The African Methodist Episcopal Church celebrates the life, work, and legacy of Dr. James H. Cone. Dr. Cone’s theological purpose and project were to challenge the theological idolatry of white supremacy while encouraging the Black Church to be “unashamedly black and unapologetically Christian.” His classic works Black Theology and Black Power (1969), a Black Theology of Liberation (1970); and God of the Oppressed (1975) powerfully challenged theological, social, political, and ecclesiastical business as usual.
His latest publication, The Cross and the Lynching Tree, published in 2012 won the distinguished Grawemeyer Award in Religion. His spiritual autobiography, I Said I Wasn’t Going To Tell Nobody, will be released in the Fall of this year. His powerful and awakening books and writings earned him the title “Father of Black Liberation Theology”.
Dr. Cone’s extraordinary skill in the classroom, the lecture hall or behind a local church pulpit, made him a theological prophet, mentor and role model to many.
In the 1997 updated and expanded edition of Black Theology and Black Power, Dr. Cone expressed the meaning of his theological work this way: “I wanted to speak on behalf of the voiceless black masses in the name of Jesus, whose gospel I believed had been greatly distorted by the preaching theology of white churches.”
The Bill and Judith Moyer Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary, he touched, trained and molded generations of Ph.D. trained theologians and prophetic Christian servant leaders serving in pulpits and ministries around the world. Dr. Cone was truly a hero and shero maker.
The African Methodist Episcopal Church was the spiritual crucible in which Dr. Cone met the God of the Oppressed. His memories of songs, sermons and life lessons he learned in the church of his youth run throughout his writings. He stood on the shoulders of some of the most exemplary AME Church servant leaders: Richard Allen, Jarena Lee, Denmark Vesey, Henry McNeal Turner, Ida Wells Barnett and Reverdy Cassius Ransom.
Both he and his brother, Dr. Cecil W. Cone, Jr. grew up in the AME Church in Arkansas and were ordained itinerant elders in the AME Church. The Cone family’s commitment to the AME Church was a faith, family and freedom affair. They loved their church enough to never leave it. They chose to challenge their church to keep Richard Allen’s Dream alive by speaking and writing the truth in love. The Cones were proud to be AME members and the denomination was richly blessed by their contributions.
Today, we pray for the sons, daughters, family, friends, and students that feel Dr. Cone’s loss deeply. The Connectional AME Church thanks God for the gift the Cone family shared with the world. May God in Christ comfort and strengthen them in their journey through grief to healing and wholeness.
Dr. Cone achieved extraordinary academic and theological excellence. Because he knew Jesus and the power of His resurrection the works and witness of James H. Cone lives; his truth is marching on.
Thank you, Dr. Cone, for the challenge to be the sons and daughters of the God of life, love, and liberation.
The Council of Bishops of the AME Church
Clement W. Fugh, President
Vashti Murphy McKenzie, President of the General Board
Frank Madison Reid III, Chair, Commission on Social Action
McKinley Young, Senior Bishop