“Who Lynched Willie Earle?” Conference at Wofford College

SPARTANBURG, S.C.Wofford College will host a conference on South Carolina’s last lynching, the subsequent trial, a courageous sermon and the continuing challenge of preaching to confront racist. The Feb. 17 event will feature the launch of the book “Who Lynched Willie Earle: Preaching to Confront Racism,” written by Dr. Will Willimon, a 1968 Wofford graduate and retired United Methodist bishop. Continue reading

Lord, Forgive Us the Sin of Patience

This post originally appeared with Religion News Service. Please note that Bishop Willimon will also be speaking at the MLK Jr Day Celebration in Ferguson, Missouri.

December 1955, Holt Street Baptist Church, Montgomery, Ala.

That day, a courageous community activist, Rosa Parks, had been forced off a city bus and jailed.

That night, a hurt, angry crowd of people gathered at Holt Street to discuss the situation.

Speakers noted that what happened that day was simply the way things were done in Montgomery. Racial segregation and white supremacy controlled every aspect of Alabama life. What could anybody do with a man like Big Jim Folsom in charge of the state? Face facts, prominent clergy and laity said as they shook their heads, clenched their fists and lamented.

Then someone turned to the new young preacher in town, fresh from a great run at Morehouse and Boston University, and asked him to say a word. Continue reading

Christian Talk about the Sin of Racism


During February Abingdon Press will publish my, Who Lynched Earle?  Preaching to Confront Racism.  The book is a “labor of love,” a tragedy that has captured my imagination over a lifetime, a topic that has been one of my major concerns. 

Who Lynched Earle? opens with a lynching in my hometown when I was one year old.  After the lynching, a young Methodist preacher, Hawley Lynn, preached a courageous, historic sermon to his all white congregation in the South Carolina town where the lynching occurred.  I move from a narrative of that great sermon to an appeal to white preachers like me to preach to their mostly white congregations about the sin of racism. 

We are having a day-long conference with scholars, bishops, and students at Wofford College in Spartanburg, S.C. on February 17 (seventieth anniversary of the lynching of Willie Earle) to talk about the book and its concerns. 

 For the next few weeks, I’ll be running excerpts from Who Lynched Earle?

Continue reading

Willimon to Lead M.L. King Celebration in Ferguson, Missouri

wellspring_mlk_celebrationProfessor Will Willimon will be the keynote speaker for the Martin Luther King Jr Day commemoration in Ferguson Missouri.  The day includes a morning gathering for students, middle school and above and an afternoon in which Willimon will lead local clergy in strategizing to promote Christian conversation about race in their churches.  The day will conclude with a community-wide service at 6:30 pm in which Willimon will speak.

The day is being sponsored by two dynamic, multicultural congregations, Wellspring Church in Ferguson, Missouri  and The Gathering in Clayton, Missouri in partnership with The Walker Leadership Institute at Eden Theological Seminary.

Participants will have the opportunity to discuss issues of justice in order to prepare to commit acts of justice. Will Willimon, retired Bishop and professor of the Practice of Christian Ministry at Duke Divinity School is one of America’s most influential mainline Protestantism preachers. A white Southerner who describes himself as a “recovering racist,” Willimon is a frequent collaborator of Theologian Stanley Hauerwas. His 2016 release, Fear of the Other: No Fear in Love, is regarded as an essential book for Christians called to love others, even when we see the world in very different ways.  Next month, Abingdon Press will publish Willimon’s Who Lynched Willie Earle: Preaching to Confront Racism.

A series of community dialogues are being held across St. Louis in people’s homes and centers of worship in order to prepare for the public events.  Dr. Willis Johnson, whose book, Holding Up Your Corner, has been hailed by Willimon as one of the most useful and challenging resources for congregations that want to hold fruitful conversations about our racial and cultural divides.

More information and registration are available at WellspringChurchSTL@gmail.com.


Alien Citizens: Karl Barth, Eberhard Arnold, and Why the Church Is Political

In Resident Aliens, their influential 1989 book, Will Willimon and co-author Stanley Hauerwas laid out a bracing vision of how to live Christianly in contemporary society. Where can Christians find guidance in the challenging times ahead? Plough asked the retired United Methodist bishop, now a Duke Divinity School professor, for his insights. This story was originally published with Plough Magazine, and can be found here.

Continue reading

An Appeal to Christians Regarding President-Elect Donald Trump

This Appeal can be read in its entirety and supported at appealtochristians.com.

In these times of difficult conversations and sometimes fractious words, we celebrate the political diversity of our churches. We are thankful that the U.S. church is not beholden to any political party.

Since November’s presidential election some in the American church have rejoiced that their candidate won (or that the other candidate lost), some are cautiously at ease with the results, and still others remain in a state of shock and anger at the election results.

Whatever the varied reactions, we believe our time calls for a prophetic word. Continue reading

Writing to King Herod: An Open Letter from Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove

While I was sitting in my office writing my piece on “Troubled Herod,” unknown to me Jonathan-Wilson Hartgrove was in Wake County Jail writing a letter to Herod.  Through the efforts of thousands of North Carolina Christians like Jonathan, we have at last been delivered of the infamous “bathroom bill” and a Governor who has so greatly damaged our state public educational system.  As I have said, now is a time not for reconciliation, civility, and facile unity but a time for resistance and rebuke.  Jonathan is doing that!  (In my forthcoming, Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism, I laud Jonathan’s Free to be Bound: Church Beyond the Color-Line as one of the most encouraging books on a truly Christian response to racism.) Continue reading