Fifty years later, church leaders respond to King’s “Birmingham Jail” letter
From Religion News Services 14 April 2013 -
“We proclaim that, while our context today is different, the call is the same as in 1963 — for followers of Christ to stand together, to work together, and to struggle together for justice,” declared Christian Churches Together in the USA in a 20-page document.
The statement, which is linked to an April 14-15 ecumenical gathering in Birmingham, Ala., includes confessions from church bodies about their silence and slow pace in addressing racial injustice.
“The church must lead rather than follow in the march toward justice,” it says.
In April 1963, King scribbled his letter on newspaper margins in a cell in Birmingham, responding to an open letter from eight white clergymen — one Catholic priest, six Protestants and a rabbi — who had called on the civil rights movement to opt for negotiations rather than demonstrations. King had been jailed for helping organize nonviolent protests.
In the letter King said that he was disappointed with white moderates who “see my nonviolent efforts as those of an extremist.”
“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,” the Baptist preacher and civil rights icon wrote in one famous passage.
Five decades later, CCT leaders are releasing a response that elaborates on specific passages of King’s letter, calling for partnerships to confront societal inequities in the nation’s neighborhoods, schools and prisons.
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