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Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Dr. King's Birthday Celebration in Dallas

The Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday turned out to be memorable for me this year.

Dr. Ron Anderson, CEO of the Parkland Health and Hospital System, invited me to speak to his administrative leadership team as a part of their annual celebration of Dr. King's life. It was an honor for me to be involved with this amazing group of community leaders and healers.

Ron Anderson is among the top hospital/health care leaders in the nation.

Dr. Ron is much, much more than an administrator.

He still wears his white coat and makes rounds among his patients.

If you get to know him at all, you realize that his work is accomplished in response to what he regards as a personal call on his life. He is about a mission of faith. Ron describes our public hospital system as the "Samaritan's Inn" of Dallas.

My assignment for the celebration speech was interesting. The invitation e-mail laid out my task in a couple of simple questions:

How did the work of Dr. King affect your career, ministry and leadership style?

How are you addressing the issues of race today as a result?

I have to tell you that reflecting on those questions helped me to realize just how much Dr. King has shaped my life, worldview and ministry over the years. As I rehearsed the stages and phases of my life, it was surprising just how deeply I've been touched and changed by Dr. King. Over the next few weeks I will revisit some of his writings and speeches for daily reflection sake. No doubt, some of what I re-discover will most likely show up here.

In the evening I attended a more formal event to honor Dr. King. The Dallas Institute of Humanities and Culture presented a scholarly symposium, "Leader, Scholar, Theologian: The Legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr."

Central Dallas Ministries was proud to be listed as a community organization co-sponsor of the event.

Brian Johnson, Associate Professor of English at Claflin University in Orangeburg, South Carolina, presented a paper dealing with the theological significance of Dr. King.

Dr. Clayborne Carson, History Professor at Stanford University and Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Papers Project discussed the role of King as leader and scholar.

The evening was fascinating.

Dr. Carson set King in an international context that spanned the entire 20th century. He noted that King's historic work for liberation and justice was rooted in this very pragmatic understanding of the Kingdom of God.

King's hard-nosed pragmatism always led him to action for the poor, the oppressed and the marginalized.

King's effective and powerful practicality seems to be sadly absent from most of today's expressions of faith and values among our churches, as well as among those who tend to dominate our current national conversation about such matters.

I remain profoundly grateful for Dr. King.

It is a very good thing to stop and to remember his life and his amazing work.


JBS said...

A few years ago my brother and I went to a sermon seminar in Atlanta and got to spend an afternoon at the King Center. Tears streamed down my face as I watched old videos of famous King speeches and read some of his work. I was given a vision of what preaching can do...a model of how the Word might still have power. So often it feels like preaching falls on deaf ears and doesn't really spark change, but when you look at how King employed key images from Scripture in ways that launched a movement. His example offered me a model of what ministry can be and do. Thanks for continuing the tribute even though the holiday has ended.

whoiam said...

see for an MLK song.