news-category: Campus News

Gardner-Webb University Hosts ‘Healing Our Racial Divide’ On Aug. 24

A collage featuring Derwin Gray on the left, his book in the center and Clayton King on the Right

Former NFL Player and Pastor Derwin L. Gray and GWU Alumnus Clayton King Discuss Biblical Strategies for Making a Difference

BOILING SPRINGS, N.C.—Former National Football League player Derwin L. Gray and Gardner-Webb University alumnus Clayton King have been best friends for over two decades. These two pastors, speakers and authors will be featured in a program on Thursday, Aug. 24, sponsored by the GWU School of Divinity’s Pittman Center for Congregational Enrichment. The event, “Healing Our Racial Divide: A Conversation with Derwin L. Gray and Clayton King” will be at 7 p.m.  in Hamrick Hall’s Blanton Auditorium. The public is welcome to attend, and students will receive Dimensions credit. Co-sponsors are the Offices of Christian Life and Service and Diversity and Inclusion.  

Clayton King

King, the founder and president of Crossroads Camps, Conferences and Missions, shared that his hope for the program is that people will see the gospel at work in two brothers in Christ, from different ethnicities, who truly love each other as friends. He added, “I hope we can inspire hope in the hearts of others that we can bridge the racial divide and that we can encourage students and leaders that real change starts at the most basic level—personal friendships that slowly build the Kingdom of God.”  

“This is what great universities do,” emphasized Gardner-Webb President Dr. William M. Downs. “Great universities serve as venues for conversations about timely issues, even when those issues challenge us, make us uncomfortable, or make us rethink long-held opinions.  In that spirit, I am pleased that GWU is hosting a solutions-focused dialogue about an enduring tension in American society.”  

Additionally, the discussion will include practical ideas for bridging the racial divide, noted Dr. Ben Leslie, director of the Pittman Center and professor of Christian theology and ethics in the School of Divinity. “In my experience, most Christians in our society recognize the need to do more to advance racial reconciliation,” Leslie offered. “The question is always one of ‘How?’”  

Gray and his wife, Vicki, are the co-founders of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community located in Indian Land, S.C., just south of Charlotte, N.C. He and King met in 1999. “He invited me to speak at one of his evangelistic outreaches,” Gray recalled. “Since the first time we met we became instant friends. We bonded over our deep love for Jesus and his gospel. And, a passion to see the next generation come to experience the grace of God in a life transforming way. Clayton has been one of my best friends for over two decades.”  

Through his shepherding heart, Gray has written the book, “How to Heal Our Racial Divide: What the Bible Says, and the First Christians Knew, About Racial Reconciliation” (Tyndale, 2022).  

Derwin L. Gray

Drawing largely on Gray’s book, the focus will be on the biblical imperative for action and strategies for making a difference. Topics will explore the concept of “color-blessed” and the multi-ethnic family of God as a vision for what the church should be.

Gray and Vicki met when they were students at Brigham Young University (BYU). After graduating from BYU, he played professional football in the NFL for five years with the Indianapolis Colts (1993-1997) and one year with the Carolina Panthers (1998). The Grays were married in 1992 and have two adult children.  

In 2008, Gray graduated from Southern Evangelical Seminary magna cum laude, with a Master of Divinity with a concentration in apologetics, where he was mentored by renowned theologian and philosopher Dr. Norman Geisler. In 2018, Gray received his Doctor of Ministry in the New Testament in Context at Northern Seminary under Dr. Scot McKnight. In 2015, he was awarded an honorary doctorate from Southern Evangelical Seminary.  

Gray is also the best-selling author of four other books on such topics as what Jesus teaches about true happiness, building a multiethnic church, trusting God with your future and the prayer that God always answers.  

King is a 1995 graduate of Gardner-Webb University. He received a Presidential Scholarship and was chosen as the 1995 Outstanding Male Graduate of the Year. He is a teaching pastor at Newspring Church in Anderson, S.C.  

King is the author of 18 books with Baker, Harvest House and Lifeway Publishers and the winner of the Christian Retailers Association Young Adult Book of the Year Award in 2015 for his True Love Project with Lifeway. Gray wrote the foreword for King’s recent book, “Reborn: How Encountering Jesus Changes Everything.” The book shares the compelling stories of 12 broken people who came face-to-face with Jesus in the New Testament and got a second chance at life.  

King was adopted at 2 months old and called into ministry when he was 14. He has traveled in 56 countries and 48 states. He was campus pastor at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va., for eight years. He is also founder of Jacob’s Well Music Festival. He and his wife, Sharie, were married in 1999 and they have two sons, Jacob, 20, and Joseph, 17.    

Auxiliary aids will be made available to persons with disabilities upon request 10 working days prior to the event.  Please call 704-406-4270 or email [email protected] with your request.

Gardner-Webb University is North Carolina’s recognized leader in private, Christian higher education. A Carnegie-Classified Doctoral/Professional University, GWU is home to nine colleges and schools, more than 80 undergraduate and graduate majors, and a world-class faculty. Located on a beautiful 225-acre campus in Boiling Springs, N.C., Gardner-Webb prepares graduates to impact their chosen professions, equips them with the skills to advance the frontiers of knowledge, and inspires them to make a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others. Ignite your future at

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