As part of the class I’m currently taking on white awareness and developing racial literacy, we were asked to put together a short presentation highlighting a white ally (a white person who supported racial equality or worked on behalf of black people in some way). It could be someone alive and active in this area today or someone from the past. In doing an online search, I chose Clarence Jordan.
In the spirit of shining light on the simple and profound truth of how good people abound in the world (past & present), I thought I’d share the report I put together, which I’ll be offering to my class tomorrow. The way I see it: we can all use some good-people-medicine and stand to be reminded about the power of heartfelt and authentic determination to do well by others.
Clarence Jordan was a white Baptist preacher who was described as a man with the zeal of a missionary. He was born in 1912 in Talbotton GA, and died of a heart attack at age 57, in 1969.
He graduated from Ag-college and then went on to seminary, where he earned a PhD in the Greek New Testament (and if I remember right, he only read the bible in Greek).
While at seminary, he met Florence Kroeger and they soon married and went on to have 4 children.
Clarence was a man of many interests and talents. I watched an interview where someone said that you didn’t want to mess with him – not because of his stature or powers of intimidation but because he was a man who bore the truth and lived diligently with his moral code in a way that few others did.
In 1942, Clarence founded Koinonia Farm (KF) in southwest GA, which was situated on 440-acres. Koinonia means: communion or fellowship, which in the 5th book of the New Testament is applied to the earliest Christian community.
Koinonia was established with his own family and one other family (growing to around 15 people in 1950 and onto around 60 people by 1957) on these 3 founding principles (in his own words):
– God is the Father of men, irrespective of their race and we agreed that we would hold to that, regardless of the consequences.
– The way of Christ was not the way of non-violence but the way of active goodwill.
– We’ve committed ourselves to the equality of the believers, economically and otherwise. (They had a common purse and renunciated all personal property.) He said: “Things & property have a tremendous ability to separate people, we wanted to get rid of that divisive wall. We want to meet the basis of need, not the basis of greed.”
So, Koinonia was a Christian agricultural based commune in Georgia that was open to whites and blacks and they experienced a great deal of backlash for their inclusion policy at that time. They were subject to threats, were ostracized, had shots fired into their property, their produce stand was attacked and later bombed, and in 1956 local businesses boycotted KF, which continued into the mid-60’s – so no one would buy from them or sell to them. They were dropped by insurance companies and were filed suit against as well. And in 1960, students from KF become the first whites in history of the US to be refused admittance to a local public school.
From Wikipedia: Jordan did not get involved in the marches or demonstrations of the Civil Rights Movement, “he believed the best way to effect change in society was by living, in community, a radically different life.”
One of things I enjoyed finding out was about his having started up a cow library. He noticed that there were many black families in the area with a lot of children and no access to a milk cow – so they set up a cow library, where people could come and check out a cow and keep it until it ran dry and then bring it back to check out another one.
KF was the launching pad for what would later, in 1976, become Habitat for Humanity, started by a couple who lived at KF. And on the current website for Habitat for Humanity, they describe Clarence Jordan as being their spiritual father, to which their operational headquarters in Americas, GA is named after.
KF is still in active operation and in 2012 they celebrated their 70 year anniversary. KF’s present day three main ministries are: hospitality, an internship program and demonstrating sustainable farming practices. Their focus is on Feeding the Hungry, both physically and spiritually. KF is a place of prayer and dialogue. It serves as a meeting ground for people of many different backgrounds to come together to work and study about issues of faith, community, and social justice.