Reiff (left), WaitsHow can seminarians and church leaders apply lessons from the Civil Rights era to the church and world we live in today? Candler alumnus Joseph T. Reiff 80T 92G will be on campus at the end of March to discuss this question as it relates to his new book, Born of Conviction: White Methodists and Mississippi’s Closed Society (Oxford University Press, 2015), which tells the story of 28 white Methodist ministers in Mississippi who spoke out against school segregation and racial intolerance at the height of the white South’s resistance to the Civil Rights Movement. The pastors wrote and signed the “Born of Conviction” statement, which was published in the Mississippi Methodist Advocate on January 2, 1963, seeking to bring white Methodists into the conversation on the need for racial justice.

born of convictionOne of the drafters and signers of the statement was Professor Emeritus of Theology James L. Waits, who served as dean of Candler from 1978 to 1991. Waits will join Reiff for a panel discussion on Tuesday, March 29 from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in Cannon Chapel. “Born of Conviction: Moral Courage and Religious Leadership in the Civil Rights Era and Today” will center on the role of the church in society, particularly in response to injustice, inequality, and human suffering. Robert M. Franklin, James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Candler, and Bobbi Patterson, professor of pedagogy in the Emory College of Arts and Sciences’ department of religion, will also serve as panelists.

“Moral leaders pursue alternatives to the status quo that are informed by their understandings of God, the church's moral responsibilities, and the urgent needs of oppressed people,” says Franklin. “Born of Conviction illustrates how such leadership may be exercised and the costs of that discipleship. Our zeitgeist may require that we discover, retrieve and apply the wisdom and courage of those inspiring church leaders.”

A native of Mississippi, Reiff has served as a pastor in the Mississippi Conference of The United Methodist Church, and is currently professor of religion and chair of the religion department at Emory & Henry College in Virginia.

The March 29 panel discussion is free and open to the public. Registration is encouraged. Register here. Cannon Chapel is located on the campus of Emory University, at 515 S. Kilgo Circle, Atlanta, GA 30322. The event is sponsored by Emory’s Office of Religious and Spiritual Life, Office of Health Promotions, History Department, the James Weldon Johnson Institute, and Candler’s Laney Legacy in Moral Leadership Program.

Candler students will have a special opportunity to meet with Reiff on Wednesday, March 30, for a lunchtime conversation about the lessons of the past and the meaning of courage, conviction, and moral leadership in the church today. Registration is required, and space is limited. Lunch will be provided for all who register by March 25. Students register here.