rev. Bill McGill As veterans of the civil rights movement, the author has had several interactions with Rep. John Conyers, right.

  • McGill

Saturday, December 02, 2017 1:00 am

Accusations place stain on Conyers' storied reign

Bill McGill

“And everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from him to whom much has been committed, more will they ask of him.”

– Luke 12:48


Let me admit at the outset that I have not come to throw stones, because my own life has multiple instances where I have operated in unprincipled zones. I wish life were a dress rehearsal where we could put certain things in reversal, but since that is not the case we must ultimately give an account of our actions during the race.

With more than four decades of active involvement in the struggle for civil rights, I've been privileged to interact with some of the movement's brightest lights. During my sojourn as one of the co-chairs of the Free South Africa – Michigan Affiliate, I was introduced to Congressman John Conyers after my arrest at the South African Embassy for trying to move that nation beyond its policy of racial hate.

First walking through the House of Representatives door in 1964, he would then become co-founder of the Congressional Black Caucus and begin to legislatively soar. He remains one of seven to have served in Congress for at least 50 years, the only African-American, and his votes have helped to dry up many of the disadvantaged's tears. Yes, in the words of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, he is “an icon,” but if allegations are to be believed, he has secretly been striking like a python. It really breaks my heart, but it may indeed be time for him to depart.

In unfortunate political terms, he has been a dead man walking for more than a decade when the House Ethics Committee found him guilty of using office staff-persons to attend to his children like a maid.

He once had a sainted place in American history, but that does not give him the right to cause others emotional and physical misery. There is no denying his part in helping the nation overcome issues that seemed insurmountable, but even the greatest among us must ultimately be held accountable.

These are hard words to write because our nation knowingly elected a leader who readily acknowledges the absence of any moral light. We have set a new dangerously low precedent for whom we find qualified to become president. But, as I often say on Sunday, that's another sermon for another day.

Today, we must help correct a culture that allowed far too many women's aspirations to rupture. From the Christian perspective, all of us are to be treated with both dignity and divinity because we were all created with unlimited ability. All of us, regardless of gender, have a moral right to be treated tender and enjoy a life that is filled with splendor. Whether at work or play, we should all expect to be treated in a responsible and respectful way. No one should leave encounters feeling confused, or worse yet abused. No conversation should lead to agitation, and certainly no action should leave someone wrestling with their emotional traction. We must work to fill every space with the aroma of grace, until sexism, racism and classism have no place.

In the words of the Psalmist, we are all “fearfully and wonderfully made”; as a consequence we all deserve to be respectfully weighed.

The Rev. Bill McGill is senior pastor at Fort Wayne's Imani Baptist Temple.