AME church leaders hold town hall meeting

Leaders from AME churches around the Austin area gathered for a community wide meeting about racial tensions and how to make the community safer. The town hall meeting was held at Metropolitan AME Church in East Austin on June 24.

Different pastors and reverends from AME churches were in attendance. The meeting was held to discuss issues following the church shooting in Charleston where nine people were killed in what authorities say was a hate crime.

The goal of the meeting was to open dialogue and get community input about ways to improve race relations, be more tolerant of each other, and establish safer communities. Church leaders wanted to come together and create an environment where different cultures and ethnicities can be tolerant of one another.

"We want to make sure this is a safe place to express one's ideas and thoughts with the idea of always being respectful. it's okay to disagree but we want to make sure that we foster an atmosphere where people will feel free to express themselves. but also to leave here with the idea that we can move forward and do something well, do something right out of this," said Pastor John McCormick.

More than 100 people attended the nearly two hour meeting. It focused on making many changes including a culture shift in which we don't see ourselves as divided but instead brothers and sisters under God.

Church leaders say we should fight back with our most powerful weapon, which is love.

This was the first meeting in hopes of tackling these controversial issues and it's expected it won't be the last.