‘I fired them deacons’

‘I fired them deacons’ January 19, 2021

I’ve posted this story before, but it was some 10 years ago (!) — see “Preached down to four,” which I’m copying from here — so I think it’s fair game to revisit it now. After all, I first heard this story from Tony Campolo, and he repeats it far more often than once a decade. Tony got the story from Clarence Jordan, founder of Koinonia Farms and thus, later, of Habitat for Humanity.

In the 1950s, an old “hillbilly preacher” invited Jordan to come and speak at his church in rural South Carolina. Jordan arrived to find, to his surprise, a large, thriving and racially integrated congregation — a remarkable thing in that time and place. (Sadly, it’s actually a remarkable thing in any time or place.) So Clarence asked the man how this came about.

When he first got there as a substitute preacher, the old man said, it was a small, all-white congregation of a few dozen families. So he gave a sermon on the bit from Galatians where Paul writes: “You are all children of God … There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Here I’ll pick up from Tony Campolo’s retelling of Jordan’s story:

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