Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Preacher of Peace Passed Away

"Rev. Will Campbell, 88; civil rights rebel, societal provocateur" by Robert D. McFadden |  New York Times, June 05, 2013

NEW YORK — The Rev. Will D. Campbell, a renegade preacher and author who joined the civil rights struggle in the 1950s, quit organized religion, and fought injustice with nonviolent protests and a storyteller’s arsenal of autobiographical tales and fictional histories, died Monday night in Nashville. He was 88....

Followers and friends called Rev. Campbell hilarious, profound, inspiring, and apocalyptic, a bourbon-drinking, guitar-picking, down-home country boy who made moonshine and stomped around his Tennessee cabin in cowboy boots and denim, uttering streams of sacred and profane commentary that found its way into books, articles, lectures, and sermons.

“Brother Will, as he was called by so many of us who knew him, made his own indelible mark as a minister and social activist in service to marginalized people of every race, creed, and calling,” former president Jimmy Carter said.

The son of Mississippi cotton farmers, Rev. Campbell grew up in a backwater of segregated schools, churches, and cracker-barrel country stores where men chewed tobacco and spat bigotry. He was ordained a Baptist minister at 17 and attended three colleges and Yale Divinity School before embarking on an unsatisfying life as a small-town pastor and then chaplain at the University of Mississippi. He left Ole Miss amid death threats over his integrationist views.

As a race-relations troubleshooter for the National Council of Churches from 1956 to 1963, he joined the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., Rev. Ralph Abernathy, and other civil rights luminaries in historic confrontations across the South.

Rev. Campbell was the only white person invited by King to the founding of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta in 1957....

Widening his horizons in the 1960s, he protested involvement in the Vietnam War, helped draft resisters find sanctuaries, spoke against capital punishment, and turned against politics, government, and institutions in general for failing to provide solutions to the nation’s social problems.

And look where we are now! The institutions have completely failed.

His belief that Christ died for bigots as well as devout people prompted his contacts with the Ku Klux Klan, and he visited James Earl Ray in prison after the 1968 assassination of King. He was widely criticized for both actions.

In later years, Rev. Campbell campaigned for equal rights for women, gays, and lesbians and turned increasingly to writing....

In 2000, Rev. Campbell received the National Endowment for the Humanities medal from President Clinton and was profiled in a PBS documentary, “God’s Will,” narrated by Ossie Davis....

I'm not crazy about those last two; however, they don't spoil a lifetime of work.