UCC minister for racial justice to remember King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’
Written by Anthony Moujaes
April 12, 2013
The United Church of Christ's minister for racial justice, the Rev. Elizabeth Leung, will join leaders of Christian denominations from across the United States in Birmingham, Ala., on April 14-15 to mark the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "Letter from Birmingham Jail". Leung will represent the UCC, responding to King's letter, by joining other people of faith in renewing a commitment to racial justice in this country.
"The commitment in [Christian Churches Together's] posthumous response to Dr. King's Letter from a Birmingham Jail resonates with our UCC values of Continuing Testament," Leung said. "[We believe] in being a prophetic voice and presence against the contemporary realities of systemic racism: the perpetuation of poverty, health and educational disparities, mass incarceration, and a lack of policies that work on behalf of the common good."
The gathering is sponsored by Christian Churches Together, which seeks to bring churches and national Christian organizations together in Christ to strengthen their witness in the world.
In addition to commemorating the 50th anniversary of the MLK letter, Christian leaders from Protestant, Catholic, Orthodox and Evangelical faiths who gather in Alabama will write and sign a response to King's letter. CCT says that the response is a declaration of the churches coming together and acknowledging their shortcomings in furthering the work and vision of the Civil Rights Movement. The event also features presentations, a prayer walk and discussion panel that King's youngest daughter, Bernice King, is schedule to participate.
Considered one of the most influential documents of the civil rights era, King wrote "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" from the city jail in 1963 after he was arrested for being part of a planned non-violent protest against racial segregation. King penned the letter on the margins of a newspaper, as it was the only paper that was available to him, and sent bits and pieces of it with his lawyers to the civil rights movement headquarters. The letter was King's answer to a message from a group of clergy in Birmingham who appealed for a withdrawal of support for the civil rights demonstrations.
The UCC's work for racial justice spans centuries. The church and its predecessor bodies have supported policies and structures that affirm the UCC's commitment to racial justice. The denomination was the first to ordain an African-American Minister, Lemuel Haynes, in 1785, and took a stand against slavery in the early 1700s. Learn more about the UCC's Racial Justice Ministry online.