Monday, April 30, 2018

James Cone, 1938-2018

I once taught a seminary class with James Cone, but I never met him. Let me explain.

Ten or so years ago Dr Leah Fitchue of Payne Theological Seminary contacted me. I was already friends with Dr Fitchue
who is, in my mind, one of the greatest leaders I have ever met. (I taught under her in the doctoral program at Palmer Theological Seminary in Philadelphia.)

Dr Fitchue was the President of Payne Seminary. She was the first African American woman president of one of the member schools of The Association of Theological Schools (ATS) and the first woman to serve as president of any historically black theological seminary—Payne Theological Seminary, a 160-year old institution sponsored by the African Methodist Episcopal Church. (See here.)

Payne was offering a one-week intensive course on Transformational Leadership. The first four days would be taught by two of the greatest black theologians ever, Dr Cone, and Dr Deotis Roberts. The fifth day, said Dr Fitchue, would be taught by me. She wanted me to give the students a one-day closing class on spiritual formation and transformation, and being led by the Spirit of God. I accepted. What an honor!

I had already read some of Cone's books, such as A Black Theology of Liberation, God of the Oppressed, and Black Theology and Black Power. I was hoping to meet him that week, but I came in late Thursday evening and left immediately after class on Friday.

For me, this experience led to teaching spiritual formation at Payne in their Masters program. 

Today I read that Dr Cone died. Immediately thoughts of his recent book came to me, The Cross and the Lynching Tree. Read it, if you dare, and weep. And confess. Repent. And join the exodus of God's oppressed people as he leads them into the promised land of God's kingdom.