A former high-ranking member of the Oklahoma Ku Klux Klan is now an ordained minister in one of the nation’s largest African-American congregations.
Last month, elders of the Church of God in Christ in San Diego elevated Johnny Lee Clary to the ministry, exemplifying what all parties said is God’s transcendent love and forgiveness.
"We’re making history,” the 50-year-old Clary told The Oklahoman newspaper. “We’re building a bridge of racial reconciliation, and what better way to do that than with a former KKK leader ministering in a Black church that boasts over 6 million members? I hope I can have a great impact.
"The worst thing I ever did was swear an allegiance to the KKK, vowing to hate all Jews and Blacks and people of other races,” he continued. "I knelt before the Klan leaders as they sprinkled me with water. I then swore an oath to the KKK and the god of the KKK. But they can call their god anything they want — Jesus Christ or whatever. It doesn’t matter. Because their god is not the God of the Bible. Their god is Satan.”
During his years in the Klan, Clary was rewarded for his messages of hate. He quickly rose through the ranks of the White Knights of the KKK, eventually attaining the status of an imperial wizard, according to The Oklahoman.
After a spat with another Klan leader, Clary quit.
Not long after, he reached for the Bible, where he said he found truth and what God’s love was all about.
His travels brought him in contact with Bishop George McKinney, pastor of St. Stephen’s Cathedral Church of God in Christ in San Diego and one of the church’s 12 elders. The two met more than 15 years ago at a Christian event in Montgomery, Ala.
"Bishop McKinney and I became friends,” Clary told the Oklahoman. "One day he told me he would ordain me as a minister because the time was needed for racial reconciliation ... Finally, after years of being sidetracked, I agreed the time was right. My mission is to bring people of all races together.
"The Bible says there is one church, one Lord, one baptism, and so there should be one people.”
Said McKinney: "I’m thankful to God that there is still ongoing evidence of His grace."