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Dr. King and the Work for Justice

Dear PTC Pastor and Friend,

It is good to set aside a day as a nation to remember the world-changing life, ministry, and legacy of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. The prophetic vision he cast for our nation is far from realized.

As a 65-year-old white man from Alabama, I remember very well how Dr. King was vilified by the white power structure of this nation. What the Hebrew prophet Isaiah said about the suffering servant was true for Dr. King: he "despised and rejected." He was assassinated not because he was popular but because he was hated. Indeed, God has used his death and martyrdom as means to bring our nation into a "more perfect union."

In 2008, I was privileged to be inducted into the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers at Morehouse College. I knelt with other ministers before the full congregation in the King Chapel that day, vowing before God that I too would dedicate my life and ministry to the justice of Christ. It was one of the most moving moments of worship Jana and I have ever experienced.

The Rev. Dr. Billy Kyles, Pastor of the Monumental Baptist Church of Memphis, was the day's keynote speaker.


Rev. Kyles was on the balcony when Dr. King was murdered. They were on the way to the Kyles' home for supper. He retold the story that day, moment by moment, building to the awful instant when the shot rang out.

Rev. Kyles began musing to himself in his sermon why God placed him on that Lorraine Motel balcony that day, at that historic moment, standing beside Dr. King. Then he paused, with the perfect timing of a great preacher, and said, "Now I know. I know why the Lord had me right there. Because every crucifixion has to have a witness."

We dishonor Rev. Martin Luther King's life and legacy with easy platitudes or historical whitewashing. We honor him-- and our Lord who led him-- only with the painful, painstaking work of justice-making.

That is why we stand strong for quality public education for all children. We have a long way to go in delivering this promise of justice. But, no private model of education will ever ensure this provision of God. Only the public trust can and will do this.

Thank you for bearing witness so faithfully to this call!

Rev. Charles Foster Johnson, Executive Director


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