Feast of Clarence Jordan (July 30)   11 comments

Above:  Part of Southwest Georgia, 1945

Scanned from Monarch Atlas of the World (1945), 41



Southern Baptist Minister and Witness for Civil Rights


He took the Bible seriously.

–United Methodist Minister James Howell of Charlotte, North Carolina, on Clarence Jordan, 2012


Deeds reveal creeds.  Orthodoxy is right doctrine.  Orthopraxy is correct practice.  The first necessarily leads to the second.  Such as one thinks, one is.

Clarence Jordan (pronounced JER-dun) came from rural western Georgia.  He, born in Talbotton, Georgia, on July 29, 1912, was a son of James Weaver Jordan and Maude Josey.  While growing up our saint wondered how church-going Christians could support Jim Crow laws.  He studied Agriculture at The University of Georgia, graduating with a Bachelor’s degree in 1933.  While at UGA, Jordan edited the Georgia Agriculturalist and served as the state president of the Baptist Student Union.  In 1933 our saint also matriculated at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky (Th.M., 1936; Ph.D., 1939).  He, ordained in 1934, served as a pastor of several rural congregations while pursuing degrees.  In July 1936 Jordan married Florence Kroeger (d. 1987) of Louisville; the couple had four children.

Jordan could have taught on the college level or been minister of a large church, but he chose instead to found (with Martin and Mabel England) the Koinonia Farm south of Americus, Georgia, in Sumter County, in 1942.  Southwestern Georgia has long been a reactionary place (I know; I used to live there.), so Koinonia Farm was especially radical in its setting.  The model for the farm came from the Acts of the Apostles; there was a common treasury.  Jordan and company practiced radical egalitarianism and lived in a racially integrated community.  They were also pacifistic.  Jordan considered racism, discrimination, and economic injustice sinful.  He was truly a counter-cultural figure.  The farm became a target for violence, ostracism, and economic boycotts.  Were they communists?  No.  Were they patriotic?  Yes.  They took the Bible seriously.

Fellowship Baptist Church, Americus, June 13, 2018.JPG

Above:  Fellowship Baptist Church, Americus, Georgia, June 13, 2018

Photographer = Kenneth Randolph Taylor

The presence of a mixed-race group at a church in Americus, Georgia, was controversial into at least the 1970s.  In 1973, for example, the deacons of First Baptist Church voted to bar African Americans from joining the congregation.  Fellowship Baptist Church formed in protest.  (It is still one of the more liberal congregations in town.)  One time in the 1960s the senior pastor of First Baptist Church visited Koinonia Farm and invited the people there to attend that night’s revival service.  They accepted the invitation.  Soon First Baptist Church was looking for a new senior minister.  Meanwhile, across the street, at First Methodist Church, men clad in their Sunday best kept African Americans from attending Sunday morning services.  They turned away Jordan and a group from Koinonia.

In 1968 Koinonia Farm reorganized as Koinonia Partners.

Jordan, a sought-after speaker on the liberal lecture circuit, as well as a friend of Dorothy Day and Martin Luther King, Jr., wrote the Cotton Patch Versions of New Testament books.  Thus Jerusalem became Atlanta, Nazareth became Valdosta, et cetera.  Jordan was writing another Cotton Patch Version on October 29, 1969, when he died of a heart attack at Koinonia Partners.  He was 57 years old.

Habitat for Humanity, founded by Millard Fuller (1935-2009) and Linda Fuller, is part of the continuing legacy of Clarence Jordan’s radical experiment in Christian community.  (The Fullers were two of the Koinonia Partners.)

Koinonia continues, fortunately.





Holy and righteous God, you created us in your image.

Grant us grace to contend fearlessly against evil and to make no peace with oppression.

Help us, like your servant Clarence Jordan,

to work for justice among people and nations,

to the glory of your name, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord,

who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever.  Amen.

Hosea 2:18-23

Psalm 94:1-15

Romans 12:9-21

Luke 6:20-36

–Adapted from Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), 60


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: