One “Radical Baptist” Celebrates Another: G.W. Carlson on Clarence Jordan

Clarence Jordan
Clarence Jordan (1912-1969) – Koinonia Partners

Next month scholars, activists, pastors, and others will travel to Americus, Georgia to take part in a symposium dedicated to celebrating the life and legacy of Clarence Jordan, who founded the interracial Christian community known as Koinonia Farm in the 1940s, wrote The Cotton Patch Gospel, advocated for civil rights, and helped to inspire Habitat for Humanity. Speakers include former president Jimmy Carter, civil rights historian Charles Marsh, neo-monastic leader Shane Claiborne, and our own G.W. Carlson, who will present a paper on Jordan’s “radical Baptist heritage.”

For a preview of that paper, and a discussion of Jordan’s impact on his own life, see GW’s guest post at The Pietist Schoolman, entitled “Clarence Jordan: Celebrating a Conscientious Christian Objector.” Here’s a taste:

In 1963, as a junior at Bethel College, I attended a lecture in which Jordan challenged students and faculty to cultivate a “radical” Baptist commitment that included modeling a “koinonia” understanding of the church, valuing an interracial Christian church, and seeking to be peacemakers and reconcilers in today’s world….

By the time of Jordan’s visit to Bethel, the Koinonia experiment had been attacked by the Ku Klux Klan, boycotted by the merchants of the city of Americus, and told by major business and political leaders to leave. The Jordan family and their supporters were excommunicated from the local Baptist church and their children were ostracized at the local schools.

Jordan’s response was to develop a larger support community across the United States, to spread his ideas through the writing of the Cotton Patch Versions of the New Testaments, and to partner with Millard Fuller in the development of a low-income housing ministry….

Jordan helped to frame one of the questions which have been the subject of my research and personal Christian journey over the past several decades: What encourages one to be a “faithful Christian disciple” in times of great difficulty and persecution?

Read the full post here.

And if you’d like to attend the symposium (September 28-29) and hear GW and the other speakers, you can get more information here and register here.

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