Creating the Beloved Community

John Perkins was an early leader in the civil rights movement in Mississippi.

John Perkins was an early leader in the civil rights movement in Mississippi. For more than 40 years he has pioneered ministries that reunite evangelical fervor with racial and economic justice. Charles Marsh tells Perkins’ story in The Beloved Community: How Faith Shapes Social Justice, From the Civil Rights Movement to Today (Basic Books, 2005), a portion of which appears below.

Perkins turned his attention to implementing the theological vision of building beloved community. There was one problem, however. Aside from a few volunteers who had come south to work with Voice of Calvary, there was not much that was interracial about the Mendenhall, Mississippi ministry. Freedom Summer had captured the nation’s attention and brought hope and change to many Southern communities. Perkins decided that some similar kind of event needed to be organized to attract more white and black activists back to the South, who would work now with a more explicitly evangelical focus and demonstrate the gospel’s power to reconcile the races. He thus launched "Freedom Summer 1971," a three-month period of intensified community building, which would serve as a kind of historical book end for the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, the spiritual complement of the political event, and would serve to enlarge the interracial cast of his Christian movement.

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Sojourners Magazine January 2005
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