Fuller Celebrates Martin Luther King, Jr.
Two-day summit, including a special chapel service, honors Dr. King
Travis Auditorium was packed on Wednesday, January 18, for an all-seminary chapel service celebrating Martin Luther King Jr., part of a two-day MLK Summit on campus, “Occupy the Promised Land: Perils and Possibilities Facing the Joshua Generation.”
The service began with a moving rendition of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” known as the national anthem for African Americans. Later, readings from Dr. King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” and from the apostle Paul’s letter to the Philippians, also written from prison, highlighted the uncanny parallels between the two great men and their missions.
Special guest Lawrence E. Carter, senior dean of the chapel at Morehouse College in Atlanta, Georgia, delivered the sermon, based on Joshua 2:24—when the spies reported back to Joshua, “The LORD has surely given the whole land into our hands.” Dr. Carter began with some comments on the Occupy movement that started on Wall Street in September 2011, speculating about what Dr. King would say to the “money men” the occupiers opposed. “Dr. King would argue that inequality harms and worsens each one of us,” Carter proposed.
“Some say we are in the Joshua generation,” said Carter, but stated that we must revisit King’s interpretation of the promised land. He pointed out that King’s promised land metaphor was an “expression of a worldwide vision beyond black and white,” which included economic and cultural stability, integration, and freedom from oppression.
In his last speech, and in the last chapter of his last book, Martin Luther King Jr. left a revised definition of his vision of the promised land. The new vision was “the inherited great world house,” Carter observed, “where once widely separated family must learn to live in harmony.”
“We have all inherited the world house,” said Carter, emphasizing King’s belief that all people are God’s chosen people—chosen and called to be part of the struggle. “Everybody is chosen because everybody is unconditionally a sacred personality,” said Carter, pointing out that the life and person of Jesus was the “most radical affirmation of humanity in the history of the world.”
Carter referred to the account of Jesus cleansing the temple, driving out those who had made it “big business” by cheating citizens through temple taxes. Jesus rose up against the exclusion and oppression happening in what was meant to be a house of prayer for all nations.
“I’m wondering if you know, here at Fuller,” said Carter, “the Jesus that Martin King knew—the Jesus who was all about inclusivity.” In the temple, he “dared to speak his father’s heart out loud.”
“You are an occupier,” Carter exhorted. “Just like Jesus, and just like his apostle, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.”
Lawrence Edward Carter was privately recruited to Morehouse College by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958. Over two decades later, Carter became the first dean of the college’s Martin Luther King Jr. International Chapel. Today he is professor of religion and college curator at Morehouse.
The 2012 MLK Summit, “Occupy the Promised Land,” was sponsored by Fuller’s African American Church Studies Program and the Africana Student Association. Other events included panel discussions and times for connection and fellowship among participants. Panelists and speakers included Fuller’s Lewis B. Smedes Professor of Christian Ethics Glen Stassen, Professor of Theology and Ethics Hak Joon Lee, Marcus Goodloe of Mosaic Church in South Bay, Occupy L.A. Representative Margaret Prescod, and Lawrence E. Carter.