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Civil rights leader Bishop William J. Barber II retires from church service

<i>Jonathan Drake/Reuters</i><br/>Bishop William J. Barber II speaks to the media after a meeting of state and local clergy at the Mount Lebanon AME Zion Church in April 2021
Jonathan Drake/Reuters
Bishop William J. Barber II speaks to the media after a meeting of state and local clergy at the Mount Lebanon AME Zion Church in April 2021

By Mitchell McCluskey, CNN

(CNN) — Prominent North Carolina civil rights leader Bishop William J. Barber II delivered his final sermon as the pastor of Greenleaf Christian Church as he retired after 30 years.

“I have no reason to be standing here but by the grace of God,” Barber said in his retirement sermon at the church on Sunday.

Barber spoke during the sermon of his physical limitations from a form of arthritis known as ankylosing spondylitis, which causes inflammation in the joints and ligaments of the spine, according to the National Institutes of Health.

In 1993, Barber joined Greenleaf Christian Church in Goldsboro, and over the next three decades he became renowned for his work addressing issues such as poverty, inequality and racism.

Barber served as president of the North Carolina NAACP from 2005 until 2017. He has at several times called for “nonviolent direct action” in the form of protest to fight against legislation he opposed.

Barber’s Forward Together Moral Movement gained national acclaim through its weekly Moral Monday protests that attracted thousands to the North Carolina General Assembly in 2013, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Last week, the church held a retirement banquet that featured a video message from President Joe Biden.

“Thank you for showing all of us how to do justice, love mercy and walk humbly. I’ll never forget your homily at my inaugural prayer service when you called on us to be repairers of the breach and heal the soul of the nation,” President Biden said in his video message, according to a news release from Greenleaf Christian Church.

Greenleaf Christian Church said that Barber plans to remain engaged in his civil rights work.

“He is dedicating his next season to continuing to build a moral movement that can redeem the heart and soul of this nation, usher in a third reconstruction, and, through his role as founding director of the recently established Yale Center for Public Theology and Public Policy, train a new generation of moral leaders to be active participants in creating a just society,” the church said in the news release.

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