January 17, 2019
This Monday we celebrate a national holiday, the commemoration of Martin Luther King, Jr. Does the Episcopal Church have a commemoration for him, and was he not a Baptist?
The impact of Dr. King on the Civil Rights movement in the United States was unparalleled and enormous. He somehow called us to engage our better and holier selves, both civically and religiously. He is commemorated in the Episcopal Church, either on this coming Monday, the third Monday in January, or on April 4. And yes, he was a Baptist.
There was a time when the calendar of saints anticipated by the BCP were either Anglicans in good standing or Ecumenical Saints before the Church started dividing itself up into Western and Eastern and Protestant and Roman Catholic. The General Convention's 2006 approval for discerning whether or not a person is qualified for the calendar is:
- Historicity. Christianity is a radically historical religion, so in almost every instance it is exemplary witness to the Gospel of Christ in lives actually lived that is commemorated in the Calendar.
- Christian Discipleship. The death of the saints is the ultimate witness to the power of the Resurrection. What is being commemorated is the completion in death of a particular Christian's living out of the promises of baptism. Baptism is a necessary prerequisite for inclusion in the Calendar.
- Significance. Those commemorated should have been in their lifetime extraordinary, even heroic servants of God and God's people for the sake, and after the example, of Jesus Christ. In this way they have testified to the Lordship of Christ over all of history.
- Memorability. The Calendar should include those who, through their devotion to Christ and their joyful and loving participation in the community of the faithful, deserve to be remembered by the Episcopal Church today.
- Range of Inclusion. Particular attention should be paid to Episcopalians and other members of the Anglican Communion. Attention should also be paid to gender and race, to the inclusion of laypeople, and to ecumenical representation.
- Local Observance. Similarly, it should normatively be the case that significant commemoration of a particular person already exists at the local and regional levels.
- Perspective. It should normatively be the case that a person be included in the Calendar only after two generations or fifty years have elapsed since that person's death.
An honest review of the above criteria points to a conclusion that Dr. King as a Saint for all Christians. Take time this weekend to reflect of the life of Dr. King and the work still to be done for us to see Christ in all persons, loving our neighbors as ourselves.