The rift in the nation's largest black religious group has healed, its leader says.
"Don't let anybody fool you - we are not divided," the Rev. T.J. Jemison, president of the National Baptist Convention U.S.A., told 25,000 people attending the organization's 112th annual meeting on Thursday."We are together as the convention has never been together before," he said.
The minister's support of boxer Mike Tyson during his rape trial earlier this year divided the denomination's 8 million members. The former heavyeight champion was convicted of raping Desiree Washington and sentenced to six years in prison.
The Rev. Jemison sided with Tyson, who two years ago promised $5 million toward the organization's new headquarters in Nashville, Tenn. Tyson hasn't yet made the donation.
Last month, the Rev. Jemison, of Baton Rouge, La., pleaded not guilty to federal perjury charges and denied he offered $1 million to Washington to drop her rape allegations. He is free on $100,000 bail while awaiting an Oct. 5 trial.
On Thursday, the Rev. Jemison presented the Rev. Jesse Jackson the convention's highest honor - the Cross and Crown Award - for his social, political and religious work.
Jackson praised the denomination for helping his run for the White House in 1988 and for its philanthropic work in the black community.
"You have the power to keep hope alive," he said.