More than 60 autumns ago, a young Atlantan named Martin Luther King Jr. arrived to start graduate school at Boston University. There, he fell under the influence of a theologian, Howard Thurman, who taught him about Gandhian nonviolence. That concept became one of Dr. King’s guiding principles in the civil rights movement.
On a brilliant fall morning this Sunday, a torch of black Christianity was passed to another minister, scholar and son of Atlanta, who was born five years after Dr. King’s death, the Rev. Jonathan L. Walton. In a combined worship service and installation ceremony, Mr. Walton took on the position of Pusey minister of the Memorial Church at Harvard, a pulpit of importance inside and outside the university.
Mr. Walton’s appointment, which also includes an endowed professorship of Christian morals, forms part of a generational transition in the African-American church.
Ministers and theologians who came of age during the civil rights era are being supplanted by those, like Mr. Walton, 39, of elite universities, the diversity movement and hip-hop culture. To underscore how much else has changed at Harvard, Mr. Walton was formally given the pulpit Sunday by Drew Gilpin Faust, Harvard’s first female president.
His contemporaries include the religion scholars Eddie Glaude Jr. of Princeton University and Josef Sorett of Columbia University, prominent congregational leaders like the Rev. Otis Moss III of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago and the Obama administration’s head of faith-based partnerships, the Rev. Joshua DuBois.
Read the rest here