Prophets and Priests in Their Own Country: Mississippi Conference Methodists and the 1963 "Born of Conviction" Statement

Team Members/Contributors

Joseph T. Reiff Emory & Henry College Contact Me

About this religious institutions discontinued

I propose to complete the research for and begin writing a book which explores the ways the white Mississippi Conference of the Methodist Church responded to the social upheaval caused by the Civil Rights Movement in the early 1960’s. Primary focus for the study is the January, 1963, publication of the “Born of Conviction” statement in the Conference newspaper, calling for freedom of the pulpit and reminding the Church of the Methodist Discipline’s claim that the teachings of Jesus “[permit] no discrimination because of race, color, or creed.” Signed by 28 ministers, the statement caused a firestorm of controversy, and 19 of the signers left the Conference, most within the next 18 months. This interdisciplinary historical and practical theological study will use a variety of source materials, including interviews with the surviving signers and family members of those who are deceased. The book will focus on the statement itself, the cultural, societal, and institutional context out of which it came, and the impact on the signers and the Conference. It is a complex story which will help contemporary Church historians, Christian ethicists, religious sociologists, and church leaders reflect on the relationship of the church to the larger culture and on the dynamics of church leadership in the context of significant social change.

Image Title Year Type Contributor(s) Other Info
  "Born of Conviction: White Methodist Witness to Mississippi's Closed Society" 2009 Book Chapter Joseph T. Reiff
in L. Edward Phillips and Billy Vaughn (eds), Courage to Bear Witness: Essays in Honor of Gene L. Davenport, pages 124-142.
  “Conflicting Convictions in White Mississippi Methodism: the 1963 'Born of Conviction' Controversy"” 2011 Journal Article Joseph T. Reiff
Vol 49 (April 2011): 162-175
Born of Conviction: White Methodist Witness to Mississippi's Closed Society 2016 Book Joseph T. Reiff