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Mobilizing for the Common Good

The Lived Theology of John M. Perkins

Peter Slade

Publication Year: 2013

Born into a sharecropping family in New Hebron, Mississippi, in 1930, and only receiving a third-grade education, John M. Perkins has been a pioneering prophetic African American voice for reconciliation and social justice to America's white evangelical churches. Often an unwelcome voice and always a passionate, provocative clarion, Perkins persisted for forty years in bringing about the formation of the Christian Community Development Association--a large network of evangelical churches and community organizations working in America's poorest communities--and inspired the emerging generation of young evangelicals concerned with releasing the Church from its cultural captivity and oppressive materialism.

John M. Perkins has received surprisingly little attention from historians of modern American religious history and theologians. Mobilizing for the Common Good is an exploration of the theological significance of John M. Perkins. With contributions from theologians, historians, and activists, this book contends that Perkins ushered in a paradigm shift in twentieth-century evangelical theology that continues to influence Christian community development projects and social justice activists today.

Published by: University Press of Mississippi

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 2-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-xii

I first met John Perkins at the Thanksgiving workshop in Chicago in 1973 when a diverse group of evangelical leaders wrote “The Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern.” The majority of the participants were white evangelicals. But the gripping story of this daring, innovative black Christian—he and his wife, Vera Mae, ...

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pp. xiii-xviii

John M. Perkins is a truly extraordinary man whose history and influence defy easy categorization. An African American fundamentalist Bible teacher and preacher, a third grade dropout, a recipient of honorary doctorates from numerous universities and colleges, an adviser to presidents, an author, public speaker, entrepreneur, provocateur, and community developer, ...

Part I: Relocation—Considering the Journey

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The Black Apostle to White Evangelicals

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pp. 3-15

For John Perkins, the Apostle Paul has always been central to his theological core. In this essay I argue that as the apostle Paul was called to preach the gospel of reconciliation to the Gentile community in the first century, so, too, Perkins’s call has been to preach the Christian gospel of reconciliation, redistribution, and relocation ...

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The Church as Family and the Politics of Food Distribution

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pp. 16-31

In 1983 John M. Perkins was appointed to President Ronald Reagan’s Task Force on Food Assistance. This task force, which also included neoconservative author Midge Decter and former Massachusetts governor Edward King, was convened during an upsurge in interest in, and controversy about, hunger in the United States. ...

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Brotherhood and Its Limits

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pp. 32-59

In 1994 John Perkins and former Klansman Thomas Tarrants published He’s My Brother: Former Racial Foes Offer Strategy for Reconciliation. The book consists of alternating narratives and religious reflections of the two men as they describe how their journeys to overcome their own forms of hatred and to embrace similar understandings of racial reconciliation ...

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A Quiet Revolution and the Culture Wars

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pp. 60-80

The story of the civil rights movement dramatizes the moral failure and cultural captivity of the white evangelical church in the United States of America. Evangelicals’ active resistance to integration in the 1960s stemmed from their rejection of the social gospel movement and separation from modernist and progressive Protestants earlier that century. ...

Part II: Redistribution—Challenging the Church

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A Prophetic Vision in an Age of Profit

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pp. 83-92

The gospel message centered in Jesus involves sustained consideration of the economics of the kingdom. The apostle Paul writes, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). ...

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Between Two Gardens: An Organic Salvation for Community Development from the Biblical Narrative

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pp. 93-107

Between two gardens lies a plantation; it is a cursed garden, a sharecropper’s field. Between Eden and the new earth, there is the cursed land of thorns, thistles, and cotton, marked by the pain, toil, and sweat of the oppressed. This is the ground from which John Perkins sprouted. ...

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Religionless Ecclesiology and the Missional Church

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pp. 108-122

John Perkins reimagines the church as a movement for love and justice. In this imaginative proposal, Perkins delivers a challenge to evangelicals to move beyond institutional religion toward a prophetic evangelical faith in and for the world. In this gesture, Perkins’s theology has much in common with Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “religionless Christianity.” ...

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Lady, Give Me a Drink”: Reading Scripture, Shaping Community Development

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pp. 123-129

In 2009 John Perkins, an African American evangelical christian and civil rights activist, gave a presentation on the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) as part of an academic conference hosted by the Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia. ...

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Prophetic Ministry, the Prosperity Gospel, and Gentrification

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pp. 130-142

There is a book that I think many of you are familiar with: Divided by Faith. In that book, Christian Smith and Michael Emerson designate John Perkins as one of the founding fathers of the reconciliation movement in evangelical Christianity, and he is named as one of three black evangelical leaders who formed what I would call a reconciliation triumvirate: ...

Part III: Reconciliation—Continuing the Journey

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Communities of Resurrection and the Transformation of Bodies

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pp. 145-160

Much has been made, and rightly so, of John Perkins as a grassroots prophet of justice for the poor and marginalized. Yet whose justice? Reaching toward what end or purpose? During the American civil rights movement, Will Campbell argued in Race and the Renewal of the Church that in a world of racism and poverty, the church had adopted a largely humanitarian approach ...

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Love, Reconciliation, and the Solidarity of Pain

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pp. 161-168

I first met John Perkins when I was on staff at Willow Creek Community Church. Willow Creek is one of the most influential mega-churches in the United States and the world. While at Willow Creek, I was responsible for some of the ministries that were involved in compassion and justice in the city and around the country. ...

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Only Love Wins: Justice and Public Policy

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pp. 169-175

I found Jesus at a Sunday evening camp meeting in Erma, New Jersey, in August 1983. After listening to the preacher bellow a hell-fire and brimstone message that lit up aged trees surrounding our tent meeting, I sat planted in my seat wondering if I should uproot myself and walk forward. ...

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Moving toward the Next Evangelicalism

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pp. 176-188

Several years ago on a frigid January evening I found myself in the back of a Boston police squad car. Just to be clear, I was not under arrest. I was part of an effort by the Boston Ten-Point Coalition to curb gang violence in our city. Armed with my clerical collar, I was teamed with a police officer to visit at-risk youth in the community. ...

Appendix A: Let Justice Roll Down: A Conversation with John Perkins

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pp. 189-202

Appendix B: The Four Ministries of the Holy Spirit

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pp. 203-212


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pp. 213-216

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pp. 217-236

The editors of this volume want to thank all the participants in the 2009 Spring Institute for Lived Theology, particularly John Perkins for his generous and inspiring presence. We are grateful to Noel Castellanos for enabling us to hold a panel discussion on the legacy of John Perkins at the Christian Community Development Association’s annual meeting in Cincinnati that same year. ...


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pp. 218-224

About the Editors

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p. 244-244

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039655
E-ISBN-10: 162103965X
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617038594

Page Count: 240
Publication Year: 2013