It was a remarkable moment in November when Johnny Lee Clary, a 50-year-old white Oklahoman, knelt before Bishop George D. McKinney to be ordained as a minister in one of the nation’s largest African-American congregations. What was even more stunning was how far Clary had come to get to that moment. Clary had once been an imperial wizard in the White Knights of the Ku Klux Klan—considered the most militant and violent wing of the U.S. terrorist network. The ordination took place in the fellowship hall at St. Stephen’s Cathedral of the Church of God in Christ in San Diego where McKinney, ruling elder of the denomination, is pastor. Hands were laid on Clary by two dozen African-American church members.
“The worst thing I ever did was swear an allegiance to the KKK,” Clary told The Oklahoman in an interview. Little mention was made of Clary’s past during the ordination, but McKinney acknowledged Clary’s unique ministry to address “the racial fracture and tension that exists that can be attacked and changed only by the power of the living God through Jesus Christ.”