‘Unity’ theme of LSTC Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration

January 12, 2021

Dr. King’s message of unity is the theme for the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago (LSTC) Martin Luther King Jr. Day commemoration Monday, January 18. Five leading theologians will reflect on the theme during the 60-minute pre-recorded tribute. The recorded event will go live at 11:15 a.m. Central time on LSTC’s Facebook and YouTube sites.

“In light of recent events and public calls for healing and reconciliation, theological reflection on the promise and the problems with the rhetoric of unity could not be more timely or urgent,” said Erik Christensen, pastor to the community and director of worship, who serves on this year’s planning committee. “This year’s speakers will explore how the wisdom of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. may be a guide for navigating the present moment.” 

About the speakers

Gary Dorrien, Reinhold Niebuhr Professor of Social Ethics, Union Theological Seminary, and professor of religion, Columbia University, is the author of 20 books and more than 300 articles that range across the fields of social ethics, philosophy, theology, political economics, social and political theory, religious history, cultural criticism, and intellectual history. In 2018 he won the Choice Award of the American Library Association for his book Breaking White Supremacy: Martin Luther King Jr. and the Black Social Gospel and in 2017 he won the Grawemeyer Award for his book The New Abolition: W. E. B. Du Bois and the Black Social Gospel. 

Pamela Lightsey, vice president of academic and student affairs and associate professor of constructive theology, Meadville Lombard Theological School, who is the author of Our Lives Matter: A Womanist Queer Theology, “Reconciliation” in Prophetic Evangelicals: Envisioning a Just and Peaceable Kingdom, and other works. She is a leading social justice activist, working with local, national and international organizations focusing primarily on the causes of peacemaking, racial justice and LGBTQ rights.

Richard Perry Jr., is professor emeritus of church and society and urban ministry. He is the author of numerous works on African American Lutheranism, ethics, and urban ministry including “Martin Luther King Jr and the Christian Life” in the Journal of Lutheran Ethics, “African American Ethical Action” in The Promise of Lutheran Ethics, and, with Albert Pero and Cheryl Stewart Pero, Let Justice Roll Down Like Waters. . ., a Black cultural awareness resource.

Rosetta Ross is professor of philosophy and religious studies at Spelman College.

She has published three books and numerous articles on religion and Black women’s activism, religion and Africana women’s quality of life, and religion and society. Her current book project is Ruby Ruffin Hawkins Hurley: The Making of an Activist, focused on Hurley’s NAACP work among early to mid-twentieth century black Atlantic religious and political expressions.

Sunggu Yang is assistant professor of Christian ministries, George Fox University. He is the author of, King’s Speech: Preaching Reconciliation in a World of Violence and Chasm and Evangelical Pilgrims from the East: Faith Fundamentals of Korean American Protestant Diasporas. he has served as founder and general editor of The Journal of Asian American Theological Forum ( www.aatfweb.org). 

Unity in prayer and music

The event planning team chose the theme unity noting that “this year the national holiday honoring Dr. King comes at the beginning of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity and just two days before the inauguration of the next president of the United States, President-Elect Joe Biden, who has spoken frequently of the need for unity in this country at a time of profound political polarization, as well as racial and economic injustice.

Music and worship elements of the celebration will be provided by Vickie Johnson (2020, MDiv), pastor of St. Thomas Lutheran Church, Chicago, Ill., and Keith Hampton, cantor to the seminary community, LSTC. It includes a performance of his composition, “Unity,” by Chicago’s Apollo Chorus and members of the Chicago Community Chorus.


Erik Christensen

Pastor to the Community and Director of Worship


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