Feast of John Burnett Morris, Sr. (December 29)   Leave a comment

Above:  Shield of The Episcopal Church

JOHN BURNETT MORRIS, SR. (February 10, 1930-December 28, 2010)

Episcopal Priest and Witness for Civil Rights

John Burnett Morris, Sr., born in Brunswick, Georgia, devoted his life to social justice, work he considered a natural extension of his Christian faith.  He graduated from Columbia University in 1951, married Harriet Barnes Pratt the following year, graduated from Virginia Theological Seminary in 1954.  Ordained deacon in that year and priest in 1955, Burnett began his parish ministry in South Carolina.

Burnett’s main work lay beyond the parish level, however.  He founded the Episcopal Society of Cultural and Racial Unity in 1959 and served as its first Executive Director from 1960 to 1966.  In this role he worked for civil rights in church and society.  He supported the 1961 Freedom Riders with a Prayer Pilgrimage of a racially integrated group of clergymen.  He called the Prayer Pilgrimage

a sermon in action…to set the household of faith in order so that prejudice may be eliminated.

Authorities in Jackson, Mississippi, arrested and jailed he and fourteen other clergymen for trying to eat together at a Whites-only lunch counter.

Morris also led other civil rights protests, such as those at the Lovett School, an Episcopal Church-related institution in the Diocese of Atlanta.  The Lovett School desegregated in 1966.  Morris organized other clergymen to participate in the March on Washington in 1963 and the Selma, Alabama, protests in 1965. And he criticized the Right Reverend Charles Carpenter, Bishop of Alabama form 1938 to 1968, for condemning civil disobedience.  (Carpenter was one of the clergymen to whom Martin Luther King, Jr., addressed the Letter from Birmingham Jail in 1963.)

On which side of Letter from Birmingham Jail’s moral arguments would you, O reader, do you prefer to be?

Morris had Parkinson’s Disease in his final years.  He died on December 28, 2010, at a retirement home in Evans, Georgia.  His first wife and a daughter predeceased him, but his second wife, a daughter, two sons, a sister, and six grandchildren survived him.

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

NOVEMBER 27, 2011 COMMON ERA

THE FIRST SUNDAY OF ADVENT, YEAR B

THE FEAST OF SAINT JAMES INTERCISUS, ROMAN CATHOLIC MARTYR

THE FEAST OF HENRY SLOANE COFFIN, U.S. PRESBYTERIAN THEOLOGIAN

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For More Information:

http://www.ecusa.anglican.org/80263_126363_ENG_HTM.htm

http://www.ajc.com/news/atlanta/the-rev-john-burnett-792540.html

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Almighty God,

we praise you for your servant John Burnett Morris, Sr.,

through whom you have called the church to its tasks

and renewed its life.

Raise up in our own day teachers and prophets inspired by your Spirit,

whose voices will give strength to your church

and proclaim the reality of your reign,

through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,

one God, now and forever. Amen.

Jeremiah 1:4-10

Psalm 46

1 Corinthians 3:11-23

Mark 10:35-45

Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 60

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