Synopses & Reviews
On April 16th, 1963, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from a Birmingham Jail was published and soon became the manifesto of the civil rights movement. Dr. King did not pick up his pen and react to hate filled racists. Instead, he found any scrap of paper that he could write on and responded to the passive pleas of white clergy, “Isn’t there another way around this, a more subtle and patient way? Can’t you just wait, Dr. King?”
Over the half century that has elapsed since the publication of Letter from a Birmingham Jail, much has transpired and progress has been made. Long gone are the burning crosses, biting police dogs and angry mobs; in its place we find passivity, cynicism and avoidance. In God’s sovereignty, voices from today’s church have emerged declaring that we cannot wait. These diverse voices are grateful for the laws that the civil rights movement were able to change, but also acknowledge that while the movement could change laws, it could never change hearts. Only the cross and empty tomb of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ can do that.
Letters to a Birmingham Jail is a collection of essays written by men of various ethnicities and ages, yet all are committed to the centrality of the gospel, nudging us to pursue Christ exalting diversity. The gospel demands justice in all its forms - spiritual and physical. This was a truth that Dr. King fought and gave his life for, and this is a truth that these modern day “drum majors for justice” continue to beat.
Contributors include: Bryan Loritts (General Editor), John Piper, John Perkins, Matt Chandler, Crawford Loritts, Sandy Wilson, Charlie Dates, John Bryson, Soong Chan Rah, & Albert Tate
This important book addresses an issue many assume resides outside of evangelical concerns: racial reconciliation in America. Reigniting Martin Luther King’s challenge to do the hard work of racial justice now, the articles in this volume boldly consider what might be done to effectively respond to a still “racialized” country. An overriding theme of fellowship is woven within this timely volume, encouraging the eager reader, evangelical or not, to imagine anew a beloved community of racial inclusion at the looming sunset of the Obama era. In a most brilliant move, this book calls for evangelicals to carry on the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement while expanding its limitations. It acknowledges that changing legislation is but one step toward racial reconciliation for a people with, as W.E.B. DuBois once eloquently put it, “unreconciled strivings” and “warring ideals.” This volume offers the Bible as a potent tonic to change and cure the depraved heart regarding racial equality.
Derek S. Hicks, Assistant Professor, School of Divinity, Wake Forest University
This collection of personal narratives by gifted Christian leaders—black and white—strikes a blow against indifference to racism and advances the cause of Christ-exalting diversity in the church. Letters to a Birmingham Jail looks forward as well as back, addressing the ethnic conflicts of a new generation. It does not seek answers from culture but from the gospel, which transforms both our vertical relationship (with God) and our horizontal relationships (with one another).
Dr. Philip G. Ryken, President, Wheaton College
If it were within my means, I'd buy 100,000 copies of Letters to a Birmingham Jail and give them away to pastors and Christians all across America. This book is just that important to the future of Christianity in America. Be warned though:the borders of your present reality will breached by the flood of truth that overflows out of every page. You will be called into a deeper, more beautiful, gospel story that births missional, gospel-centered, multiethnic churches.
Derwin L. Gray, Lead Pastor, Transformation Church Author of Limitless Life: You Are More Than Your Past When God Holds Your Future
Letters to a Birmingham Jail provides a thermostatic rather than a thermometeristic approach to the church's response to inequity and injustice within the world it serves to adjust rather than to acknowledge the social temperature. It is bathed in a Christo-conciliatory solution that fosters authentic racial reconciliation within the church, thus serving as a headlight rather than a taillight to the world.
This book advocates gospelizing the social—that is, letting the gospel subversively address the social problems within our world rather than socializing the gospel—making the gospel subservient to the social methodologies employed to address the problems within our world. The soil of this volume carries within it the seeds of the ministry of Jesus that must be cultivated if the church is to lead the way to a true and biblical revolution that engages this world's dilemma. I enthusiastically endorse this work.
Dr. Robert Smith, Professor of Divinity, Samford University
Bryan Loritts has assembled a wonderful group of ethnically diverse church leaders to respond to the now famous letter from the pen of Martin Luther King Jr., which, though written from a Birmingham jail in 1963, continues to appear timeless and relevant today. In response to King's well-known letter, these influential leaders seek to advance the issues raised in that letter by addressing both the vertical and horizontal dimensions of themes such as gospel, church, race, diversity, and racial reconciliation. Each chapter in the volume offers insightful guidance, providing a beautifully harmonized chorus that will challenge readers to think, live, and serve Christianly in a more faithful way in whatever context they may find themselves. The result is a powerful, probing, prophetic, convicting, biblically grounded, gospel-centered, culturally sensitive, interculturally competent, illuminating, helpful, and hopeful book, which I gladly and heartily recommend.
David S. Dockery, President, Union University
In the spirit of King's iconic Letter fifty years ago, Letters to a Birmingham Jail calls us to contend with the slow, hard work of building a Christ-centered church—one that challenges us to do continual battle with the earthly divisions that diminish all who profess the name of Christ. This book is essential reading.
Charles W. McKinney, Jr., Associate Professor of History, Director, African American Studies, Rhodes College
More than fifty years ago, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his Letter from a Birmingham Jail. Much has transpired in the half-century since, and progress has been made in the issues that were close to Dr. King’s heart. Thankfully, the burning crosses, biting police dogs, and angry mobs of that day are long gone. But in their place, passivity has emerged. A passivity that must be addressed.
That’s the aim of Letters to a Birmingham Jail. A collection of essays written by men of various ethnicities and ages, this book encourages us to pursue Christ exalting diversity. Each contribution recognizes that only the cross and empty tomb of Christ can bring true unity, and each notes that the gospel demands justice in all its forms. This was a truth that Dr. King fought and gave his life for, and this is a truth that these modern day "e;drum majors for justice"e; continue to beat.
About the Author
BRYAN LORITTS is the Lead Pastor of Fellowship Memphis Church, a multi-ethnic church ministering to the urban Memphis community. Bryan has a Master¿s Degree in Theology and is currently working on his PhD. In addition to serving the community of Memphis, Bryan¿s ministry takes him across the country as he speaks to thousands annually at churches, conferences, and retreats. He is the author of God on Paper and A Cross Shaped Gospel. He was also a contributing author for the book entitled Great Preaching. Bryan was recently voted as one of the top thirty emerging Christian leaders in the country by Outreach magazine. He serves on the Board of Trustees at Biola University. Bryan is married to Korie, and is the father of three sons: Quentin, Myles, and Jaden. You can follow Bryan on twitter @bcloritts.