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Martin Luther King, Jr. - Career in Ministry

"Preaching Ministry"

During his first term at Crozer Theological Seminary, King submitted this handwritten outline for Robert E. Keighton’s course Preaching Ministry of the Church.1 The outline reveals King's early commitment to addressing societal needs and ills: “I must be concerned about unemployment, [slums], and economic insecurity. I am a profound advocator of the social gospel.” Keighton marked the paper B+.

Martin Luther King, Sr., to Charles E. Batten

King, Sr.’s letter of recommendation to Crozer speaks highly of his son’s abilities and achievements: entering college at the age of fifteen and being ordained and appointed associate pastor of Ebenezer Baptist Church at eighteen. He mentions Mays, professor of philosophy Samuel Williams, and professor of religion Lucius M. Tobin who knew King, Jr., as a student at Morehouse.

Certification of Minister's License for Martin Luther King, Jr.

Lillian Watkins, the secretary at Ebenezer Baptist Church, sent this brief letter to Crozer Theological Seminary to verify King’s status as a licensed minister as requested in the application. Watkins states that King is to be ordained on 18 February 1948, but in his letter of 5 March recommending his son to Crozer, King, Sr., notes that the ordination was on 25 February.

To Whom it may Concer:

A Walk Through the Holy Land, Easter Sunday Sermon Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

As King recounts his recent visit to the Middle East, he recalls falling to his knees and weeping during a visit to Calvary. He observes that Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross was “something that nobody could demand him to do,” making him “a man who had the amazing capacity to be obedient to unenforceable obligations.” King tells his congregation that the cross is ultimately a symbol of hope: “We’ve been buried in numerous graves—the grave of economic insecurity, the grave of exploitation, the grave of oppression. We’ve watched justice trampled over and truth crucified.

Palm Sunday Sermon on Mohandas K. Gandhi, Delivered at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

Returning to his pulpit after an absence of nearly two months, King discusses the life of Gandhi, suggesting that “more than anybody else in the modern world” he had “caught the spirit of Jesus Christ, and lived it more completely in his life.” Referring to Gandhi as one of Jesus’s “other sheep," he observes that “it is one of the strange ironies of the modern world that the greatest Christian of the twentieth century was not a member of the Christian church.” King continues by comparing the lives of three martyred leaders, Jesus, Gandhi, and Abraham Lincoln, noting that

Draft, Resignation from Dexter Avenue Baptist Church

King announced his resignation following Sunday services at Dexter and may have used this handwritten draft to frame his remarks. According to a news account, after King spoke three elderly women stood up in protest and looked about “to see if others would join them.” Twelve parishioners eventually rose to demonstrate. One man explained: “We weren’t just going to give him up without some kind of fight. But we were not against him, we just wanted to show our regret.”1


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