Civil rights leader Lowery urges United Methodist seminarians to vote

By Larry R. Hygh Jr.*

ATLANTA (UMNS) —“I’m gonna die with my boots on,” declared the Rev. Joseph E. Lowery during Gammon Theological Seminary’s Trailblazers and Prophetic Leaders Banquet.

The Rev. Joseph E. Lowery is honored by Gammon Theological Seminary. He urged those in attendance to vote. Photo by Natalie Reed.

Lowery, 91, was awarded the United Methodist-related seminary’s 2012 Trailblazer and Prophetic Leader Award during the schools 129th Founders’ Day celebration. Lowery, who accepted the award on Oct. 16, the night of the second presidential debate, told the more than 300 people gathered that he only had one thing on his mind, voting.

“I hope you get fired up… . We gotta turn out to vote,” Lowery said. “We’ve got to get out and hustle this time. When you go back home, turn out everybody you know.”

He added, “God can turn this country around… . God is able.”

Lowery is a leader in the American civil rights movement and a retired United Methodist pastor. Lowery helped lead the Montgomery bus boycott after Rosa Parks’ arrest in 1955. In 1957, along with the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., he founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and led the organization as president from 1977 to 1997. President Barack Obama awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009, the nation’s highest civilian honor.

The Rev. Albert D. Mosley, the 15th president-dean of Gammon, said, “From its infancy in the early 1880s, issues of equality and racial justice have been at the center of who, and what, Gammon is as an institution.”

He added, “Dr. Lowery has been on the forefront of the fight for equality and racial justice and we honor his lifelong commitment to the cause.”

In 2008, after his historic election as the United States’ first African-American president, then President-elect Barack Obama called and personally invited Lowery to deliver the benediction at the inauguration. Lowery recalled standing on the stage on the steps of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 20, 2009, facing the Lincoln Memorial. He said he could not see that far, but he recalled the voice of King delivering the “I Have a Dream” speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in 1963.

Lowery said, “They didn’t vote on race and color; they voted on content and character.”

During the banquet, the Rev. Bernice Kirkland was named the 2012 Distinguished Alumna.  Kirkland is an ordained elder in the North Georgia Annual (regional) Conference, where she serves as the pastor of Hoosier Memorial United Methodist Church. Her pastoral appointments have been diverse, including chaplain residency, cross-racial ministry and congregations experiencing historic change. She serves the North Georgia Conference on district and conference level in various capacities.

This year, the seminary also presented a 2012 Emerging Trailblazer award to the Rev. Olujimi “Olu” Brown. Brown is the lead pastor and founder of Impact United Methodist Church in Atlanta. He established Impact Church in January 2007 and attendance has grown to more than 500 weekly in just one of its three weekly worship services.

Gammon Theological Seminary, affectionately called by alumni, “The School of the Prophets,” is in Atlanta and is the United Methodist constituent member of the Interdenominational Theological Center (ITC), a consortium of six historically African-American theological schools.  Founded in 1883 by the Methodist Episcopal Church and with assistance from the Freedman’s Aid Society, Gammon Theological Seminary is one of the 13 theological schools of the United Methodist Church.

*Hygh is the associate general secretary, director of communications, for the United Methodist Board of Global Ministries. He also serves on the board of trustees of Gammon.



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  1. d

    Everyone should vote.
    Everyone should do a little study on who is saying what and who is supporting who.

    Lowery supports same sex marriage and is pro-abortion.
    He supports the Obama platform.
    Rev. Joseph E. Lowery received an award from Standing-up for Social Equity on November 11, 2010. Lowery is quoted as saying, ““we always need agitators and we need to train up agitators in the way they need to go. You don’t need just old agitators because they get tired; you need new young agitators…”

    Rev. Lowery Inauguration benediction. Transcript is available on-line and included the following.
    Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around — (laughter) — when yellow will be mellow — (laughter) — when the red man can get ahead, man — (laughter) — and when white will embrace what is right.

    The whitey comment is little insulting.

  2. NyukWoob

    And Methodist leaders lament that 92% of the membership is white. I was delighted to accommodate them by drastically reducing my attendance. Since I’m a paid musician, I’ll only attend when I am duly compensated, and thus in my best interest to do so.

  3. Cynthia

    Joe Lowery has invested his entire life ministry in lifting up the lowly, finding inclusion for the marginalized and preaching and witnessing to the Gospel of Jesus Christ that is Love. Congratulations Rev. Lowery for this welled-deserved award–you have inspired and mentored a multitude of faith leaders.

  4. Jackson Day

    The article is about Lowery advocating that seminarians vote. The comments are attacks on Lowery unrelated to the article. And they are anonymous, which in my book is the same thing as cowardly. I don’t believe there is any place for off-topic personal attacks, and to be cowardly anonymous simply compounds it. They should be removed. Jackson Day, Columbia, MD

  5. Michael L. Kundrat

    We tread dangerous waters with regard to the UMC’s IRS status as a charitable, non-taxed institution when we “favor” candidates. This election is not about Obama’s race or Romney’s religion. It is about who can best move this nation out of the economic doldrums we currently are in. AS we learned with the IRS and the Schedule C and Schedule A CONFLICTS WITH REGARD TO PASTORal DEDUCTIONS….Our leaders would do well to reflect on lifting up their personal choices to Institutional Endorsements … for all our sakes. Dr. Lowery is entitled to his own views and preferences, TO DISAGREE WITH HIM IS NOT TO BE RACIST. President Obama is neither qualified nor disqualified by his race, which is mixed white and African-American….let’s not make that the issue of election or rejection for a second term.

  6. Judy Anderson Hamby

    I am incensed by this blatant attempt to encourage our Methodist seminarians to vote for Barack Obama. Mr. Obama is, in my opinion, the very worst president ever in the history of our country. Obama does NOT care about our country – all he cares about is himself and his ego. I am more than a little bit angry. How does the Methodist church get by with such drivel? If my pastor encouraged voting for Obama I fear he would be OUT on his rear end before the day was over. However, my pastor would NOT do anything as callas.

  7. Bruce Davis

    I voted for Obama in 2008 and may well do so again. But I question the appropriateness of UMNS running what comes across as a campaign endorsement.

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