United Methodists declare MLK Jr. a modern-day martyr

Delegates at the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church May 1 declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a modern-day martyr.

The historic vote was in keeping with a decision at the 2008 General Conference giving the German theologian the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer the same distinction.

King, who gave his life for the betterment of all people, will be listed with Bonhoeffer in the Book of Resolutions to bear witness to all people of faith in printed and digital form.

“Dr. King gave of himself to bring a message of hope to the world. His martyrdom set him apart. His love and his sacrifice must be remembered in a significant way by the church for future generations,” the declaration reads.

A graduate of Boston Theological Seminary, a United Methodist-related institution, King is perhaps the most well-known leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech.

In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2004).

Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a national holiday in 1986.


Skip to comment form

  1. Billie Dalton

    This distinction is long overdue in the United Methodist Church. For three hours today was agreat time of fellowship with my colleague from the African Methodist Church. We shared our commitment to the ideals of MLK since we stand in a pulpit made holy by King preaching in it during his only visit to our city. This is one bright spot on what seems like a dimly lit General Conference.

    1. Alan Swartz

      Billie, why is this a “dimly lit General Conference”??

      1. PerryA

        MLK, nor any man has made a pulpit holy. Only God makes it Holy.

        1. Joey Reed

          Holiness sets something apart. Human behavior was described in the Old Testament as either being in keeping with that set apart nature or defiling it.

          A member of the priesthood, indeed, was required to re-establish holiness when and if that holiness were lost.

          Though you can make a good argument that the holiness laws have been reduced because of the nature of Christ’s work, holiness still applies as a term and idea. For example, the Holy Bible, set apart for a specific purpose.

          Dr. King’s profound sermons from many a pulpit reminded us all that a pulpit is set aside for the ministry of the Gospel. This also pointed out that our pulpits had often been compromised (defiled) by weak preaching, conciliatory speech, and outright hatred. In that way, Dr. King did bring holiness to the pulpit.

          And so should we all, whether to a pulpit when preaching, or to the streets when speaking, or to the offices when working, or the schools when learning. Our lives have been set apart for a purpose. May our holiness of heart and mind contribute to the coming of the Kingdom around us.

Leave a Reply