Race, religion, and reform


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Race, religion, and reform Koinonia's challenge to southern society, 1942-1992
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x, 325 leaves : ; 29 cm.
Chancey, Andrew S
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Missions -- Agricultural work -- Georgia   ( lcsh )
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History thesis, Ph.D   ( lcsh )
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Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Florida, 1998.
Includes bibliographical references (leaves 305-324).
Statement of Responsibility:
by Andrew S. Chancey.
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Copyright 1998


Andrew S. Chancey


This dissertation has been long in coming, and many people have
encouraged and facilitated its progress along the way. Their sheer number
humbles me, and their belief in me and enthusiasm for my subject are deeply

gratifying. Had I tried to do this project without their involvement, the end
product would have been far inferior, and my life would have been less rich.
Nevertheless, my Chancey stubbornness insisted that I do things my way, and
thus, any errors, poor judgments, or weaknesses are solely my own.
The academic community at the University of Florida gave me more
assistance than I had the right to expect. My dissertation committee has been
generous and helpful throughout my career as a doctoral student. Bertram
Wyatt-Brown amicably served as my major advisor, and David R. Colburn,
W. Fitzhugh Brundage, C. John Sommerville, and Samuel S. Hill graciously
assisted him. Their interest in me extended beyond their official duties.
Bertram and Anne Wyatt-Brown served as unofficial hosts of the department
on frequent occasions, mixing faculty and students in ways that helped bridge
the gaps between two. David and Marian Colburn opened their home to me
and my colleagues our first Thanksgiving in Gainesville and extended
personal support to me during a family crisis. John Sommerville offered me
the opportunity to care for his home and pets on several occasions, and even
though I was never able to accept his offers, he expressed his confidence in me
by offering again anyway. Fitz Brundage listened-and asked hard questions-
as I plodded through my muddled thinking on Koinonia one cold day in St.

Louis and then good-naturedly endured a disastrous conference with me in
New York. Sam Hill believed I would finish my dissertation even when I did
not. Professors Ronald P. Formisano, Robert H. Zieger, and David G. Hackett,
and Susan K. Kent, formerly of the University of Florida, affirmed my gifts
while prodding me to stretch myself into a more mature historian. Louise
Newman helped me see things in my work, and in myself, that I never
would have seen otherwise. The staff of the Department of History, especially
Betty Corwine, Susan Lewis, Linda Opper, and Kimberly Yocum treated me
with more patience than I deserved and rescued me more times than I care to
Several colleagues bestowed on me their friendship, making the
arduous process of course work, qualifying examinations, and dissertation
more pleasant. Glenn Crothers, Mark Greenberg, Dan Kilbride, and Chris
Olsen, along with Stan Deaton, whiled away many an evening playing poker
and not talking about history. Daniel Stowell and James Manley shared
similar interests with me, and similar commitments. Stan quickly became a
mainstay, and our regular and long telephone conversations have been more
important to me than he realizes.
Generous fellowships enabled me to devote my full energies to my
work for many of my years in graduate school. The Richard J. Milbauer
endowment from the University of Florida Department of History and the
Grinter Fellowship from the University of Florida Graduate School provided
me with funding for my first three years. Then dissertation fellowships from
the Pew Program in Religion and American History at Yale University, the
Louisville Institute for the Study of Protestantism and American Culture, the
Richard J. Milbauer endowment (for a most gratifying fourth year), and the
University of Florida College of Liberal Arts and Sciences allowed me to focus

on my dissertation without the distraction of outside work. Other people,
who know who they are, provided me with financial support also, and I am

grateful for their generosity.
Friends and colleagues in other universities assisted me with research.

Keith Whitescarver completed some tasks for me in Boston when I ran out of

time. Fitz Brundage pointed me to sources at the University of Tennessee,
and Kathleen Zebley ably mined them for me, following my lead long
distance and providing me with the materials promptly and cheerfully. Tracy
E. K'Meyer exchanged some interview tapes with me. David Stricklin alerted
me to some other interviews and made them available to me. The staff in

the Hargrett Rare Books and Manuscript Collection of the University of
Georgia Libraries, in particular, and in the Special Collections of the
Alderman Library of the University of Virginia and the Southern Historical
Collections at the University of North Carolina were helpful also.

My topic has the added benefit of being current, and the participation of
many people associated with Koinonia added immeasurably to this work.
Former and current Koinonians, neighbors, employees, Board members, and

others agreed to be interviewed and, in doing so, opened themselves to me in
ways that were deeply personal. They welcomed me into their hearts and
homes and trusted me with their legacy. I shall ever remember coming upon

a Greek textbook when I first began going through the Clarence Jordan
collection at the University of Georgia. Leafing through the book, I realized
that it was the tool through which Jordan learned New Testament Greek,
which in turn allowed him to do his close study of the New Testament texts,
which in turn inspired him to envision what became Koinonia Farm. Tears
in my eyes, I closed the book, my work done for the day. I knew then, had
there been any doubt previously, that this subject was far, far bigger than I

was. I hope all Koinonians realize that Koinonia is bigger than they are, too.
I know I will not have pleased them all, but I hope they recognize that I tried
to be fair, and I hope my work enhances their work in some small way.
On a personal note, I flounder when I try to articulate my indebtedness
and my sense of gratitude to a circle of friends who are like family and to

family members themselves. Kelly Eplee and Susan Goins-Eplee are largely

responsible for my latching onto this topic in the first place and for reminding
me why I was originally captivated by it, especially when I so frequently got
bogged down in the process of producing a dissertation. We have shared

many of life's journeys and transitions together, and I hope we will do so for
many years ahead. Sam and Helen Hill offered me their house in their yearly

absence from Gainesville. It soon became my home, and my life was always
easier and fuller when I was there. Then they offered me their friendship
and, finally, a place in their family. Sam and Helen are two of the most
generous-spirited people I know, and they have taught me more than I yet
realize about life and love. My brothers and extended family surely wondered
exactly what I was doing in school all these years, and my parents, Gene and

Gladys Chancey, offered encouragement and support in more ways than they
know. That my father did not live to see me finish my dissertation grieves
me deeply, even nearly five years after his death. That he did not live to meet
the woman who became my wife grieves me even more. Elizabeth Smiley

came into my life midway into this project. I, and it, have been richer ever


ACKNOWLEDGMENTS ........................................... iii

ABSTRACT ............... .......................... ............. ix

INTRODUCTION................... ................ ............ 1


THE ROOTS OF KOINONIA FARM ........................... 17

KOINONIA'S FORMATIVE YEARS, 1942-1948 .................. 44

KOINONIA'S COMMUNITARIAN YEARS, 1948-1956 ........... 70

KOINONIA'S TURBULENT YEARS, 1956-1958 .................. 107

MOVEMENT': KOINONIA'S FALLOW YEARS, 1959-1968 ....... 138

KOINONIA'S TRANSITION YEARS, 1968-1969 ................. 171

KOINONIA'S BANNER YEARS, 1970-1979 ..................... 205

KOINONIA'S SEARCH FOR RELEVANCE, 1980-1992 ............ 255

CONCLUSION ................................................... 392

BIBLIOGRAPHY .................................................. 304

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH.................. ...................... 325

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Andrew S. Chancey

August 1998

Chairman: Bertram Wyatt-Brown
Major Department: History

Koinonia Farm ("coin-Oh-nee-ah") was established as "an agricultural
missionary enterprise" near Americus, Georgia, in 1942. White Baptist

ministers Martin England and Clarence Jordan intended to teach scientific

methods to help local farmers break the cycle of credit dependency inherent
in tenant farming. Also, Koinonia would be a Christian community in
which members lived off a common purse and regarded all persons as equal.

Living, working, and worshipping side by side, black and white, Koinonia
would model what the Kingdom of God would be when realized on Earth.

Koinonia's history falls into several periods. From 1942 to 1948,
members established the farm and created community structure. From 1949
and 1956, they learned of other communal groups and focused inward on
spiritual unity. Because of their position on race, they entered a period of

crisis in 1956, enduring severe persecution until 1958 and losing membership

steadily in the years ahead. Dormant during the civil rights struggle,
Koinonia offered only behind-the-scenes support to local activists. Koinonia
was about to close in 1968 when new leadership and ideas revived it. The
renamed Koinonia Partners had its banner decade in the 1970s, when
members created new structure and programs and spawned Habitat for
Humanity. After establishing Jubilee Partners in 1979, however, Koinonia

never recovered that vibrancy and declined throughout the 1980s. By its
fiftieth anniversary in 1992, it was at its lowest point in two decades.
Koinonia had survived transitions before, but how it would redefine itself
and update its mission this time was unclear.

This dissertation argues that Koinonia Farm and Partners has survived
for more than half a century, a long tenure when compared to similar

communal endeavors, because its members have shown a remarkable

flexibility in reinterpreting themselves within the framework of the original
intentions and an adeptness at adapting to changing circumstances. More
broadly, this dissertation uses Koinonia's history to document an indigenous
challenge to the supposedly dominant white Protestant evangelicalism, to
expand historical understanding of reform movements in the South, and to

illustrate the changing social conditions, racial climate, and religious culture
in the South since the 1940s.


When Mabel and Martin England and Florence and Clarence Jordan
established Koinonia Farm near Americus, Georgia, in 1942, the chances for
the success and longevity of their project were slim. Based on the New
Testament Book of Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32-37, Koinonia (pronounced "coin-Oh-
nee-ah") drew its name from the Greek word for fellowship. The Englands
and Jordans envisioned Koinonia to be a Christian community in which
members pooled their money and resources and shared all things in
common. In addition, they believed in the equality of all God's children,
regardless of race. Living, working, and worshipping side by side, black and
white, Koinonians would model what the Kingdom of God would look like
when realized on Earth. Promoting economic, social, and religious ethics
different from the ones prevailing in the area, therefore, Koinonia set itself at
odds with its neighbors in rural southwest Georgia in order to serve, in the
words of its members, as "a demonstration plot for the Kingdom of God."
The history of communal experiments in the United States suggested that
Koinonia would be just another ephemeral attempt at such an endeavor, and
the purposes for which this one was founded practically guaranteed it a brief
tenure. More than a half century later, however, Koinonia endures,
persisting in its quest for justice.

Koinonia has shown a remarkable capacity to survive and thus
occupies a rare place in the history of American communalism. Experiments
in communal living have a lengthy history in America, but most flourished

only briefly and then members quickly assimilated themselves back into the

dominant culture. Few were established in the South until the late

nineteenth century. These, too, lasted only briefly as a deviation from a

homogeneous, closely intertwined religious and cultural environment.

Koinonia, on the other hand, has survived because its members resiliently

adapted themselves and their strategies when circumstances required them to

do so, all the while maintaining much of the commune's original goals and

vigorously continuing to pursue them.1

The people of Koinonia dedicated themselves to modeling an

alternative way of life and a different way of relating to their African-

American neighbors, yet they did so in a culture so entrenched that any

challenge to it seemed to diminish from the outset. They strove to change

that which seemed permanent, and did so in the name of God. Most

historians of southern religion agree that evangelical Protestantism

dominated (white) southern culture and that it reinforced prevailing

conventions rather than advocating change. By contrast, the earliest

Koinonians, all reared within this religious culture, found within it a means

by which to turn it back on itself, adhering to a stripe of radical Christianity

1Andrew S. Chancey, "Restructuring Southern Society: The Radical Vision of Koinonia
Farm" (M.A. thesis, University of Georgia, 1990), 14. "Koinonia in the '90s," Christian
Century 109 (14 October 1992): 894. Other work on Koinonia includes Juanita Deatrick,
"Koinonia: A Twentieth Century Experiment in Communal Living" (M.A. thesis, University of
Georgia, 1968); Dallas Lee, The Cotton Patch Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the
Koinonia Farm Experiment (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1971); Horace
Montgomery, "Georgia's Koinonia: A Heritage of Communitarian Ideals and Ordeals,"
Americana-Austriaca: Beitrlge zur Amerikakunde 3 (1974): 151-180; Avis Crowe, "With Flair
and Faithfulness: An Appreciation of Koinonia Partners" (unpublished manuscript, 1986),
Koinonia Partners Library, Americus, Georgia; Andrew S. Chancey, "'A Demonstration Plot for
the Kingdom of God': The Establishment and Early Years of Koinonia Farm," Georgia
Historical Quarterly 75 (Summer 1991): 321-353; "Race, Religion, and Agricultural
Reform: The Communal Vision of Koinonia Farm," in Georgia in Black and White:
Explorations in the Race Relations of a Southern State, 1865-1950, ed. John C. Inscoe (Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 1994), 246-265; and Tracy Elaine K'Meyer, Interracialism and
Christian Community: The Story of Koinonia Farm (Charlottesville: University Press of
Virginia, 1997).

uncommon in the region but necessary for confronting the inequities

prevalent there.

Koinonia's exceptional beginning, therefore, situates the community
in a small tradition of beleaguered religious dissent, one that has roots in

evangelicalism. Evangelical dissent had arisen in the southern colonies in

reaction to the supposed blemishes of a hierarchical and liturgical Church of

England. Alienated by the formal and impersonal worship of the established

church, the lower classes welcomed the less structured worship of evangelical

churches and, more importantly, embraced their egalitarian teachings, which

held that atonement through Christ's death and assurance of salvation were

available to every person, regardless of rank in society.2 At first a challenger

to society, this religious tradition soon became a supporter of slavery and then

of the equally oppressive Jim Crow system. Well into the twentieth century,

the South retained its homogeneity and rurality, and the largest (white)
denominations-Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyterian--continued their

common evangelical emphasis on personal conversion, revivalism, and

vernacular worship. Southern religion valued personal salvation over social

reform. What was most important was an individual's soul, not the

condition of society. This religious culture became so intertwined with

southern culture that distinguishing between the two became at times all but
impossible.3 White evangelical Protestantism, therefore, moved from a

2For differing interpretations of the geographic and chronological origins of the white
Protestant evangelical tradition, see John B. Boles, The Great Revival, 1787-1805: The Origins
of the Southern Evangelical Mind (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 1972) and Rhys
Isaac, The Transformation of Virginia, 1740-1790 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1982). See also Nathan O. Hatch, The Democratization of American Christianity (New
Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1989), Part Three.
3Samuel S. Hill, Jr., ed., Religion and the Solid South (Nashville, Tenn.: Abingdon
Press, 1972), 22; Southern Churches in Crisis (New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston,
1966), 172-173, 190-191. Hill's assertions find root in an essay by Edwin M. Poteat, Jr., published
in 1934. Poteat noted that southern religion was more homogeneous than that in any other

tradition of dissent to the role of reinforcer of, rather than challenger to,

culture for much of the South's history, particularly over the issue of race


For all the dominance of this religious tradition, however, it was not

monolithic, and within it may be found roots on which the Englands and

Jordans drew. At least four versions of evangelicalism comprised white

Protestantism in the South, the "truth-oriented" or fundamentalist strand

that supports biblical literalism, the "conversion-oriented" or evangelistic

strand that focuses on converting others to Christianity, the "spiritually-

oriented" or devotional strand that celebrates the nearness of God and God's

involvement in believers' daily lives, and finally the "service-oriented" or

ethical strand that calls for social justice. The majority of southern believers

fall into one of the first three traditions, leaving the fourth smallest, less

apparent, and often overlooked, and leading to the interpretation that white

southern religion lacks a social ethic. In fact, the ethical strand appears to

varying degrees alongside the other three in each of the primary

denominations, and the four combine to form the white evangelical

Protestantism in the South.4

region of the country and that it was evangelical, embraced orthodoxy, and shunned modernity.
Poteat further claimed that this brand of religion not only supported but also reinforced white
supremacy, thus buttressing the dominance of white Protestantism, and that it promoted
stability rather than social change. Poteat, "Religion in the South," in Culture in the South,
ed. W. T. Crouch (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1934), 248-269. This
interpretation of religion in the South has continued to dominate the field and was reaffirmed
thirty years later by Hill and by Kenneth K. Bailey, Southern White Protestantism in the
Twentieth Century (New York: Harper and Row, 1964). See also Donald G. Mathews, Religion
in the Old South (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1977), Chapters 2,4; and Anne C.
Loveland, Southern Evangelicals and the Social Order, 1800-1860 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1980).

4Samuel S. Hill, Jr., "The Shape and Shapes of Popular Southern Piety," in Varieties
of Southern Evangelicalism, ed. David E. Harrell, Jr. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press,
1981), 99-103.

From within this dominant tradition, and specifically drawing from

the "service-oriented" strand, emerged Koinonia's founders and some few

others across the South. Whatever hegemony southern white Protestant
evangelicalism may have enjoyed, it was not enough to suppress everyone
who witnessed inequities of all stripes and refused to let them go unmarked.
Hardly, therefore, the sole example of indigenous dissent in the South,
Koinonia is part of the increasingly-recognized southern radical tradition.
Anthony P. Dunbar, for one, finds "a period of widespread dissent" between

the Populist Movement of the late nineteenth century and the Civil Rights
Movement of the mid-twentieth century, a radical era "with many leaders but
no messiah, related closely in time to the civil rights uprising but more nearly
akin to Populism in the breadth of its economic and social critique."5 In
many of these cases, religious convictions motivated the dissenters.
The discontent, in part, stemmed from the imposition of harsh Jim

Crow laws in the region and the growing plight of farmers. The agricultural
South was becoming more mechanized and automated, eliminating the need
for large numbers of tenant farmers and sharecroppers and depriving them of

their livelihood. With little means for survival in rural areas, the
dispossessed workers flocked to the cities in hope of finding employment.

Many of these workers were African-American, and city-dwelling whites
wanted to keep them suppressed as much as rural whites did. As a result,
leaders in urban areas-and even smaller towns-enacted additional Jim Crow
laws to ensure separation of the races. The dispossessed who stayed in the
South faced difficulties of their own. Left behind to scratch out an existence
from already worn-out soil, those few small farmers fortunate enough to own

5Anthony P. Dunbar, Against the Grain: Southern Radicals and Prophets, 1929-1959
(Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1981), vii.

land often lacked the capital for improvements. The rest endured the evils

intrinsic in the sharecropping and tenancy that had replaced slavery after the

Civil War. The sharecropper and tenant farmer became, according to Dunbar,
"symbols of the starving South and were unavoidable examples of America's

failure to provide a livelihood to all its people."6

In the years before the Englands and Jordans established Koinonia

Farm, these symbols prompted other ministers to take action. Myles Horton

and Don West, for example, established Highlander Folk School in 1932 in

response to the poverty-stricken conditions of mountainous Grundy County,

Tennessee. Horton, a Presbyterian minister educated at Union Theological
Seminary in New York City, and West, a graduate of Vanderbilt University

School of Religion who served churches in Bethel, Ohio, and Meansville,

Georgia, and who later drew fame as a poet, established Highlander to educate
"rural and industrial leaders for a new social order" and to enrich "the

indigenous cultural values of the mountains."7 Characterized by one

observer as a "mecca" for the "radical fringe that championed the proletarian
causes of the 1930s," Highlander spent its first fifteen or so years as the

principal Congress of Industrial Organizations training center for the South

before turning its energies to the burgeoning civil rights movement and later

to more immediate problems in Appalachia.8 Close contact between

6Dunbar, Against the Grain, 184. See Jack Temple Kirby, Rural Worlds Lost: The
American South, 1920-1960 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1987), Pete Daniel,
The Shadow of Slavery: Peonage in the South, 1901-1969 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press,
1972), and J. Wayne Flynt, Dixie's Forgotten People: The South's Poor Whites (Bloomington:
Indiana University Press, 1979) on changes in the agricultural system in the South and their
effect on farmers.

7Quoted in John M. Glen, Highlander: No Ordinary School, 1932-1962 (Lexington:
University Press of Kentucky, 1988), 2.

8George Brown Tindall, The Emergence of the New South, 1913-1945 (Baton Rouge:
Louisiana State University Press, 1967), 633. On Highlander, see Thomas Bledsoe, Or We'll
All Hang Separately: The Highlander Idea (Boston: Beacon Press, 1969); Aimee Isgrig Horton,

Highlander, Koinonia, and similar organizations ensured that they worked

together and influenced each other. Highlander and Koinonia, for example,

sponsored a children's camp together and shared conference leaders in the
years ahead.

Howard Kester, of the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union (STFU) and
then of the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen (FSC), had direct and
significant influence on the founders of Koinonia Farm. Described by Dunbar
as the "most potent creation of the southern radical movement of the 1930s,"

the STFU provided a forum for displaced farmers to translate their anguish
into political action. In addition, the STFU sponsored Delta Cooperative

Farm and Providence Farm in Mississippi to provide a place for the farmers

to live and work. A graduate of the Vanderbilt University School of Religion
and a former employee of the Fellowship of Reconciliation, Kester believed

that in the cooperative farm project the Kingdom of God was being
established. Further, when he headed the Fellowship of Southern

Churchmen in the early 1940s, he proposed establishing "a seminary in the

cornfield" to provide "clinical and laboratory experience for rural religious

workers." Then, the Friends of the Soil, a subgroup of the FSC, had as its
purpose "to lead men to regard the earth as holy and man as steward of the
Eternal." The language of Kester and his organizations closely resembles that

used a few years later by the Englands and Jordans when they established
Koinonia. In an interview that happened to take place a few weeks after

The Highlander Folk School: A History of Its Major Programs, 1932-1961 (Brooklyn: Carlson
Publishing, Inc., 1971, 1989); Frank Adams, with Myles Horton, Unearthing Seeds of Fire: The
Idea of Highlander (Winston-Salem, N. C.: John F. Blair, Publisher, 1975); Myles Horton,
with Judith Kohl and Herbert Kohl, The Long Haul: An Autobiography (New York:
Doubleday, 1991).

Jordan's death in 1969, Kester stated that Jordan attributed much of his efforts

at Koinonia to a speech he heard from Kester while in seminary.9

Both products of more conservative, mainstream backgrounds and

educational institutions than Horton, West, or Kester, Martin England and

Clarence Jordan nevertheless shared some of the ideals, goals, and language

the more radical reformers espoused. Concerned about the conditions in the

cities where so many former farm workers moved, the Englands and Jordans

established Koinonia Farm as an "agricultural missionary enterprise." The

earliest publicity brochure spelled out Koinonia's purposes: to relate "the

entire life of the people to Jesus Christ and his teachings," to "train Negro

preachers in religion and agriculture," and to seek "to conserve the soil,

which [they] believed] to be God's holy earth." While not specifically stated

in this brochure, England and Jordan hoped also to establish "a seminary in

the cotton patch." They, like Kester, believed they were helping establish the

Kingdom of God on earth.10 As a demonstration plot for that Kingdom,

Koinonia was to redress the circumstances surrounding oppression and

9Dunbar, Against the Grain, 117, 184. "A Partial Report... March 1 to July 1, 1942," 3;
"Notes from the Secretary," 25 July 1942; Eugene Smathers, "A Primer for Friends of the Soil,"
[n. d.], Howard A. Kester Papers, reel six, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Robert Francis Martin, The
Fellowship of Southern Churchmen" (M.A. thesis: University of North Carolina, 1970), 48.
Works on the STFU include David Eugene Conrad, The Forgotten Farmers: The Story of
Sharecroppers in the New Deal (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965); Donald H. Grubbs,
Cry from the Cotton: The Southern Tenant Farmers' Union and the New Deal (Chapel Hill:
University of North Carolina Press, 1971); H. L. Mitchell, Mean Things Happening in This
Land: The Life and Times of H. L. Mitchell, Co-Founder of the Southern Tenant Farmers Union
(Montclair, N. J.: Allanheld, Osmun and Co., 1979); and Robert F. Martin, Howard Kester and
the Struggle for Social Justice in the South, 1904-1977 (Charlottesville: University Press of
Virginia, 1991).

10"Koinonia Farm," promotional brochure, Clarence L. Jordan Manuscript Collection
number 2341, box 4, folder 9, Special Collections, University of Georgia Library, Athens,
Georgia. The Jordan papers comprise three collections, numbered 756,2340, and 2341. For
subsequent references, the abbreviation CLJ will be used, followed by the collection number,
then box number, then folder number if available. Marjorie Moore to Clarence Jordan, 5 May
1942; Martin England to Dr. Howard, 17 May 1942, CLJ 756:2:2.

poverty by living in a community based on equality and justice. Further, the
project was to teach scientific and practical farming, thereby alleviating the
displacement of farm workers and their need to leave the land. By teaching
farmers how to make the land more productive and by helping them break
their credit dependency, England and Jordan hoped to use Koinonia, as
Horton and West used Highlander and Kester used the STFU and FSC, to
eradicate an exploitative and abusive system so nearly akin to slavery.

The goal of living successfully off the land, therefore, set the agenda for
several reform endeavors in southern history, but Koinonia's founders
adopted that goal only in conjunction with another, living communally. A

fourth purpose stated in the original publicity brochure was to "provide an
opportunity for Christian students to serve a period of apprenticeship in
developing community life on the teachings and principles of Jesus." The
ideas of cooperative living and of living close to the land were not new for
England or Jordan, as each had been developing them for as long as a decade.
Moreover, they had had contact with cooperatives elsewhere, including the
Macedonia Cooperative Community in north Georgia." Their ideas,
therefore, had antecedents elsewhere in the region, and they were already
incorporated into the small network of similar reform efforts when they
began Koinonia.
By contrast, England and Jordan probably had no idea how vast the
network and history were for communal groups. Their inspiration was the
early Christian church in the book of Acts, not the extensive community
movement that has flourished throughout history in many different cultures

11"Koinonia Farm," promotional brochure. Martin England to Clarence Jordan, 23 April
[1942], CLJ 756:2:2. On Macedonia, see W. Edward Orser, Searching for a Viable Alternative:
The Macedonia Cooperative Community, 1937-1958 (New York: Burt, Franklin and Company,

and has found particularly fertile ground in America. Recent bibliographies

identify the extensive tradition in this country, as literally hundreds of group

efforts to withdraw from or to change society date from the arrival of the

Puritans to the present day.12 Only a few such efforts have lasted any length

of time, but each manifestation of the "utopian impulse" demonstrates "the

common American need to express new versions of the good life that may

make society more humane and bring to light unimagined possibilities."13

Established mainly, though not exclusively, out of religious motivations,

such communities attract members who "feel they must separate themselves,

to what degree is possible, from such things as war, racial inequality,

opportunism in personal and group conduct, and possession of private

property," according to former Koinonian Claud Nelson, Jr., a student of the
history of communal movements.14

The communal tradition had little foundation in the American South

until late in the nineteenth century. The few groups that had appeared in the

South resulted from the efforts of outsiders, as few southerners showed any

inclination, as George Fitzhugh wrote in 1854, "to subvert and reconstruct

society."15 Between 1880 and 1920, however, thirty-five religious, political, or

12Two recent volumes demonstrate the extensiveness of the communal tradition in this
country. See Philip N. Dare, American Communes to 1860: An Annotated Bibliography (New
York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990); and Timothy Miller, American Communes, 1860-1960: A
Bibliography (New York: Garland Publishing, Inc., 1990).

13Paul M. Gaston, A Utopian Heritage: The Fairhope Single Tax Colony (Birmingham:
Alabama Humanities Foundation, 1986), 1.

14Claud Nelson, Jr., "Community: The Bond No Bomb Can Shatter," Motive (February
1957): 26, Koinonia Scrapbook. (Koinonia Scrapbook is available on microfilm in CLJ 2340:21
and is subsequently referred to as "Koinonia Scrapbook.")

15George Fitzhugh, Sociology of the South or the Failure of Free Society (Richmond,
Va.: A. Morris, 1854), 306, quoted in W. Fitzhugh Brundage, A Socialist Utopia in the New
South: The Ruskin Colonies in Tennessee and Georgia, 1894-1901 (Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1996), 13.

economic colonies sprang up in the region. This flurry of communal activity

in the South reflected a convergence of three factors: northern utopians had

come to view the South not as a conservative backwater but as an ideal

environment for their communities; the distinctive economic system of the

region during slavery yielded to the national market economy, bringing the

same economic and social ills to the South that northern utopians had fought

against for so long; and, finally, the depression of the 1890s and the agrarian

dissent of Populism prompted some southerners to look for alternatives to

capitalism in utopian or cooperative projects. What had once been a

landscape practically empty of communal endeavors became instead the

"utopian frontier" of the nation.16

Koinonia, therefore, was hardly breaking new ground a few decades

later. Georgia alone had six of these colonies during this period, including

the short-lived Ruskin Community in Ware County. The most prominent

was the Christian Commonwealth Colony, a group of up to 350 settlers who

sought to live according to Jesus' Sermon on the Mount. From 1896 to 1900,

this colony was located thirteen miles east of Columbus, not far from

Koinonia's future location in Sumter County and even closer to Clarence

16Brundage, A Socialist Utopia, 13-18. The most provocative interpretation of the late
nineteenth- and early twentieth-century South is Edward L. Ayers, The Promise of the New
South: Life after Reconstruction (New York: Oxford University Press, 1992). On changing
attitudes in and toward the South, see Paul Gaston, The New South Creed: A Study in Southern
Mythmaking (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1970). For an example of the
links between the southern environment and communalism, see John Egerton, Visions of Utopia:
Nashoba, Ruby, and Ruskin, and the "New Communities" in Tennessee's Past (Knoxville:
University of Tennessee Press, 1977). On the postbellum southern economy, see Gavin Wright,
Old South, New South: Revolutions in the Southern Economy Since the Civil War (New York:
Basic Books, 1986). On events of the 1890s and various reactions to them, see, among others,
Robert C. McMath, Jr., Populist Vanguard: A History of the Southern Farmers' Alliance
(Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1975); Lawrence Goodwyn, The Populist
Moment: A Short History of the Agrarian Revolt in America (New York: Oxford University
Press, 1978); Bruce Palmer, "Man Over Money": The Southern Populist Critique of American
Capitalism (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1980); and Edward K. Spann,
Brotherly Tomorrows: Movements for a Cooperative Society in America, 1820-1920 (New York:
Columbia University Press, 1989).

Jordan's hometown of Talbotton. In its short life, the community operated a

school, constructed a large number of buildings, grew large enough to merit

an official post office and flag stop on the Central of Georgia Railroad, and

published a newspaper entitled Social Gospel, which popularized the name

later applied to the liberal Christian theology of the era.17 The Christian

Commonwealth's founder, Ralph Albertson, recalled years later that some

members had wanted to incorporate African Americans into the group on an

equal basis. Doing so, however, would have made the colony's mission

solely "that of solving or aggravating the race problem rather than that upon

which we started out. If we were going to tackle the race problem," Albertson

continued, "Georgia was not the place to do it...."18

Four decades after the demise of the Christian Commonwealth,

however, Koinonia's founders found Georgia to be the ideal setting for their

project, ideal not because of the receptiveness they expected to find but

because other conditions warranted it there. As in other southern states, the

crumbling plantation system, the precariousness of tenancy, and the poor

condition of the land complicated the lives of worker and owner alike. Also

as in other southern states, the "principle purpose" of state government was,

17Brundage, A Socialist Utopia, 15. Charles Howard Hopkins, The Rise of the Social
Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865-1915 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1940),
196. On the Christian Commonwealth, see Ralph Albertson, "The Christian Commonwealth in
Georgia," Georgia Historical Quarterly 29 (September 1945): 125-142; Paul D. Bolster,
"Christian Socialism Comes to Georgia: The Christian Commonwealth Colony," Georgia
Review 26 (Spring 1972): 60-70; and John O. Fish, "The Christian Commonwealth Colony: A
Georgia Experiment, 1896-1900," Georgia Historical Quarterly 57 (Summer 1973): 213-226.. On
the Social Gospel Movement, see Hopkins, Rise of the Social Gospel; Paul Allen Carter, The
Decline and Rise of the Social Gospel: Social and Political Liberalism in American Protestant
Churches, 1920-1940 (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell University Press, 1956); Ronald C. White, Jr., and
C. Howard Hopkins, The Social Gospel: Religion and Reform in Changing America
(Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976); and Ronald C. White, Jr., Liberty and Justice
for All: Racial Reform and the Social Gospel (1877-1925) (San Francisco: Harper and Row,
Publishers, 1990).

18Albertson, "Christian Commonwealth," 139.

in the words of Numan V. Bartley, "the protection and promotion of white
supremacy and social stability."19 Georgia was as good a choice as any other
deep South state to begin to address societal ills.
Koinonians hoped that, by modeling economic and racial equality, they
could by example challenge and restructure the society of which they were a
part. Whatever utopian or even grandly optimistic ideals Koinonia's

founders and early members had, they soon encountered the entrenched
religious, social, racial, and economic mores. And when circumstances forced
them to do so, they chose to yield idealistic aspirations to pragmatic realities
so they could continue as a group. Koinonians knew their model of the
perfect Kingdom of God--even while they had no pretensions at perfection

themselves--operated within a flawed world, and little by little they realized
they would have to make concessions if they were to survive and to
accomplish anything at all. Throughout Koinonia's history, members have
adapted themselves and their strategies resiliently when circumstances
required them to do so and have redefined and updated their original goals as
they vigorously continued to pursue them. /

Koinonia's history falls into several rather distinct periods. From 1942
to 1948, Koinonia Farm underwent a period of establishment, as members
reclaimed spent farm land and created structure for their community. They
attracted new members between 1949 and 1956, learned about other
communal groups, and turned their focus inward in a quest for a unity of
spirit that would give them cohesion and solidarity. Just as they were
beginning to resolve their internal struggles and to make inroads with local
African-Americans, they moved into a period of crisis. The community's

19Numan V. Bartley, The Creation of Modern Georgia (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1983), 172,179.

survival was at stake not only because of severe persecution from 1956 to 1958
but also because by the time the crisis ended in the early 1960s, Koinonia had
few members and less clarity about how to achieve its objectives. Essentially
dormant during the years of the civil rights movement, Koinonia could offer
only behind-the-scenes support to the local activists. Koinonia was on the
brink of closing in 1968 when an infusion of new leadership and new ideas
revived and renamed the community, leading Koinonia Partners to the
banner decade of the 1970s. Never before had the community experienced the
vibrancy and growth that came with new industries, new programs, and new
waves of visitors. After commissioning three couples to establish Jubilee
Partners in northeast Georgia in 1979, however, Koinonia never recovered
that vibrancy and continued declining throughout the 1980s. By 1992, it was
at its lowest point since becoming Koinonia Partners and, because of internal
struggles, had less sense of itself than it had had since the mid-1960s.
Koinonia had survived transitions before, but how it would redefine itself
and update its mission was unclear, even as hundreds of Koinonians and
supporters gathered to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary in 1992.
Koinonia has always been rather small in terms of actual membership
and has endured despite ups and downs in the number of residents.
Beginning with two families in 1942 but dropping to one in 1944, Koinonia
experienced a slow but steady increase in the number of people actually
involved in the community, not including workers, neighbors, and visitors,
from about twenty people in 1948 to about sixty in 1956. A quick decline to
about thirty-five in 1956 and 1957, offset in part by a large flow of visitors,
slowed but continued to 1963, when, again, only two families lived there.
Koinonia added another family for a year or so but did not begin
accumulating new members again until 1968. By 1970 or 1971, Koinonia's

population reached about fifty and increased by another dozen or so by the

end of the decade. The number of actual members peaked at thirty-six in
1978, and the overall population remained in the forties throughout the
1980s, with the number of members hovering in the twenties. As Koinonia
celebrated its fiftieth anniversary in 1992, however, it found itself in decline
once again, with the population dropping to the twenties and the number of
members dropping to the teens. Population fluctuations add to instability of a

community, but Koinonia has weathered them well, enduring two five-year
fallow periods with just one or two families and maintaining at least a small
core of people throughout the rest of its history.

A study of Koinonia invites investigation on at least three levels.
First, the story itself falls naturally into an inherently interesting narrative.
Recording the history of such a community that survived in spite of overt

hostility yields more understanding of those aspects of southern history
outside of mainstream homogeneity. Next, as an indigenous effort to take
religious traditions and use them to alter society radically, Koinonia

comprises a chapter on the pursuit of Christian brotherhood that finds few
rivals in the annals of southern religion. Finally, as an experiment for racial
equality by sincere people who demonstrate that sincerity by extreme sacrifice,

Koinonia offers a window through which to examine white-initiated racial
reform and provides a glaring reflection of the inability to bridge the gap
between the races to any measurable degree. This dissertation undertakes to
examine Koinonia's history on each of these levels. More broadly, this
dissertation uses Koinonia's history to document an indigenous challenge to
the supposedly dominant white Protestant evangelicalism, to illustrate the
changing social conditions, racial climate, and religious culture in the South


since the 1940s, and to expand historical understanding of reform movements

in the South.


When Martin England wrote a letter in the summer of 1941, he did not
know that his ideas would culminate a year later in the establishment of
Koinonia Farm, nor did he know that his words would resonate in the ears of
a kindred spirit whom he had not yet met. England wrote, "If the barriers V
that divide [persons], and cause wars, race conflict, economic competition,
class struggles, labor disputes are ever to be broken down, they must be

broken down in small groups of people living side by side, who plan
consciously and deliberately to find a way wherein they can all contribute to
the Kingdom [of God] according to their respective abilities. .accepting the
principle of the obligation of the Christian to produce all he can and to share
all above his own needs." Speaking to the deteriorating world situation, he
remained "convinced that unless the conflicts of race, class, economic

interest, and the like, can be resolved and assimilated in a local fellowship of
Christians, there is no ground for hope that it can be done on any large
impersonal scale with nations, races, or classes." England recognized that the

arrangement he proposed paralleled "that of the early church." Having
captured the essence of the future Koinonia's philosophy, England had sown
the seeds for the new communal experiment.

After serving one term in Burma as missionaries for the American
Baptist Foreign Mission Society, Mabel and Martin England had returned to
the United States on furlough in 1939. The war forced them to stay longer,

and so Martin England first audited agriculture classes at the University of

Florida to aid him in his work when he returned to Burma and then moved

to Birmingham. Looking for opportunities to fill his time, England wrote the
letter full of brainstorming and soul searching to a friend from his days as a

Southern Baptist. After that friend published it in a newsletter, Clarence

Jordan saw it and determined to meet the writer. England and his family
moved to an experimental farmers' cooperative near Wakefield, Kentucky, in

the fall of 1941, and not much later the two men met for the first time at a
Fellowship of Reconciliation meeting in Louisville. A year later they were on
their way to Koinonia Farm.1

Mabel and Martin England were to stay there only two years, readily
returning to their first calling once the mission field reopened in Burma. The

Jordans, on the other hand, remained at Koinonia for the rest of their lives.

In spite of a brief tenure, the Englands were as instrumental in establishing
Koinonia as were their partners, whose names are most closely associated
with the project. Their network of supporters from their time as

missionaries, their contacts outside the Southern Baptist denomination, and

their own ideas and experiences complemented those of the Jordans. Indeed,
finding like-minded and adventurous colleagues in the Englands provided

the final impetus for Clarence Jordan to implement his own ideas.

The backgrounds of England and Jordan reveal clues as to how they
developed ideas and ethics so contrary to those prevailing in the region. Both

1Text for the letter comes from "The Next Step in the Churches," 19 (July 1941),
photocopy in possession of the author, and reprinted in part in Dallas Lee, The Cotton Patch
Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment (New York: Harper
and Row, 1971): 27, 28. My thanks to David Stricklin of Lyons College for making a copy of the
newsletter available. Other information about the men's meeting comes from Lee, Cotton Patch
Evidence, 27-30, and from Martin England, classroom lecture, Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, 29 October 1976, audiocassette 1485, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

men were southerners, both had grown up in the racially divided society of
the early twentieth century, and both were products of the dominant white
evangelical Protestant tradition. This combination of factors created an
environment that appeared homogeneous and stable to most observers but
that had an unusual effect on these two men. Clearly among the minority,
they emerged from this environment to challenge the way of life known to
them since birth yet with which they had grown increasingly dissatisfied.
Both England and Jordan recalled experiences from their childhood in which
African Americans had helped their families in significant ways and that
thereby shaped their progressive view of race relations. In addition, as
products of Southern Baptist churches, both had grown up immersed in
Southern Baptist teachings. Thus, a commitment to Christian service and a
desire to repay family debts combined to put England and Jordan on paths
divergent from the mainstream, determined as white Christians to practice
their faith in ways that would alter the very fabric of their society. Therefore,
even though both Koinonia founders grew up within the mainstream of
southern white culture and religion, they found within it influences and
strains of thinking that facilitated their forming an ethic that challenged the
racial and economic standards of their day.
Jasper Martin England, born in 1901 in Seneca, South Carolina, grew up
in the mill villages around Greenville. He was graduated from Furman
University in 1924, having attended the Baptist school on scholarship, and
attended the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky,
for two years. He taught at Mars Hill College, a Baptist school in North
Carolina, for three years before completing seminary in 1933 at Crozer
Theological Seminary, an American Baptist seminary near Philadelphia.
England had been active in the Young Men's Christian Association, and he

met Mabel Claire Orr in 1929 at the Blue Ridge Y Assembly in Black
Mountain, North Carolina, where both served on summer staffs. Born in

1908 in Decatur, Alabama, and raised in Birmingham, Orr had graduated
from Athens College in Alabama in 1930, having served as editor of both the
student newspaper and the yearbook at the small woman's college. They
married in 1933. Mabel, who grew up in the Methodist church, was baptized

into an American Baptist church in Philadelphia the same day that Martin
was ordained there into the ministry. Within a short time, they were on

their way overseas as missionaries.2
As an adult, Martin England recalled that his sense of debt to African
Americans not only shaped his view on race relations but also influenced his
decision to become a missionary. He grew up hearing the family story of how
an African-American man had saved his maternal grandfather's life in South
Carolina during the Civil War, and he knew his grandmother's family had
freed their slaves. As a child, he read about David Livingstone's mission
service in Africa. During his first year at Furman, England attended a
conference sponsored by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board and at
that time decided to become a missionary. He began the process with the
Mission Board but learned during his time in seminary in Louisville that a
financial shortfall among Southern Baptists would cause a decrease in the

number of appointments. After teaching at Mars Hill College, England
completed seminary at Crozer and pursued appointment through the
American Baptist Foreign Mission Society. He never realized his dream to
become a missionary in Africa but did serve with his wife for at least two

2"Biographical Data on Englands," Beverly England Williams to author, September
1992, listed under Miscellaneous.

terms in Burma and remained active in race relations work for the rest of his


Clarence Leonard Jordan was born to a privileged family in Talbot

County, Georgia, in 1912. The middle of seven children who survived

infancy, Jordan occupied a complicated place in his family. Family lore relates

that he received his own room when the family built a new home in 1927,

not because of their fondness for him but because he could not get along with

his siblings. Dubbed "Grump" and characterized as argumentative, Clarence

nevertheless excelled at school. Instead of following his siblings to Georgia

Baptist colleges, young Clarence decided he would attend the College of

Agriculture at the University of Georgia. Within the Agriculture College,

Jordan served as editor of the Georgia Agriculturist and as president of Ag-

Hon, the honor society. In addition, he served as president of the University

Boys' Sunday School Class and as chairman of the Debating Council. Further,

he was a member of Alpha Tau Omega fraternity. So prominent was Jordan's

3Jasper Martin England, interview by David Stricklin, 27 July 1984, number 1,
transcript, Institute for Oral History, Baylor University, Waco, Texas. "Biographical Data on
The story England grew up hearing about his grandfather is as follows: Conscripted
into the war early and wounded in battle skirmishes on coastal South Carolina, Jasper Wilson
was sent home to die. He barely survived the trip and did so, the story goes, only because after
begging for two days at the end of the rail line for someone to take him the forty or so miles
further into the mountains to his home, an African-American man carried him there in his
wagon. Having seen few African Americans in the mountains, Wilson's wife was greatly
impressed by the actions of this man and passed the story on to her children.
Later, while a student at Crozer Seminary, England pushed for the admission of
African-American students. After returning from the foreign mission field around 1950, England
worked for the Ministers and Missionaries Benefit Board of the American Baptist Convention,
a job which took him in 1961 back to Greenville, South Carolina, where his assignment was, in
part, to recruit African-American Baptist pastors to gain better benefits by joining the American
Baptist benefit plan. The family believes that England was the first white professional to
hire an African-American secretary in Greenville. England claimed responsibility for enrolling
Martin Luther King, Jr., in the benefit plan as insurance for his family in case of his untimely
death. See "A Story of Two Martins," ABC People 7 (1984): 11, CLJ 2341:5:9. Mabel and Martin
England recalled several occasions on which they encountered stares and ridicule when they
went out to lunch in public in Atlanta with the senior Martin Luther Kings. Throughout his
life, quite apart from his brief tenure with Koinonia, Martin England continued being out of step
with southern society, a pattern that evidently had deep roots in his family.

presence on the University campus that his younger brother wrote home,

"You don't know how popular Grump is until you follow him around


Jordan's student days at the University of Georgia provided excellent

training for what lay in the future. As state president of the Baptist Student

Union (BSU), Jordan gained exposure to denominational leaders throughout
the state and developed a mentor in D. B. Nicholson, the state and local BSU

director. As a prominent agricultural student, he probably attended a

conference in January 1931 entitled "Re-establishment of Rural Life in

Georgia." Through his classes and conferences such as this one, he gained

practical knowledge on which he drew later at Koinonia. In addition, the
First Baptist Church in Athens recognized his potential as a leader and elected

him in 1931 as a delegate to the national YMCA conference in North

Carolina. Evidently, Jordan had not been involved in the YMCA before that

time, but the organization influenced him in ways none other had. The

conference in 1931 was the first meeting of any kind he had attended in which

race was discussed. In addition, he attended a national Y convention in

Buffalo, New York, over the following holiday break, the first major trip he

took in his life.5 These broadening experiences in college stretched Jordan,

exposing him to new ideas and preparing him for his time at Koinonia.

4Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 6, 10-15. Edith Medley with Frank Jordan and others,
1987, audiocassette CJ58D, Koinonia Partners Library, Americus, Georgia. Buddie Jordan to
Clarence Jordan, 4 February 1927, 11 February 1927, 9 April 1927; Sister [Cornelia Jordan] to
Clarence Jordan, 22 March 1927, CLJ 756:1:1. Sister [Cornelia Jordan] to Clarence Jordan, 16
October 1928, CLJ 756:12. Clarence to Mother, 27 April 1932, 9 May 1932, CLJ 756:1:6. Clarence
to Mother, 16 September 1931, CLJ 756:1:5. Clarence to Mother, 18 September 1930, CLJ 756:1:4.
George [Jordan] to Mamma, 21 September 1932, CLJ 756:1:6.
SClarence to Mother, January 1932,9 May 1932, CLJ 756:1:6. "Farm Conference, Ending
Saturday, Has 1500 Guests," Red and Black 36 (30 January 1931). "Delegates Attend Student
Convention," Red and Black 37 (8 January 1932). "Koinonia-Jordan and PD, Tape 1," n. d. [c.
1959], transcript, Percy Dale East Collection, Box 25, Special Collections Department, Mugar
Memorial Library, Boston University, Boston, Massachusetts. During the summer of 1931 or

Like Martin England, Jordan had been sensitive already to race

relations as a youth. At some point he began recognizing what he perceived

to be the inhumane treatment that African-American inmates received at a

work camp near his home, and he realized in part that his relative affluence

came at least in part because his father paid his employees so poorly. He

wrote later, "Because Warren Trice [his father's black porter], his wife and

eight children were willing to go hungry, I went to college. I owe them a debt,
which by the grace of God, I want to pay." Jordan recalled also that the words

to the song "Jesus Loves the Little Children"-specifically the line "Red and

yellow, black and white, they are precious in his sight"--helped him realize

that perhaps the conditions under which African Americans lived may have

been induced by humans rather than ordained by God. His motivation to

attend agricultural school in the first place, so he said later, had been to help

correct this situation.6

Jordan decided in 1933 to become a minister rather than an

agriculturalist and to respond in an expressly Christian manner to what he

perceived to be injustice in the South.7 He preached his first sermons at two

Baptist churches in Athens that spring, graduated with his agricultural
degree, and left for summer camp for the ROTC, a program he had been in for

two years and was about to finish, complete with an officer's commission.

1932, Mabel Orr and Martin England worked at the Y assembly, but evidently did not encounter
Jordan, if indeed their times at the assembly overlapped.
On P. D. East, see P. D. East, The Magnolia Jungle: The Life, Times and Education of a
Southern Editor (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1960) and Gary Huey, Rebel with a Cause: P.
D. East, Southern Liberalism, and the Civil Rights Movement, 1953-1971 (Wilmington, Del.:
Scholarly Resources, 1985).
6Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 7-10. Clarence L. Jordan to Glenn T. Settle, 29 August 1942,
CLJ 756:2:2. Clarence to Mother, 24 September 1933, CLJ 756:1:7.
7Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 11. Clarence to Mama, 4 March 1933, 22 March 1933, CLJ

Committed anew to being a student of the Bible, Jordan had memorized long

passages, including selections from the Sermon on the Mount. The teachings
to love one's enemies and to turn the other cheek when persecuted,

however, conflicted with the camp's exercise drills, which included shooting
pistols at cardboard dummies and sticking sabers into straw dummies, and

Clarence Jordan found himself resigning his commission and returning to

the First Baptist Church in Athens to request licensing to the Baptist
ministry.8 However well formulated his pacifist and racial positions were at

this point, Jordan had begun developing views that became central to his

life's work, even before his formal theological training had begun.

Jordan entered the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in the fall of

1933 and threw himself into a rigorous schedule of Greek, Biblical

Interpretation, Old Testament, New Testament, Sociology, and Music his first

semester. However, he did meet Florence Kroeger, a Louisvillian of German

descent who worked in the seminary library, and began dating her. By the

next spring he had done some writing that foreshadowed work that later

earned him some renown. He wrote a booklet on Job, drawing on his Old

Testament studies and incorporating his humor and literary style. So popular

did the booklet become locally that a radio station expressed interest in

broadcasting a production of it.9

8Clarence to Mama, 14 April 1933, 1 June 1933, CLJ 756:1:7. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence,
11-15. At least one other person close to Jordan offered a different interpretation of his decision
to enter the ministry. Martin England, with whom Jordan surely talked about his call to
ministry and his various philosophies, including non-violence, when they discussed the
possibility of establishing Koinonia, recalled years later that Jordan told him he had been in
line to return to his hometown to run the family business when his mother exerted her influence
on him to become a minister. In this version, Jordan rejected his impending officer's commission
in order to attend seminary to become a minister, not out of a clear sense of a commitment to
pacifism. See Jasper Martin England, interview by David Stricklin, 27 July 1984, number 2,
transcript, Institute for Oral History, Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

9Clarence to Mama, 4 March 1933,1 April 1933, 24 September 1933, CLJ 756:1:7. Lee,
Cotton Patch Evidence, 15-17. Clarence to Mama, [26 March 1934], CLJ 756:1:8.

Being in seminary expanded Jordan's opportunities to preach and
exposed the young minister to conditions even worse than he had
experienced in his hometown. Within a few weeks of his arrival in
Louisville, he noticed the length of the bread lines there. The next summer
he helped with religious services in a slum area of the city and wrote his
mother, "And how is it that such conditions exist alongside the mansions
and palaces and luxury of another section of the city? No, America isn't
Christian yet." Just a year earlier he had hinted in a letter to her his own
misgivings about the role of money and wealth in society. When his father's
bank and store failed, he wrote, "A good many of our people seem to have
forgotten that the church is the place to worship and not the bank." The
failure of the bank and the precarious financial situation of the Depression
"may teach them to put their faith in something more substantial."'0 Jordan

maintained his interest in these issues over the next several years, but
focused mainly on school, on his relationship with Florence Kroeger, and on
three rural student pastorates he held after his ordination to the ministry in
the fall of 1934." He graduated with his theology degree in 1936, he and
Kroeger married that summer, and he began doctoral studies in New
Testament Greek that fall.

Jordan became the superintendent of missions for the Long Run
(Southern) Baptist Association in 1939 and therein gained an official forum
from which to address the race issue. He became a popular speaker at
conferences and meetings, particularly among young people, and was able to
spread his ideas about racial brotherhood far and wide, mainly but not

10Clarence to Mama, [October 1933, misdated 1934], [9 July 1934], CLJ 756:1:8. Clarence
to Mama, 1 April 1933, CLJ 756:1:7.
11Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 16-17. Dad to Clarence, 8 October 1934, CLJ 756:1:8.

exclusively within Southern Baptist circles. Jordan preached revivals in

Louisville, served as featured speaker at Religious Focus Weeks at Baptist

colleges across the South, and participated in programs at the Southern

Baptist Conference Center in Ridgecrest, North Carolina.12 Further, he

helped negotiate a plan whereby African-American ministerial students

could enroll at the Baptist seminary in Louisville.13 Jordan spent the

majority of his time, however, working with missions in inner-city

Louisville, where he discovered the many people, black and white, who had

migrated there from their failed farms in hopes of finding prosperity in the

city. This contact rekindled his dream of teaching farmers how to succeed on

the land, and Jordan began to consider ways to integrate his agricultural with

his theological training.
As a Greek scholar, Jordan sought a biblical basis for his positions on

race relations and on pacifism, a subject on which he became increasingly

outspoken as the world situation deteriorated. In the course of his studies, he

encountered the concept of koinonia. When used in relation to the early

Christian church in Acts 2 and 4, koinonia describes a relationship among

believers of interdependence and, particularly, of living off the common

12Henlee H. Bamette, Clarence Jordan: Turning Dreams into Deeds (Macon, Ga.: Smith
and Helwys Publishing, Inc., 1992), 5. Jordan participated in Religious Focus Weeks at, for
example, Furman University (South Carolina), Howard College (Alabama), Ouachita College
(Arkansas), Baylor University (Texas), and Mercer University (Georgia). Clarence Jordan to
John L. Plyler, 18 February 1941; Clarence Jordan to D. B. Nicholson, 20 February 1941; Thomas
H. Jones to Clarence Jordan, 6 March 1941, CLJ 756:1:12. Robert S. Denny to Clarence Jordan, 11
October 1941, CLJ 756:1:14. Spright Dowell to Clarence Jordan, 27 February 1942, CLJ 756:2:1.
Frank H. Leavell to Clarence Jordan, 13 May 1941, 17 July 1941, CLJ 756:1:13. Frank H. Leavell
to Clarence Jordan, 10 April 1942, CLJ 756:2:2. Juliette Mather to Clarence Jordan, 10 January
1942, CLJ 756:2:1.
13At least two African Americans were receiving private instruction in professors'
offices in the fall of 1940, and within the decade the seminary integrated all its facilities and
granted its first degree to an African American. Clarence Jordan to Mary Nell Lyne, 18 January
1941, CLJ 756:1:12. Clarence Jordan to Victor Glass, 26 August 1941, CLJ 756:1:13. William A.
Mueller, A History of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary (Nashville, Tenn.: Broadman
Press, 1959), 225.

purse, a treasury in which all members pooled their resources and drew on

them according to need. The idea of fellowship or community expressed in

the Greek word is found throughout the New Testament, but the usage in the

Book of Acts seized Jordan and formed the basis for his developing theology.

One Southern Baptist commentator with whom Jordan would have been

familiar interpreted the passage in Acts to indicate that the practice of holding

all things in common was not a permanent state but instead was used on an

as-needed basis. Jordan, however, grew to believe that the absence of the

practice was fundamental to the world's problems, that the "radical sharing"

exemplified in Acts would equalize hierarchies, stop competition, and end

racial division.14

Jordan implemented the koinonia concept while still in Louisville.

About a dozen women and men, mainly seminary students, pooled their

income into a common treasury and pledged to live simply, according to

need. Jordan set the example by declining a salary increase for his work as

missions superintendent, refusing to accept more than was necessary to care

for him and his family. He wrote a friend about the endeavor, promising to

keep him abreast of any developments "other than that [they] went

bankrupt." The group lasted only a few months, not only because the

140n Jordan and pacifism, see Clarence Jordan to Juliette Mather, 5 July 1941; Clarence
Jordan to David Morgan, 18 July 1941, CLJ 756:1:13; Clarence Jordan to H. L. Hardy, 13 December
1941; and Clarence Jordan to Juliette Mather, 5 January 1942, CLJ 756:2:1. W. O. Carver, The
Acts of the Apostles (Nashville, Tenn.: Sunday School Board, Southern Baptist Convention,
1916), 52-59, cited in Barnette, Clarence Jordan, 8. Jordan likely knew this commentary, as
Carver was one of his professors at Southern Seminary. Bamette, Clarence Jordan, 17. Jonathan
G. Andelson notes that the verses in Acts 2 and 4 "have often been cited by communal and
monastic groups as authorization for adopting common property"; see Andelson, "The
Community of True Inspiration from Germany to the Amana Colonies," in America's Communal
Utopias, ed. Donald E. Pitzer (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1997), 188.

students had little money but also because they lived transitory lives.15
Having tested the idea of cooperative living, however, Jordan moved a step

closer to what soon culminated in the establishing of Koinonia.

By the time Martin England and Clarence Jordan met, therefore, each

independently of the other had responded to various influences and had

developed ideas about community, race relations, and pacifism that were

contrary to the mainstream of their society and their denomination. The
precise relationship between specific influences and the development of these

views is unmeasurable, of course, but both men, at least in retrospect, linked

certain experiences, such as those from their childhoods, directly with certain

views, particularly concerning race relations. By the time Jordan became

popular on the speakers' circuit in the late 1930s, race had become a popular

topic at state and national BSU meetings, but Jordan must not have
experienced any such discussions in Baptist programs during his college days,

even as state BSU president. Had Jordan and England not reached beyond

their Southern Baptist circles and become active in the YMCA while in

college, their burgeoning views on race may not have found the fertile

ground needed to mature. John Egerton asserts that many of the southerners
"who yearned to do something about race relations in the twentieth century-

and almost all of the ones who had strong religious ties-could trace their

awakening in some degree to the exposure they got at the Y."16 In addition,

England and Jordan had developed ideas about how to solve the world's

15Financial statements for the Louisville Koinonia, July 1941-March 1942, CLJ 756:2:2.
Clarence Jordan to J. Maurice Trimmer, 14 July 1941, CLJ 756:1:13. Clarence Jordan to Ida Morris,
18 September 1941; Clarence Jordan to David Morgan, 6 October 1941, CLJ 756:1:14. Florence
Jordan to Ken Casey, 27 May 1980, CLJ 2341:2:12. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 26-27. Bamette,
Clarence Jordan, 17-18, 91-93, 99.
16John Egerton, Speak Now Against the Day: The Generation Before the Civil Rights
Movement in the South (New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1994), 426.

problems through living in community. Certainly both men highly regarded
education and theological training and used both to substantiate their
Of primary importance, however, was the seriousness with which
England and Jordan took their Christian faith, which formed the central
component of their lives. Both students of the Bible, they revered it as the
divinely inspired word of God and steeped themselves in biblical teaching.
For England and Jordan, therein lay the seeds of discontent that would set
them on a path so divergent from that of the rest of their culture. Rather
than accept the status quo, particularly as regarded race relations, they took
Scripture at its word and realized how southern society had twisted it for its
own purposes. They learned that Jesus taught sharing and caring for the
needy, yet they saw around them a system that kept the poor in perpetual
debt. Most impressionable on their respective pilgrimages was the
discrepancy between biblical teaching that all humans were equal as children
of God and the segregated society which regarded African Americans as
inferior. Even though their first formal encounters with race as a religious
issue came through the YMCA, their exposure to and training about Scripture
occurred within white evangelical Protestant churches and schools. From
this combination of influences, they formed their own social ethic that
differed markedly from that their tradition propounded.
Dominating southern white evangelical Protestantism, the Southern
Baptist Convention was the home of England and Jordan This largest
denomination wielded a commensurate amount of influence in the region.
Typically, historians have equated white southern Protestantism and white
southern culture, finding that they "have long been harmonious, with each
adapting to and influencing the other," and agreeing that the two were so

enmeshed that differentiating one from the other constituted an exercise in

futility.17 Most accept the "cultural captivity" thesis, contending that

southern religion reinforced, rather than conflicted with, southern culture,

the former held captive by the latter. This role as reinforcer, however, is

particularly ironic, given that the religious tradition began as "change-

oriented" but became "a powerful force in keeping tradition intact" for many

decades. Some argue that this role applies especially to Southern Baptists, so

17Samuel S. Hill, Jr., Southern Churches in Crisis (New York: Holt, Rinehart and
Winston, 1966, 1967), xii. Hill finds the religion of the white South to be distinctive, different
from evangelicalism in other parts of the country because of its inordinate emphasis on
individual conversion and pietism. Other proponents of this position, at least for the
antebellum period, include Eugene D. Genovese and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, "The Religious
Ideals of a Southern Slave Society," Georgia Historical Quarterly 70 (Spring 1986): 1-16.
Frederick A. Bode, however, states "that the southern evangelical ethos had substantially
more in common with that of North Atlantic evangelicals generally than is frequently
assumed." See Bode, "The Formation of Evangelical Communities in Middle Georgia: Twiggs
County, 1820-1861," Journal of Southern History 60 (November 1994): 714, n. 4. C. C. Goen also
argues that the antebellum North and South "shared a common evangelical heritage," which
was "one of the strongest bonds between them until it succumbed to the controversy over
slavery." See Goen, Broken Churches, Broken Nation: Denominational Schisms and the
Coming of the American Civil War (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1985): 41.
Hill originally argued for a distinctiveness and homogeneity of southern religion that
extended beyond the antebellum period well into the twentieth century. See Hill, The South
and the North in American Religion (Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1980). More
recently, however, Hill has maintained the distinctiveness thesis while at the same time
recognizing more diversity in the religious culture of the region, particularly in this century,
even as Protestant groups continue to predominate. See Hill, ed., Varieties of Southern
Religious Experience (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1988). In One Name But
Several Faces: Variety in Popular Christian Denominations in Southern History (Athens:
University of Georgia Press, 1996), Hill goes even further in acknowledging and describing the
diversity with some of the major denominations in the South, including Baptists.
The paradigm of southern religious homogeneity and hegemony excludes African
Americans and African-American religion from southern culture, as Hill acknowledged in
Southern Churches, xvi, and fails to incorporate the considerable diversity in both black and
white religion in the South later documented in David E. Harrell, Jr., ed., Varieties of
Southern Evangelicalism (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1981). See also Harrell,
"Religious Pluralism: Catholics, Jews, and Sectarians," in Charles Reagan Wilson, ed.,
Religion in the South (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 1985), 59-82. For an
anthropological study, see 0. Kendall White, Jr., and Daryl White, eds., Religion in the
Contemporary South: Diversity, Community, and Identity (Athens: University of Georgia
Press, 1995).

much so that, in the words of one historian, they formed "the center of

gravity" in the region.18

Tracing the specific influences England and Jordan encountered within

the Southern Baptist denomination, and even those extra-denominational

influences that nevertheless came from within Southern Baptist circles,

reveals the extent to which they were truly Southern Baptist and, at the same

time, the extent to which they drew from their tradition to form an ethic so

contrary to it. Indeed, Southern Baptists were so much the center of their

worlds that, with the notable exceptions of their involvement with the

YMCA and then of England's shift to American Baptists, any exposure to

ideas more progressive than those typically associated with the denomination

came nevertheless through contacts they encountered first from within

Southern Baptist circles. England's network was likely broader than Jordan's,

in that the former had become an American Baptist a decade before meeting

the latter. England became American Baptist for practical reasons--in order to

receive appointment as a foreign missionary--but the step reflects a move

18Samuel S. Hill, Jr., ed., Religion and the Solid South (Nashville: Abingdon Press,
1972), 22. John Lee Eighmy, Churches in Cultural Captivity: A History of the Social Attitudes
of Southern Baptists, with an Introduction and Epilogue by Samuel S. Hill (Knoxville:
University of Tennessee Press, 1972). In Redeeming the South: Religious Cultures and Racial
Identities among Southern Baptists, 1865-1925 (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina
Press, 1997), 3, 4, Paul Harvey refutes the cultural captivity thesis, asserting that the cultural
captivity thesis might justifiably be reversed--that white southern culture was held captive
by white southern religion--and that southern religion must be understood as "a biracial and
bicultural phenomenon" instead of a homogeneous (white) system. Still, for Harvey, Baptists,
white and black, constituted the bulk of southern religionists and, thus, provide the best
window through which to study southern religion. Edward L. Queen, II, notes that what "most
critics mean" when they suggest that southern religion affirms culture rather than challenges it
is not that religion has not responded to change but that it has not responded "in the ways they
wish it had." Queen, II, In the South the Baptists are the Center of Gravity: Southern
Baptists and Social Change, 1930-1980 (Brooklyn, N. Y.: Carlson Publishing, Inc., 1991), 56.
Edwin S. Gaustad sees Southern Baptists dominating whites in the South well into the
1980s. Even as divided as Baptists in the South are, the various Baptists denominations
maintain their places of influence for both white and black southerners, enough so as to
constitute a "culture religion." See Gaustad, "Regionalism in American Religion," in Wilson,
ed., Religion in the South, 155-172, esp. 163-168.

from the provincial denomination of his childhood. For Jordan, however,

practically all of his influences came from within the rather circumscribed
circles of Southern Baptists; even his initial involvement in the YMCA came
when he served as a delegate from his church. If, then, most of their

influence came from within the racially stratified, religiously provincial, and
generally conservative environment of their denomination, it nevertheless
produced these two progressive thinkers, both determined to translate their
religious beliefs into a more equitable society.
As children, England and Jordan learned a theology of the cross. The V
crucifixion of Jesus reflected his willingness to pay the ultimate cost in service

on behalf of others. Southern Baptists, in turn, adopted an ethic of personal
sacrifice to model the actions of Jesus. England and Jordan heard in a
thousand ways, including in hymn titles, that because "Jesus Paid It All," they

should be able to be sincere when singing "I Surrender All." In addition, they
learned that they should not follow the ways of the world, that, instead, "The
Way of the Cross Leads Home." The implication of this theology of the cross

was that serious and faithful (Southern Baptist) Christians were compelled to
make extreme personal sacrifices in order to be faithful.
The other mandate characterizing Southern Baptist theology was the
Great Commission, the command to go into the world and make converts to
Christ. In combination, these two mandates made the highest standard of
service, for Southern Baptists, to be foreign missions. The great personal
sacrifice of leaving family and homeland and, potentially, facing such
extreme circumstances as to endanger one's life in order to evangelize formed
the highest calling. For all those (Southern Baptist) believers not called into
foreign missions, the next best option in a largely unarticulated but widely
held hierarchy was responding to a call to serve Christ totally and

unconditionally in a variety of other ways. The point was to serve, and to
serve totally, faithfully, sacrificially. Southern Baptists certainly did not hold

the monopoly on the cross and the Great Commission, but no other southern
white Protestant denomination interpreted or combined the two with the
same sense of urgency, sacrifice, or commitment.

Even among Southern Baptists, however, England and Jordan
incorporated the theology of the cross and the Great Commission to a degree
different from and in a way unlike any other. They developed a personal
ethic that empowered them to go against the world and "dare to be different,"
another Southern Baptist idiom familiar to them. The difference between
them and other faithful Southern Baptists was that they chose not only

against the secular world but also against the world they knew, that defined
and dominated by Southern Baptists. In other words, their faith required
them to be different from the world and from other Southern Baptists.
As adults, England and Jordan searched for precedents, however
meager, for their ways of thinking even within the constraints of the

Southern Baptist denomination. Once sensitized to the race issue, for
example, they would have been familiar with the views of denominational
leaders on the subject, and, sadly, found little to support their divergent
views. Both probably were familiar during their respective times in
Louisville with the Kentucky Baptist Western Recorder and thus would have
followed the editorials and articles published on race relations. Throughout
the 1920s and 1930s, the Western Recorder published two kinds of articles
addressing the race question. The first described Kentucky Baptist mission
work among African Americans and training sessions for African-American
clergy. The second called, for example, for "the living together of two
separated racial strains in peace and good will" and asserted that obeying the

teachings of Scripture did not require "violating social customs that prevailed

in the Southern Baptist Convention."19 The prevailing sentiment on race

espoused by the writers in the Western Recorder, therefore, was not in line

with England's and Jordan's.

In addition, beyond the specific issue of race, England and Jordan found

few indications of a concern for society at large within their denomination.

Most historians typically regard Southern Baptists, in particular, and southern

white evangelical Protestantism, in general, as uninterested in social issues.

No one would categorically deny the southern white church system's concern

for society, but most careful observers agree that emphasis on personal

conversion and evangelism overshadowed serious regard for anything other

than individual reform. In the end, society would be reformed--one soul at a

time. White Baptists did not hold the monopoly on lack of regard for social

issues. A Presbyterian minister, a contemporary of Jordan's, reflected on the

state of southern white religion and of his own religious tradition by noting

the emphases on repentance, baptism, spiritual growth, evangelism, and

watchfulness for Jesus' return, but "there was seldom a hint that there was

anything amiss in the social order .... We were to accept the social order as

19See, for example, Victor I. Masters, "Concerning Race Relations in the South,"
Western Recorder 101 (24 November 1927), 13, 16; E. B. Withers, "Report of Colored Missionary
Worker," Western Recorder 101 (28 April 1927), 22; T. Timberlake, "Negro Baptists in
Kentucky," Western Recorder 101 (12 May 1927), 10; Victor I. Masters, "Negro Baptists and
Baptist World Alliance," Western Recorder 101 (6 October 1927), 13; Victor I. Masters, "Bread
upon the Waters," Western Recorder 113 (19 May 1939), 9; "Unwise Negro Leadership,"
Western Recorder 112 (7 July 1938), 12; "Friendship and Social Apartness of Races in the
South," Western Recorder 112 (14 July 1938), 6; ., "The Race Problem," Western Recorder
116 (10 December 10 1942), 7,8; J. B. Lawrence, "Home Board's Approach to Mission Work
Among Negroes," Western Recorder 111 (10 June 1937), 5, all cited in Foy D. Valentine, A
Historical Study of Southern Baptists and Race Relations, 1917-1947 (New York: Amo Press,
1980, reprint of Th.D. dissertation, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, Fort Worth,
Texas, 1949), 55, 84, 95, 120, 123, 134, 137, 180; see also 135, 142, 145. Rather than suggesting that
England and Jordan would have been familiar with these particular articles, instead I am
suggesting that they would have been familiar with this publication, with the views it
published on race relations, and with any interracial work done by the denomination within

we found it."20 Only in obscure corners could England and Jordan find

among their Southern Baptist peers and forebears any interest in addressing
the ills of the social order at large rather than just promoting individual

salvation. Indeed, most of southern white Protestantism missed the

influence of the Social Gospel altogether.

Southern Baptists' resistance to the Social Gospel stemmed in large

part from theological differences between denominational doctrine and the

new progressive ideology. Social Gospelers followed the lead of Walter

Rauschenbusch (himself a northern Baptist), who argued that sin found its

roots in the environment, not in the depraved nature of humanity.21

Shifting emphasis from the salvation of souls and the individual

responsibility for sin to social concerns and the corporate nature of sin would

require Southern Baptists to divert their focus from other-worldly affairs to

temporal ones. Other southern white Protestants faced a similar dilemma.

The Presbyterian Church in the United States (Southern Presbyterians), for

instance, maintained its official interpretation of the doctrine of "the

spirituality of the church," which held that the church should address itself

solely to spiritual affairs and remain separate from secular issues, in spite of

the few voices calling for reform.22 Preaching an undiluted Gospel and

converting souls had priority over assuming a more active role in society and

made southern Protestants suspicious of threats to their orthodoxy.

20Robert McNeill, God Wills Us Free: The Ordeal of a Southern Minister (New York:
Hill and Wang, 1965), 41,42.

21Walter Rauschenbusch, Christianity and the Social Crisis (New York: Macmillan,
1909). A Theology for the Social Gospel (New York: Macmillan, 1917). For a
biography of Rauschenbusch, see Paul M. Minus, Walter Rauschenbusch: American Reformer
(New York: Macmillan, 1988).
22Joel L. Alvis, Jr., Religion and Race: Southern Presbyterians, 1946-1983 (Tuscaloosa:
University of Alabama Press, 1994), 4-5, 46-47. See also Ernest Trice Thompson, The
Spirituality of the Church (Richmond, Va.: John Knox Press, 1961).

In the early twentieth century Social Gospel influence affected the

Southern Baptist interpretation of "the church's earthly mission," creating a

view that called for societal reform and corporate concern for human welfare
and that opposed the dominant view, which focused on individual reform to

the near exclusion of anything else. Those advocating a new interpretation of

the role of the church in society found few supporters among the laity and

few colleagues among the denominational leadership. So minimal was the

concern that one leader described himself as "only a voice crying in the

wilderness." More typical were the voices of those warning against letting the

Social Gospel make any inroads into the Southern Baptist way of thinking.

The gist of the critics' message was that "social gospel means could best be

achieved as the natural fruit of individual regeneration."23

Assessment of the extent of Social Gospel influence among Southern

Baptists depends on the agenda of the observers and, more importantly, on

how broadly they define "Social Gospel." Those who seek evidence of a more

activist role by Southern Baptists in society are able to find it. Indeed, one

observer notes that Southern Baptists in Alabama, for example, displayed

little interest in social issues in the late nineteenth century. Between 1900

and 1914, however, some Baptist leadership and some urban churches there

launched "a substantial and vigorous intellectual assault on the social

23Ibid. Joseph M. Dawson, A Thousand Months to Remember (Waco, Tex.: Baylor
University Press, 1964), 170-171, quoted in James J. Thompson, Jr., Tried as by Fire: Southern
Baptists and the Religious Controversies of the 1920s (Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press,
1982), 34. John Lee Eighmy, "Religious Liberalism in the South during the Progressive Era,"
Church History 38 (September 1969): 368.
The standard work on the Social Gospel remains Charles H. Hopkins, The Rise of the
Social Gospel in American Protestantism, 1865-1915 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University
Press, 1940). See also Paul Allen Carter, The Decline and Rise of the Social Gospel: Social and
Political Liberalism in American Protestant Churches, 1920-1940 (Ithaca, N. Y.: Cornell
University Press, 195); Ronald C. White, Jr., and C. Howard Hopkins, The Social Gospel:
Religion and Reform in Changing America (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1976); and
Ronald C. White, Jr., Liberty and Justice for All: Racial Reform and the Social Gospel (1977-
1925) (San Francisco: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1990).

problems plaguing the nation" and promoted alternatives similar to those

popular in northeastern churches which had adopted a Social Gospel stance.

The editor of the Alabama Baptist wrote in 1905 that if "the preacher was

heard oftener on political questions that effect [sic] the moral welfare of the

community, it would be better for the State." Most historians, however, agree

that southern white Protestant churches of the nineteenth and much of the

twentieth centuries had "virtually no recognition of any responsibility to

redeem the secular dimensions of community and national life," focusing

instead on "the salvation of the individual." Therefore, those who view

Southern Baptists' involvement in mission schools, orphanages, and similar

social services as evidence of influence of the Social Gospel, according to one

critic, "expand the definition of the Social Gospel to something so broad that

it becomes meaningless." The interest Southern Baptists had in these kinds

of activities was, by and large, to redeem individuals, not society.24

A few Southern Baptist leaders expanded their view of evangelism to

carry societal implications and drew from the service-oriented or ethical

strain of their tradition to support their reform ideology. These few attained

24Wayne Flynt, "Dissent in Zion: Alabama Baptists and Social Issues, 1900-1914,"
Journal of Southern History 35 (1969): 524. Alabama Baptist (8 November 1905), cited in Flynt,
"Dissent in Zion," 528. Hill, Southern Churches in Crisis, 82, 77. Lauren F. Winner, "Diversity
Comes to Dixie," Books and Culture (January-February 1998): 30.
For other examinations of Southern Baptists' involvement in social issues, see Rufus B.
Spain, At Ease in Zion: Social History of Southern Baptists, 1865-1900 (Nashville: Vanderbilt
University Press, 1961, 1967); George D. Kelsey, Social Ethics Among Southern Baptists, 1917-
1969 (Metuchen, N. J.: Scarecrow Press, Inc., and the American Theological Library Association,
1973); and Norman Alexander Yance, Religion Southern Style: Southern Baptists and Society
in Historical Perspective (Danville, Va.: Association of Baptist Professors of Religion, 1978);
in addition to Eighmy, Churches in Cultural Captivity and Thompson, Tried as by Fire.
Others see southern white evangelical Protestantism as far more socially activist than
previously considered. See J. Wayne Flynt, "'Feeding the Hungry and Ministering to the Broken
Hearted': The Presbyterian Church in the United States and the Social Gospel, 1900-1920," in
Wilson, ed., Religion in the South, 83-138; "One in the Spirit, Many in the Flesh:
Southern Evangelicals," in Harrell, ed., Varieties, 23-44; and John Patrick McDowell, The
Social Gospel in the South: The Woman's Home Mission Movement in the Methodist Church,
South, 1886-1939 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1982); in addition to Eighmy,
"Religious Liberalism."

monumental significance for England and Jordan, as they provided

precedents from within the Southern Baptist tradition for progressive ways of

thinking and thereby allowed England and Jordan to retain their Baptist

identity when they established Koinonia. In addition, these few leaders
provided precedents for chastising Baptists for their complacency and calling
on them to restructure the social order.

Denominational leaders such as Edgar Y. Mullins, Archibald T.
Robertson, and William O. Carver spoke out, to varying degrees, for a more

socially active Southern Baptist theology. Mullins, president of Southern

Baptist Theological Seminary when England was a student, took a moderate
view of the Social Gospel during the early years of his tenure. On the faculty

with him was Charles S. Gardner, who emphasized practical training in

sociology and psychology and who wrote The Ethics of Jesus and Social
Progress (1914). Both England and Jordan studied under Robertson, the

preeminent New Testament Greek scholar of his day. His commentary on

the Gospel of Luke interpreted the parables of Jesus in ethical, rather than
apocalyptic, terms, and his Grammar of the Greek New Testament in the
Light of Historical Research (1914) introduced Jordan to what became one of

his life's passions, studying the New Testament in its original language.

Carver condemned the premillennial position that stripped the "gospel of its

ethical content and passion" and introduced his classes to Rauschenbusch's
teachings. One student a few years behind Jordan recalled that when Carver
asked his class how many had heard of Rauschenbusch, not one had.25 None

25W. R. Estep, "Mullins, Edgar Young," in Dictionary of Baptists in America, ed. Bill J.
Leonard (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1994), 195. Ferenc Morton Szasz, The Divided
Mind of Protestant America, 1880-1930 (University, Ala.: University of Alabama Press, 1982),
63. See also William E. Ellis, "Edgar Young Mullins: Southern Baptist Theologian,
Administrator, and Denominational Leader" (Ph.D. diss., University of Kentucky, 1974). W. L.
Allen, "Gardner, Charles Spurgeon," in Dictionary, 128-129. W. R. Estep, "Robertson,
A(rchibald) T(homas)," in Dictionary, 238. Mueller, A History of Southern, 205. E. Glenn

truly liberal, these professors nevertheless adopted a more moderate theology

than that typically associated with Southern Baptists and were among those

who influenced England and Jordan.

Two other seminary professors had a particular influence on Jordan.
Jesse B. Weatherspoon, Gardner's successor, called for ministers to be trained
to address problems associated with the industrial order, race relations, and

world peace. His teaching reflected his belief that Christian ethics addressed at

individuals did nothing to correct social evils and that Christians were

obligated to work for "social betterment." Weatherspoon headed the Social

Service Committee of the Southern Baptist Convention and led the

Convention in 1947 to establish a full-time social agency. Whatever the
precise content of Weatherspoon's classes, undoubtedly the teachings there

broadened Jordan's thinking about steps he could take to reform what he

perceived to be wrong in his native society.26

Edward A. McDowell, who taught New Testament interpretation,

"tried seriously to relate the gospel of Christ to the baffling social issues of the

day," in the words of one observer, and involved himself heavily in
interracial work. Jordan wrote McDowell later that he thought of his work at

Koinonia "as a projection of the work which [McDowell] began" in him. The

professor instilled in Jordan "a love for Greek Scriptures as a means of a

clearer understanding of the mind of Christ" and showed him that "the

Word must come alive not only on the pages of the New Testament but also
in the turbulent currents of history and social change." McDowell took

Hinson, "Southern Baptists and the Liberal Tradition of Biblical Interpretation, 1845-1945,"
Baptist History and Heritage 19 (1984): 17. Thompson, Tried as by Fire, 57. G. McLeod Bryan,
Dissenter in the Baptist Southland: Fifty Years in the Career of William Wallace Finlator
(Macon, Ga.: Mercer University Press, 1985), 3.
26Eighmy, Churches in Cultural Captivity, 131, 152. Yance, Religion Southern Style,

Jordan to a Southern Interracial Commission meeting in Atlanta in the mid-
1930s, an experience similar to that of his first national YMCA conference in
which the issue of race was paramount on the program and from which
Jordan received validation and inspiration for his own racial views.27

The work at Koinonia was indeed a projection of what McDowell and
other Southern Baptists had taught England and Jordan. The Social Gospel
may have had minimal influence within the denomination, but a few leaders
interpreted the Gospel message more broadly than most others and
encouraged believers to expand their understanding of evangelism to include
concern for society. These few provided the precedents England and Jordan
needed to develop their own ideas and the conviction they needed to act on
them. Rather than just making society better, as Weatherspoon suggested,
England and Jordan sought to restructure society and to address the plight of
individuals by healing the world in which they lived.

Some of the specific ideas and language England and Jordan ended up
using in establishing Koinonia came not from these seminary professors,
however, but from Howard Kester. Just how they came to know Kester is
uncertain, but in all likelihood the relationship originated in Southern
Baptist circles. Jordan joined the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen in 1942,
and England joined in 1943, but Jordan knew of Kester as early as 1940, and
England did a year later. Individuals involved in the Louisville koinonia
group corresponded with Kester as early as October 1940 and attended sessions
when he spoke at the seminary in March 1941. After Kester spoke there again
in March 1942, he led meetings on the "Church and Social Reconstruction" at
Wakefield, where England was living by that time. Already planning the

27Mueller, A History of Southern, 222. Clarence Jordan to Edward A. McDowell, Jr., 29
May 1964, CLJ 2340:29.

Koinonia project, Jordan likely joined England for these meetings. Although

the conference was small, Kester wrote his wife that the FSC had "made a

good beginning" among Southern Baptists.28 In addition, Kester and Jordan

taught a seminar on race relations together as part of a [Southern Baptist]

Young Women's Association Conference held in the summer of 1943. The

number of contacts between Kester and Jordan may not have been frequent,

but they were substantial enough for Kester, upon resigning as secretary for

the FSC in late 1943, to write Jordan, addressing him as "My dear Clarence," to

ascertain whether or not he would be interested in the position. Only a year

into his new project at Koinonia, Jordan declined consideration.29

What Jordan, and England a decade earlier, had learned at Southern

Seminary regarding ministry in rural areas is unknown, and while Jordan's

student pastorates were in rural areas of Kentucky, most of his experience was

in inner-city Louisville. Howard Kester's teachings, therefore, assume even

more importance as they emerge as central in the formation of Koinonia.

The first findings ever published by the Conference of Younger Churchmen

of the South, which became the FSC, called upon "church groups to make the

28"Subscriptions to Prophetic Religion," Fellowship of Southern Churchmen
Manuscript Collection, box 23, folder 268, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library,
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina (hereinafter referred to as FSC,
followed by box and folder numbers). "Fellowship of Southern Churchmen Membership,"
compiled by Dallas A. Blanchard, 18 August 1986, FSC 23:267. "Friends of the Soil Membership
List," 1 May 1943, HAK, reel 6. Martin England's name is included on an addendum to this list.
Bob Hemdon to Howard [Kester], 30 October 1940, HAK, reel 5. Howard [Kester] to "My
darling" [Alice Harris Kester], 6 March 1942; Bob Herndon to [Howard Kester], 25 February
1941, HAK, reel 6. Mrs. Howard A. Kester to Miss Elizabeth P. Lam, 20 January 1941, HAK,
reel 5. Edward A. McDowell to Howard A. Kester, 22 April 1941; [Alice Harris Kester] to Mrs.
Moors, 10 March 1941; "A Partial Report of the Activities of Howard Kester, Secretary of the
Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, March 1 to July 1, 1942," p. 1, HAK, reel 6. Howard Kester
to Friend, 27 February 1942, HAK, reel 6. Secretary Report of Activities, 1 March-1 July 1942,
Howard A. Kester Papers, Second Group, Series 7, folder 333, Southern Historical Collection,
Wilson Library, University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

29Juliette Mather to 'Teacher," 12 May 1943; Juliette Mather to Honored Guest, June
1942, HAK, reel 6. Howard Kester to Clarence Jordan, 16 October 1943, CLJ 756:2:6.

principle of brotherhood concrete in the relationships between the races,
especially in the economic area." The language of at least one of Koinonia's
purposes--"To seek to conserve the soil, which we believe to be God's holy
earth"--directly parallels a statement in "A Primer for Friends of the Soil."
Founded upon "the lordship of God over man, the earth and its resources,"

the FOS, a subgroup of the FSC, had as its purpose "to lead men to regard the
earth as holy and man as steward of the Eternal."30 England and Jordan may
have been able to find these precedents in organizations other than the FSC
or from individuals other than Kester, but they could not find them among
fellow Southern Baptists.

Most of the formative experiences, therefore, that propelled England
and Jordan to establish Koinonia occurred either as a direct result of their
involvement in Southern Baptist affairs or as a byproduct of contacts they
made within that context. Both had grown up in Southern Baptist churches
and thus from birth were immersed in that culture. England attended a
Baptist college and there became involved in the YMCA, an organization that
undoubtedly helped shape his views on race relations. Jordan attended a

public university and involved himself in numerous activities, not the least
of which were the Baptist Student Union and the First Baptist Church of
Athens. As a representative of the latter, he attended a national Y conference
and found for the first time a community of like-minded thinkers. Both
England and Jordan attended Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. While
England stayed there only two years, he left to work in a Baptist college,
during which time he decided, for practical reasons, to finish his theological
training at an American Baptist seminary. Jordan earned graduate degrees at

30"Findings," Conference of Younger Churchmen, 27-29 May 1934, HAK Papers, reel 1.
Report of Howard Kester, 21 March 1938, HAK, reel 3. "Koinonia Farm," promotional
brochure, CLJ 2341:4:9. Eugene Smathers, "A Primer for Friends of the Soil," [n. d.], HAK, reel 6.


Southern Seminary and remained closely affiliated with the institution while
working in inner-city Louisville. Both England and Jordan likely first
encountered Howard Kester through contacts at Southern Seminary. The
world of Southern Baptists may have been limited and perhaps limiting, but
from within its circumscribed boundaries two progressive thinkers found
enough support and encouragement and experienced enough exposure to
outside influences to decide to translate their ideas into action through the
establishment of Koinonia Farm.


Once Martin England and Clarence Jordan decided to establish
Koinonia Farm, they had to find a suitable location and lay a sturdy
foundation for the future community. Although they realized they would

not find an area in the South that would embrace their presence, much less
their ideals, nevertheless they hoped to find a place that would offer the least
resistance so they could lay the groundwork for what would become a

thriving community. In Koinonia's first few years in Sumter County, white
neighbors questioned their presence, and black neighbors, while welcoming
the work available there, refused to move to the community and adopt its

way of life. The occasional flare-ups, however, were minimal and
manageable, and Koinonia's founders focused in the first years on reclaiming
the farm land, developing a network of outside supporters, publicizing the
new endeavor, and building a financial base. Koinonia's formative years,
therefore, helped give the community enough stability to withstand
opposition to its presence and to prepare for future growth.

Once the possibility of establishing Koinonia grew real, the Englands
and Jordans had to weigh the personal costs involved in such a task. Jordan
conveyed that all the Southern Baptist leaders he talked with thought
Koinonia was the "most forward-looking venture that they had ever seen
among Baptist ranks," but he realized that the plan called for plenty of sweat
and risks of discouragement. It could easily fail. Nevertheless, England wrote

Jordan, "I cannot get away from the deepening conviction that the spirit of
the Lord is in this thing." America's involvement in the Second World War
increased the sense of urgency they felt. If "democracy is at stake on the world
battle field," Jordan wrote in May 1942, "it is more so on the home front."
Both England and Jordan turned down secure job possibilities--England as
president of a private school in Kentucky and Jordan as pastor of a large
church in Louisville-to commit themselves to their dream. The year before,
Jordan had turned down an invitation to teach at Bessie Tift College, a
Georgia Baptist women's college, saying that "the pleading voice of twelve
million Negroes who are under the yoke of oppression" and above all "the
commanding voice of Christ, saying, 'Go!'" compelled him to decline the
attractive offer. Above all they operated, as England wrote in July 1942, on the
faith that "the Christian religion can reconcile differences and break down
barriers between people of different race, class, and economic opportunity."1
England and Jordan incorporated Koinonia Farm in the summer of
1942 and had a brochure printed explaining that the project was devotedtd to
the proclamation of Jesus Christ and the application of his teachings."
Further, the project sought "to make a contribution to the lives of all those
who suffer and are oppressed.... To this end, Koinonia Farm dedicates itself,
believing that by so doing it seeks first the Kingdom of God and its
righteousness." Since England and Jordan "had been so careful to test every
item in the plan by what [they] felt to be God's will, it seemed absurd that
[they] should now hesitate to do" it, and so the four founders moved ahead.2

1Clarence to Buddie [Jordan], 1 July 1942; Martin England to Clarence Jordan, 23 April
[1942]; Clarence Jordan to W. A. Colvin, 4 June 1942; Clarence Jordan to Frank H. Leavell, 26
May 1942, CLJ 756:2:2. Clarence Jordan to C. L. McGinty, 11 July 1941, CLJ 756:1:13. Martin
England to Mack Goss, 15 July 1942, CLJ 2340:1.
2"Koinonia Farm," promotional brochure, CLJ 2341:4.9. Martin and Mabel England and
Clarence and Florence Jordan to "Friend," 23 September 1942, CLJ 756:2:3.

Only by believing they were in one accord with each other and were in clear
understanding of God's intentions for them could they proceed with their
plans to establish Koinonia.
Koinonia's promotional brochure reflected the founders' emphasis on
religious and agricultural training, thus creating an appeal as a mission
endeavor. As an "agricultural missionary enterprise," Koinonia would
demonstrate scientificfc and practical farming" and would send its members
to preach and teach at "every opportunity" in order to "relate, through a
ministry to both individuals and community, the entire life of the people to
Jesus Christ and his teachings," to train African-American preachers in
"religion and agriculture," to offer apprenticeships for students interested in

learning Koinonia's way of life, and to "seek to conserve the soil," which was
"God's holy earth." The Koinonians intended to establish themselves as
"Christian farmers" at first, giving themselves time to assess the local
environment and specific needs before launching their program in its
Had England and Jordan emphasized the communal nature of their
intentions, they would have been misunderstood. Moreover, had they
explicitly expressed the interracial aspect of their work, they would have been
criticized and never would have gained support. Indeed, Jordan wrote one
friend with details that had been left out of the brochure for practical reasons--
that Koinonia would be a cooperative and communal project, that it would be
interracial, that it would be "controlled by investment of time (life), rather
than by capital," that it would be based on the principle of distribution
according to need, and that it would be motivated by Christian love as the
"most powerful instrument known" for solving problems. Training African-

3"Koinonia Farm," promotional brochure.

American preachers in religion and agriculture sounded less threatening

than affirming the equality of persons of all races. England and Jordan knew

they had to couch their intentions in acceptable language in order to gain
support and focused more on "religious rather than economic motives,"
thereby operating, according to one historian, in "typical American

communitarian style."4
Having stated the venture's objectives specifically, England and Jordan
began recruiting support for Koinonia and looking for the best location for
the farm. They received their first contribution of fifty dollars and hoped to
raise ten thousand dollars, a figure, Jordan noted, one fourth the price of a
tank. After careful study, they decided that the east Alabama counties of

Chambers or Barbour represented the most typical rural, poor, predominantly
African-American, farming areas in the Deep South. When the deal on a
farm they intended to purchase in Alabama fell through in October 1942, they

learned from Jordan's brother Frank, a federal farm appraiser, about some
land available in Sumter County, Georgia, not too far south of Jordan's
hometown of Talbotton. The four-hundred-acre farm, which cost seventy-
five hundred dollars, had about one hundred acres for cultivation, about one
hundred in forest, and about two hundred in pasture. The land had one
seedling pecan tree, no other fruit or nut tree, and the garden spot was knee-

deep in Bermuda grass. On the property were a tenant shack, a run-down
farmhouse, and an old sheet-metal barn and tool shed. This was the land
England and Jordan wanted for their experiment. Arthur Steilburg, a
Louisville businessman, had promised help with the down payment, but

4Clarence Jordan to Mack M. Goss, 18 July 1942, CLJ 2340:1. Horace Montgomery,
"Georgia's Koinonia: A Heritage of Communitarian Ideals and Ordeals," Americana-
Austriaca: Beitrage zur Amerikakunde 3 (1974): 157-158.

when he decided to contribute twenty-five hundred dollars, he was unaware

that the amount was exactly what was required.5

Even though England and Jordan originally thought that the Alabama

counties were most representative of the dismal plight of the South, they

could have done little better in their final selection of Sumter County,

Georgia. African Americans comprised more than half the population in the

county, operated more than half the farms there, but owned very little land.

A pattern of out-migration and rather typical relations between the races

matched the criteria for which England and Jordan searched. Moreover, a

peculiar combination of factors made Sumter County distinctively typical.

Located about halfway between Columbus and Albany in the southwestern

part of the state, Sumter adjoins Macon County, one of two counties on

which Arthur F. Raper based his classic portrait of the black belt. Sumter's

shifting agricultural system shared many of the characteristics Raper

attributed to Macon's. Sumter also adjoins Terrell County, later labeled

"Terrible Terrell" for its strong resistance to change during the civil rights

movement. Race relations in Sumter County and surrounding areas may

have been calm in 1942, but they were to explode across the region two

decades later. Finally, Sumter County is the site of the Confederacy's most

infamous prisoner-of-war camp, Andersonville, thus making vestiges of the

5Clarence Jordan to Elizabeth Hartsfield, 1 June 1942; Clarence Jordan to Charles A.
Wells, 3 July 1942, CLJ 756:2:2. Clarence Jordan to Marjorie Moore, 11 August 1942; Aubrey J.
Hudson to Clarence Jordan, 13 August 1942, CLJ 756:2:3. Dallas Lee, The Cotton Patch Evidence:
The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia Farm Experiment (New York: Harper and Row,
Publishers, 1971), 31-34. Koinonia Newsletter, December 1942 (most Koinonia newsletters may
be found in the Georgia Room stacks of the University of Georgia Library). Clarence Jordan to
Howard Johnson, 17 December 1942, CLJ 756:23. Florence Jordan, classroom lecture, Southern
Baptist Theological Seminary, 28 April 1977, audiocassette 1404, James P. Boyce Centennial
Library, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. John Pennington,
"Compassion Led to Farm, Jordan Says," Atlanta Journal, 17 April 1957, Koinonia Scrapbook.
Juanita Deatrick, "Koinonia: A Twentieth Century Experiment in Communal Living" (M.A.
thesis, University of Georgia, 1968), 6.

Old South particularly prominent there. Sumter County was unique only

because these factors were clearly visible, not because shifting agriculture, race
relations, and Old South ties themselves were any different there than
anywhere else in the South.6

Figures from federal census records reveal the racial breakdown of the
population and show a shift away from a farm-based economy. Of the
county's total population in 1940 of 24,502, 61.2 percent was African
American; in the county seat, Americus, slightly more than half (4,855) of the
9,281 residents were African American. Over the next decade, the county
population decreased to 24,208 (including 13,290 African Americans) while

that of Americus increased to 11,389 (including 5,666 African Americans,
slightly less than half the total). This change only partly reflects the decline in
rural farm residents. In 1940, 13,347 people, including 9,349 African
Americans, lived on farms in Sumter County; by 1950, the total had dropped
by almost half to 6,817, nearly two-thirds (4,116) of whom were African

American. Rural, non-farm residents increased from 1,874 in 1940 to 6,002 in
1950.7 The number of farms in the county had been in decline since 1920,

dropping from 3,040 that year to 1,995 five years later to 1,931 in 1935.
African Americans operated more than half of the farms in the county
in each of these years, but very few owned their own land. Only sixty-four
African Americans were full owners of their farm land in 1925; by 1935 that
number had declined to fifty-one. Of the 1,686 farms in Sumter County in
1945, only eighty-eight were owned by African Americans. These numbers

6Arthur F. Raper, Preface to Peasantry: A Tale of Two Black Belt Counties (Chapel
Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1936).
7United States Census, Sixteenth Census, 1940, Population, v. II, part 2; table 21, p. 21;
table 26, p. 296; table 27, p. 306; table 30, p. 358. United States Census, Seventeenth Census,
1950, Population, v. II, part 11; table 33, p. 58; table 42, p. 123; table 48, p. 172; table 49, p. 192.

represent a decline in economic status for African Americans, for at one time

they had been landowners in the county. At least 165 African Americans

owned a total of more than thirteen thousand acres in the county in 1899,

with one having an estate valued at more than fifty thousand dollars, and in

1903, approximately one fifth (197 out of a total of 976) of all landowners in
the county were African American.8

The drop in landownership came in part because deteriorating

conditions caused many African Americans to migrate out of the area. A boll
weevil crisis in the 1910s crippled the cotton crop in twenty counties in

southwest Georgia, and many farmers, black and white, lost whatever

property and profit they may have accumulated. More than forty-five
hundred people left the Albany area in the months following June 1916, and

more than three thousand African Americans left Americus at about the

same time. The volume of migration out of Americus was so great that local

officials, concerned about the decline in the number of laborers and about the

number of migrants who left without settling their debts, intervened on at

least one occasion by arresting a train load of would-be migrants, charging

them with misdemeanors, and then releasing them after the train had left,

preventing their departure at least for the time being. John Dittmer argues

that few African-American tenants and croppers left the black belt during this

time because they were trapped by indebtedness or contract to their

landlords.9 The sheer number of African Americans leaving the Americus

8United States Census of Agriculture, 1925, Part II, Southern States, county table I, p.
418. United States Census of Agriculture, 1935, v. I, Statistics by Counties, Part II; county table
I, p. 504. United States Census of Agriculture, 1945, v. I, Statistics by Counties, Part 17; county
table V, p. 227. Loren Schweninger, Black Property Owners in the South, 1790-1915 (Urbana:
University of Illinois Press, 1990), table 22, pp. 275, 298. Enoch Marvin Banks, "The Economics
of Land Tenure in Georgia," Studies in History, Economics and Public Law 23 (1905): 121.

9John Dittmer, Black Georgia in the Progressive Era, 1900-1920 (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 1977), 187, 188.

area, however, indicates that more than just landowners migrated. A large
number of sharecroppers must have escaped northward rather than
remaining trapped in a system from which they never would have freed
themselves otherwise.

Relations between the races in Sumter County were probably no better
or worse than in similar counties elsewhere in the South. The county was
not renowned for a high level of lynching activity, but neither was it known
for congenial and harmonious relations. An incident that reflects the area's
typicality more than anything else comes from Raper's study of the
neighboring county. A traveling blackface minstrel show, this one composed
of African Americans, visited the small town of Oglethorpe in 1934. The
audience, seated in segregated areas, witnessed one skit in which an actor
related the story of an African-American preacher from Florida who, called by
the Lord to preach in Americus, preached three days on its streets, ignoring
the warnings from the local sheriff to move on. Finally jailed, beaten, and
run out of town by the sheriff, the preacher began his trip back to Florida.
Along the way, his son asked him three times '"Do you 'spose the Lord

knows how the white folks at 'Mericus, Georgia, treat us niggers?'" He finally
replied, "'Yes, son, he knows, but just don't give a damn!'" Most likely used
in other performances and set in each case in whatever the nearest large town
was, this skit was just one of a series performed in such rapid succession that
the audience barely had time to laugh before getting caught up in the next
one. Jack Temple Kirby labeled this skit "a metaphor for the gamut of feelings
and conventions of rural and small town race relations." The "remarkable
combination of tension, danger, and mirth during the Oglethorpe minstrel

show," he asserted, reflected conditions in numerous small towns across the
South, including those in Americus, Georgia.o1

The state of race relations typified by the minstrel skit and the poor
agricultural system combined to make Sumter County a desolate place for
African Americans. Raper had concluded a few years earlier about

neighboring Macon County that the "collapse of the plantation system,
rendered inevitable by its exploitation of land and labor, [left] in its wake
depleted soil, shoddy livestock, inadequate farm equipment, crude
agricultural practices, crippled institutions, a defeated and impoverished
people."11 The situation was much the same in Sumter County, and those
African Americans who saw their way clear to a better life often left the area

in order to attain it. Martin England and Clarence Jordan hoped that their
work at Koinonia Farm would offer these rural folk an alternative to
migration, a chance to make a living by farming, and a way to free themselves
from the shackles of indebtedness. Indeed, the large number of displaced
farm workers who had been unsuccessful in making their own way in inner-
city Louisville had been part of the impetus that made Jordan finally act on

the thoughts and ideas he had been formulating for nearly a decade. Both
men knew "that the needs of Negroes must be somehow met in the rural
areas of the [S]outh if the problem of the Negro migration to the cities [was] to

be solved," as England wrote in May 1942.12

10In Lynching in the New South: Georgia and Virginia, 1880-1930 (Urbana and
Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1993), W. Fitzhugh Brundage lists five lynchings, all of
African-American men, in Sumter County between 1898 and 1920; see pp. 273, 277, 279. Jack
Temple Kirby, Rural Worlds Lost: The American South, 1920-1960 (Baton Rouge: Louisiana
State University Press, 1987), 251-252. Reference to minstrel show, cited by Kirby, comes from
Raper, Preface to Peasantry, 392-394.
11Raper, Preface to Peasantry, 3.
12Martin England to Dr. Howard, 17 May 1942, CLJ 756:2:2.

Mabel England and Florence Jordan were enthusiastic about the
Koinonia project, but they and their husbands decided to send the men ahead
to repair the house before the families joined them. Even though Mabel

England had grown up in Birmingham and was unfamiliar with farm work,
she was nevertheless an adventurer in her own right, having gone with her

husband to Burma and having given birth to three children there. Moreover,

she knew of her husband's interests in experimental ventures, and thus, she
said later, "it was not a bombastic brand new idea" when he first told her

about the project that would become Koinonia. Florence Kroeger (Jordan)

had been warned by her future husband that if she married him, she would
never be the wife of the pastor of a large First Baptist Church, a prominent

and desirable position for Baptist women of her generation. She, too, was not

surprised when the Koinonia project came to fruition, and, despite the fact
that she had spent her entire life in Louisville, she knew she could learn farm
life. Nevertheless, the living space at the farm was inadequate for both

families, and Florence Jordan had just delivered her second child in

September and was not yet up to the rustic conditions on the farm.13

Much work faced England and Jordan upon their arrival in November
1942, and the two preachers-turned-farmers provided quite a spectacle for
their neighbors. Even though both had agricultural training, neither had

much practical experience. Jordan later made fun of their earliest efforts by

saying that they would climb to their rooftop every morning to see what the
neighboring farmer was doing, planting when he planted and plowing when

he plowed. They also planted a garden, hitching each other to the plow on

'1"Biographical Data on Englands," Beverly England Williams to author, September
1992. Martin England to Marjorie Moore, 29 May 1942, CLJ 756:2:2. Mabel Orr England,
interview by David Stricklin, 16 August 1984, number 2, transcript, Institute for Oral History,
Baylor University, Waco, Texas.

occasion to lay off the rows. Their efforts were fruitful, however, as they had

enough surplus meat from butchering a sow and extra milk and butter to
share with their black and white neighbors in an effort to build good relations
with them.14

Neighborly sharing did not dispel all local hostility, however. Jordan
witnessed very early the speed with which news, good or bad, could spread
through the area when he joined the nearby Rehobeth Baptist Church the
first Sunday in December. Even though he and England had told no one that
they were ministers, Rehobeth's pastor already knew. As Jordan wrote his
wife, "there's a grapevine somewhere."5s That same grapevine made
Koinonia an immediate target for white residents averse to any perceived
threat to the area's way of life. Within the first few weeks after England and

Jordan arrived, they hired an African-American laborer. He moved into the

old tenant shack but lived under no worse conditions than did his two
coworkers in the dilapidated farm house. The three knew they were
violating the dictates of local custom by eating their meals together, but as
England explained later, dividing the three men at mealtime, after working
side by side all day, just did not make sense. Most importantly, in spite of

some ambivalence on the man's part, England and Jordan knew that
segregating themselves at meals violated the founding principles of

According to a story favored and told by the founders in the years
following, local tempers flared when word spread of the new neighbors'

14Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 36. Martin England, classroom lecture, Southern Baptist
Theological Seminary, 29 October 1976, audiocassette 1485, James P. Boyce Centennial Library,
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky. Newsletter, December 1942.
15Clarence Jordan to Florence Jordan, 7 December 1942, read by Lenny Jordan,
audiocassette CJ57C, Koinonia Partners Library, Americus, Georgia.

eating arrangement. A carload of men arrived at the farm one evening to
investigate. Upon confirming the reports, they announced they were from
the Ku Klux Klan and that they did not allow the sun to set on anybody who
ate with "niggers." Jordan did not respond immediately to the intimidation,
giving himself long enough to think through his reply. Suddenly, he smiled
broadly, shook the spokesman's hand vigorously, and said he was a Baptist
preacher with seminary training who had read about persons who had power
over the sun but had never anticipated meeting one (Joshua 10). The leader,
stunned, said he was the son of a Baptist preacher and then talked in a more
friendly fashion with Jordan as the sun set.16 Humor defused the immediate
hostility, but it did not reduce the continued threat posed by local discomfort
at Koinonia's presence. England and Jordan may have been capable of
challenging Jim Crowism within the region, but they were reminded
repeatedly that the changes they advocated would come slowly, if at all.

That first year included more than the usual hardships one would
anticipate in reclaiming spent land. Jordan wrote, "We are facing
tremendous difficulties as we prepare to make a crop. With practically no
stock, implements, and tools, and government restriction on nearly all items,
we've really got a job on our hands."17 The new farmers lacked necessary
tools, supplies, and resources. Particularly onerous, however, were the
government regulations enacted because of the war. England and Jordan
could not obtain a permit to build a second residence for the Jordan family.
Finally, they received permission to build a garage and tool shop, to which
they added a second-floor apartment. Florence Jordan and the two children

16Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 37-38. Martin England, classroom lecture, 29 October
1976, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.
17Clarence Jordan to Howard Johnson, 7 January 1943, CLJ 756:2:4.

arrived at their new home in April 1943. Mabel England and the three
England children had arrived at Koinonia earlier, and the England family
continued living in the old farmhouse. Mabel England tried to be
understanding when the men obtained a permit to build a chicken house that
turned out to be the most luxurious building on the farm.18

A diary Jordan kept that first year reveals that he and England spent
their time erecting or repairing buildings, buying and breeding cattle and
hogs, raising chickens, planting crops, and doing other routine farm tasks. In
addition, both men traveled on speaking tours; became involved in local
churches by teaching Sunday School classes, preaching revivals, and leading
music; taught classes on farm machinery and gardening; received curious
visitors; and tried to get to know their neighbors. This latter task included
dispelling rumors that England was a foreigner from Burma and that Jordan
was a spy with a German wife (she was of German descent). Anxieties already
high because of the world war, the farm's neighbors questioned anyone

The exact state of finances that first year, or for any given period in
Koinonia's history, is difficult to determine from existing records. What is
clear is that Koinonia depended on gifts and evidently had a few significant
backers. Steilburg sent another large contribution in late 1942, but money

arrived mainly in a steady trickle as Baptist groups and individuals across the
South pledged twenty-five dollars to buy one acre at a time. Many others sent
smaller contributions. A church in Louisville pledged thirty-five hundred

18Diary, 11 January 1943, CLJ 756:183. Mrs. R. P. Halleck to Clarence Jordan, 6 January
1943, CLJ 756:2:4. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 40-41. Mabel Orr England, interview by David
Stricklin, number 2.
19Diary, passim 1943, CLJ 756:183. Clarence Jordan to Arthur Steilberg, n. d. [summer
1943], fragment, CLJ 2340:1.

dollars, and various other benefactors sent gifts for specific projects, such as
Mrs. R. P. Halleck, who sent five hundred dollars for the purchase of a

tractor.20 Somehow Koinonia had enough money to make mortgage

payments, buy livestock, erect new buildings, support two families, and pay
high wages to a few laborers. The farm had good output very early, but not
enough to finance all of the expenditures of the first few years.

A major investment that first year developed into one of the most
successful enterprises and a substantial means of support for Koinonia's early
years. Jordan's diary indicates that the first one hundred chickens arrived in

February 1943, with two hundred more arriving in March and five hundred
in April. That summer Jordan wrote that Koinonia had gone in "rather
heavy for chickens" because of "the extreme scarcity of poultry and eggs" in

the area, because he had "majored in poultry in college, and because the
farmers here sorely need something besides cotton and peanuts to turn to."
The success Koinonia had with its commercial flock interested some
neighbors in raising chickens themselves, and Koinonia for a time operated
an egg marketing cooperative to which approximately six farmers brought
their eggs to be cleaned, graded, candled, and packed. Koinonia's poultry
enterprise was featured in January 1951 in Progressive Farmer, which
reported that it earned for its eggs a six-cent premium above current market
prices because of their high quality.21

In addition to establishing the farm operation, the Koinonians created
some minimal community structure and focused on outreach programs to

20Diary, passim 1943. Mrs. R. P. Halleck to Clarence Jordan, 6 January 1943, CLJ
756:2:4. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 40-41.
21Diary, passim 1943. Clarence Jordan to Arthur Steilberg, n. d. [summer 1943],
fragment, CLJ 2340:1. S. R. Winters, "Parson-Poultryman," Progressive Farmer (January 1951),
CLJ 756:29:13.

their neighbors. Jordan insisted that the koinonia practiced by the early

church be implemented on the farm. All property and all income would be
held jointly, and all decisions, financial and otherwise, would be made
communally. The two families lived as one large family, maintaining
separate residences but sharing some meals and living off a common purse.
Visitors and short-term volunteers frequented the farm, participating in the
common life but not pledging to become members of the Koinonia

In the meantime, however, several area African Americans lived and
worked at the farm, and Koinonians hoped they would join the community.

The man whose presence brought the visit from the Ku Klux Klan was
evidently an employee who stayed only a short time. Another man, Denis
Alman, was hired within Koinonia's first year as a farm laborer, then chose to

give up his pay, gained access to the communally-owned car, and began the
membership process. Minutes from a meeting held in 1962, reflecting on

Koinonia's early history, indicate that "things then broke apart rather quickly
and [Alman] left within a few months." In December 1943 and January 1944,
two families, both named Johnson and both Sumter County natives, moved
to the farm.22 Uninterested in communal life, they maintained essentially a
sharecropper relationship with Koinonia. All of these African Americans
lived at Koinonia, and others worked on the farm as word spread that

Koinonia paid a higher daily wage and treated laborers more fairly than other
area farmers. Although grateful for the better conditions at Koinonia, most
refused to move to the farm out of fear of repercussions from local white
people and ostracism from fellow African Americans. They did, however, eat

22"Notes on Meeting at Koinonia Farm," 10-12 February 1962, CLJ 756:19:1. Diary, 30
December 1943. "Koinonia Farm Second Anniversary," pamphlet.

some meals with the Englands and Jordans, particularly at noon. The earlier

intimidation had failed to force Koinonia's leaders to curtain this practice,

which continued to enrage some white Sumter Countians.

Paying higher wages was already an affront to local economic

standards, but the Koinonians involved themselves in other ways in an

attempt to improve living conditions for local African Americans. By these
actions, they further exacerbated local hostilities against them. During the

war years, for example, England and Jordan obtained extra gasoline rations

stamps which they used to pay for the fuel needed to transport children to
school, since county school buses did not service the African-American

school system. When officials of the white schools complained, the ration

board refused to stop issuing the extra stamps. Koinonians raised several
hundred dollars to purchase a school bus, but ostensibly the school board

prohibited them from doing so.23

Koinonians' willingness to transport African-American children was

just one activity that riled the local community and county school

superintendent E. L. Bridges. D. B. Nicholson, state Baptist student work

director and mentor of Jordan, visited Americus in 1944 and found tensions
running high as a result of Koinonia's work. The county school board had

called in R L. Cousins, the director of African-American education in

Georgia, because it was unable to keep African-American teachers in the
county. Superintendent Bridges claimed that Jordan's program was ruining

the work among African Americans and hoped that Cousins could help
mediate the situation and encourage the teachers to keep their jobs.
Nicholson's inquiries revealed, however, that neighboring counties paid

23p. D. East, "East Side," Petal Paper, 14 May 1959, Koinonia Scrapbook. Lee, Cotton
Patch Evidence, 42-43. Tracy Elaine K'Meyer, Interracialism and Christian Community: The
Story of Koinonia Farm (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997), 51.

their teachers more and conducted longer school years and that Sumter
County teachers could often make more money working as domestics.
Nicholson believed that the board of education was just "in the mood to lay
all the blame on Clarence."24
What was most disturbing to the superintendent was the Koinonians'
advocacy of pacifism, a unpatriotic practice at a time when Americans needed
to unite against German and Japanese aggression. Jordan had been calling for
Christians not to enlist in military service and for peaceful resolution of the
world-wide conflict since before America entered the Second World War.25
Koinonians continued to work for pacifism and nonviolence in spite of the
unpopularity of their views. Superintendent Bridges complained about a
letter Florence Jordan had written to her daughter's teacher, requesting her
not to require the daughter's participation in a school play that advocated the
buying of war bonds.26 The superintendent seemed to have had a personal
vendetta against the Jordans, more so than against the Englands. Clarence
Jordan had grown up just fifty miles from Sumter County and, as a fellow
Georgian, perhaps could not be dismissed as easily as an outside agitator.
Nicholson revealed also that the opposition to Koinonia was not
limited to Sumter County, stating that he had been told to "put a soft peddle"
on his efforts to help Jordan because they were hurting the state Baptist
student program. J. Maurice Trimmer, pastor of Macon's white First Baptist
Church and chairman of the Georgia Baptist Convention committee that
oversaw student work, had received complaints from pastors about Jordan's

24D. B. Nicholson to J. W. Jordan, 31 July 1944, CLJ 756:2:7.
25Clarence Jordan to David Morgan, 18 July 1941; Clarence Jordan to Juliette Mather, 5
July 1941, CLJ 756:1:13
26D. B. Nicholson to J. W. Jordan, 31 July 1944, CLJ 7562:7.

work. Nicholson thought that most Georgia Baptist pastors were "in
sympathy with the thing Clarence [was] trying to do" but felt that he was
going too fast. "If Clarence could be prevailed upon to go slow enough so that
his friends could go along with him," wrote Nicholson, "it is probable that he
could do a great deal more in the long run."27

Opposition appeared to diminish for a time after 1944. The Atlanta
Constitution featured the farm in an article in May 1945, praising the "unique
project of practical Christianity" that brought "productivity to wasting land
and hope to oppressed, struggling souls." The article gave Jordan a public

forum in which to explain that the farm focused on "co-operation rather than
competition" and was to the rural community what the settlement house was
to the city slum. He was able to describe what he believed was wrong with
contemporary white society and to elaborate on the changes he hoped
Koinonia Farm was facilitating. A similar article ran in the Charlotte News
that same month when Jordan spoke in the area. This journalistic attention

helped Koinonians clarify misconceptions about their project and spread its
reputation through the secular press.28
Koinonia's reputation also continued to spread through religious
networks. Jordan remained an active speaker in spite of the demands of
running a farm. He appeared primarily at events sponsored by groups
affiliated with Southern Baptists, although by the late 1940s he had gained
popularity among northern and western American Baptists also. In addition,
Jordan accepted writing assignments for the American Baptist Publication

28Tina Ransom, "Farm Grows Prosperous on Science, Christianity," clipping labeled
Atlanta Constitution, hand dated 19 May 1945[?]; Dick Young, "Unique Georgia Farm Blends
Christianity and Agriculture," Charlotte News, 4 May 1945, CLJ 756:28:10.

Society, thus giving him even more visibility in American Baptist circles.29

Jordan may not have realized yet the pragmatic need to move beyond the
denomination to which he had already devoted so much of his life and may
have merely responded to whatever invitations he received, whatever their

source. His work among American Baptists, however, represents steps Jordan
was taking outside of the confines of his own denomination. Even though

his message of the work Koinonia was doing in race relations and pacifism

resonated among a segment of Southern Baptist listeners, they were too few
to offer significant enough support to keep Koinonia going, particularly in
Koinonia's future when outside support would prove critical. With each

speaking engagement and publication, Jordan attracted interested contributors

and potential members to Koinonia.

In print and in sermons, Jordan laid out the basic precepts of Koinonia
in an effort to explain the community and to build support. The first
principle of koinonia, according to his understanding of the passages in Acts,

called for common, rather than individual, ownership of property.

Motivated by Christian love, members of a koinonia group would forsake
their personal possessions for the sake of the larger community. The second

principle advocated distribution according to need, not according to status or

entitlement. Finally, belief in the "complete equality and freedom of every
believer, regardless of racial background" rounded out the interpretation of

koinonia. Having settled on these three principles, Jordan added a fourth, a
commitment to nonviolence, that fell outside of the specific biblical teachings
on koinonia but that he believed was central to other teachings of Jesus. As

children of God, Koinonians were increasingly partakers of God's nature of

29Speaking Engagements, 1940-1948, CLJ 756:93. Lawrence P. Fitzgerald to Clarence
Jordan, 4 November 1946, CLJ 756:2:9; Lawrence P. Fitzgerald to Clarence Jordan, 4 February
1947, CLJ 756:2:10.

redemptive love, thereby requiring them to live lives free of violence, hatred,

and revenge.30 With each sermon and publication, Jordan presented the

engaging message of Koinonia and attracted interested contributors and

potential members.

As a result, visitors and volunteers frequented the community.

Koinonia's founders had hoped to institute a series of apprenticeship

programs at the farm, and even though this facet never materialized in any

formal way, a variety of people found themselves drawn to Koinonia. Future

Koinonian Howard Johnson had heard Jordan speak at a Baptist meeting in
June 1942 and had also read of plans for Koinonia in a non-Baptist

publication; he brought several of his friends from the Baptist Student Union

at Alabama Polytechnic Institute (now Auburn University) to Koinonia for a

weekend early in 1943 and again in March 1944. Foy Valentine had heard

Jordan when he spoke at Baylor University in Texas. Valentine spent the

summer of 1944 at Koinonia working on the farm, leading a boys' club on
Friday afternoons, participating in two revivals, speaking one Sunday

evening at Rehobeth church, and making trips to town to sell eggs and buy

groceries. Willie Pugh heard Jordan speak at Blue Mountain College, a

Baptist school in Mississippi. She spent part of the summers of 1945 and 1946

at Koinonia, in between her years teaching, before moving there in the

summer of 1947.31 All of these early visitors and future residents first heard

3Clarence Jordan wrote about the first three principles in "The Meaning of Christian
Fellowship," Prophetic Religion: A Journal of Christian Faith and Action 7 (Spring 1946): 5, 6,
HAK, reel 12. These three and the fourth appeared a decade later in Clarence Jordan,
"Christian Community in the South," Journal of Religious Thought 14 (Autumn-Winter 1956-
1957): 29, 30. Conrad Browne asserts that the four principles were firmly in place when they
arrived at Koinonia in 1949. "Con and Ora Browne on their Koinonia Experience," 7 September
1989, audiocassette CJ58F, Koinonia Partners, Americus, Georgia.
31T. Howard Johnson, Jr., to Clarence Jordan, 11 August 1942, CLJ 756:2.3. Mabel England
to Howard [Johnson], 17 February 1943, CLJ 756:2:4. Mabel Orr England, interview by David
Stricklin, number 2. Joseph M. Conley to Clarence Jordan, 30 October 1944, CLJ 756:2-7. Foy

of Koinonia from within their denominational network. That people came

to stay, rather than to visit temporarily, reveals that a need existed for a place

for young, white Southern Baptists to involve themselves actively in

improving race relations. These additional people filled needs for Koinonia

also, providing extra labor to ease the workload and establishing the

community more firmly.

The need for residents increased when the England family left in

August 1944 to prepare to return to the mission field in Burma. Their

understanding with the Jordans had been that they would go back to Burma

once the war had subsided and conditions permitted their return. Their

leaving Koinonia was difficult for them and the Jordans, however, as the

Englands had become very attached to the people at Rehobeth church in their

short time there and as the Jordans were left as the only permanent residents

at Koinonia. The Englands maintained a close relationship with Koinonia,

visiting it the next year before leaving for Burma and keeping in touch over

the years.32 Moreover, the Englands' leaving marked the beginning of what

would become the typical pattern of Koinonians, that of coming to the

community, devoting a few years of their lives to the work there, and then

leaving to pursue other opportunities.33

Valentine, telephone interview by author, 20 April 1990. Foy Valentine to Howard Johnson, 10
August 1944, CLJ 7562:7. Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author, June 20, 1992.
Minutes, 20 January 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16.
32Mabel Orr England, interview by David Stricklin, number 2. Martin England to Dr.
Howard, 17 May 1942, CLJ 756:2:2. Beverly England Williams, "The First Year," in Koinonia
Remembered: The First Fifty Years, ed. Kay N. Weiner (Americus, Ga.: A Koinonia
Publication, 1992), 12. Clarence Jordan to Howard Johnson, 12 September 1945, CLJ 756:2:8.
33The exceptions to this pattern include Florence and Clarence Jordan, who lived at
Koinonia for the rest of their lives; Will Wittkamper, who came to Koinonia in 1953 and lived
there for the rest of his life; and a few retired persons who came to Koinonia in the 1970s, some
of whom are still living there. Margaret Wittkamper left Koinonia in July 1994 to live with
one of her children. She died in May 1996.

Even though Koinonia did not attract a critical mass of members until
1948, usually at least one other person interested in membership was in
residence with the Jordans after the Englands left. Most notable was Harry

Atkinson, who moved to Koinonia to relieve the labor shortage created by
the Englands' departure. Born in Philadelphia and raised in the Moravian
church in North Carolina, Atkinson had moved to Florida following
graduation from high school. He became a Baptist and attended Stetson,
where he first encountered Jordan when he spoke at the Baptist college.
Atkinson stayed at Koinonia less than a year before entering Southwestern
Baptist Theological Seminary in Texas, where he met his future wife Allene,
a Baptist and Baptist college graduate from Missouri. The two spent their
courtship discussing whether or not they could commit themselves to live at
Koinonia and decided to move there and marry in April 1946. They returned
to Texas that autumn so Harry could finish seminary but moved in and out

of the community over the next decade. When they left, Henry Dunn, who
had visited previously, moved to Koinonia and lived there for almost a year.
Willie Pugh moved to Koinonia about the time he left.34 The early
association of the Atkinsons with the community constitutes them as the first
members other than the founding families, even though membership still
had no clear definition.

Although these people helped with the work, so few of them lived at
Koinonia at any one time that it lacked sufficient labor to run the farm. One
of the African-American families named Johnson continued as resident
employees, but Jordan's travel schedule and the transitory nature of
volunteers interfered with the need for steady labor. At one point Jordan

34Allene and Harry Atkinson, telephone interview by author, 24 August 1992. Minutes,
20 January 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 46.

agreed to use German prisoners of war that were made available for use for

farmers in the county. Harry Atkinson recalled later that the labor shortage at

the farm made the Koinonians grateful for the work of the Germans and that

they did not question whether or not using the prisoners conflicted with

Koinonia's purpose.35 Given their position on the war and their
commitment to help the oppressed locally, their willingness to use persons

held against their will in a war that Koinonians opposed suggests either that

they did not recognize the contradiction in their action or that they were so

desperate for workers that they compromised their standards. Perhaps the

Koinonians were learning already that, in order to be the most effective, they

were going to have to adjust their idealism and adapt their strategies to the
reality of their situation. Even so, the use of prisoners of war seems

completely out of keeping with Koinonia's principles.

However idealistic, Koinonia's founders never intended to impose
their views on other people. Clarence Jordan had a forum for spreading his

views in the large number of speaking engagements he accepted. On the local

level, however, they thought that setting an example, being a demonstration
plot, was the best approach; further, they hoped that other people, both those

who heard Jordan speak and those who observed Koinonians' lifestyles,

would be attracted to Koinonia because of their example. Before moving to

Sumter County, Jordan described Koinonia's approach by writing, "At first

we'll set up simply as farmers, trying to win the confidence of the people and

establishing ourselves as good neighbors and citizens. When we feel that we
are a part of the community, and are accepted as such, we'll try to bring in

35Allene and Harry Atkinson, telephone interview by author. Ulrich Graute, "What
Makes 'Krauts' Come to Koinonia?" in Koinonia Remembered, 195. On the experience of other
German prisoners of war in Georgia, see Kathy Roe Coker, "World War 11 Prisoners of War in
Georgia: German Memories of Camp Gordon, 1943-1945," Georgia Historical Quarterly 76
(Winter 1992): 837-861.

some of the principles we cherish. In this way, it will be a growth from
within, rather than being a system imposed from without."36

That growth was slow in coming; the acceptance, even slower,
although early indications hint that the Koinonians had secured for

themselves a place, however tenuous, in the region. Jordan had reported
initially upon arriving in Sumter County that rather than the "bitter
antagonism" he had feared, he had found instead "the utmost friendliness
and cooperation." Within a few months, however, he had encountered
enough resistance to write that "while there has been some thunder, the
lightening hasn't struck."37 The extent of that resistance in Koinonia's

formative years was limited to skirmishes with school officials, warnings
from local white people about the potential repercussions of the Koinonians'
intentions, general curiosity, and, primarily, reluctance on the part of most
Sumter Countians to move to Koinonia.

In spite of the resistance, however, the Koinonians worked to secure a
place for themselves in the area and welcomed gestures of friendship and
neighborly sharing. Jordan still received invitations to speak in local

churches as late as 1945, and members of the Rehobeth church evidently
welcomed Koinonians warmly in their early years in the county. When the
Englands left in September 1944, for instance, Rehobeth's minister invited
them to stand at the front of the sanctuary on their last Sunday so that church
members could extend their best wishes. Several slipped money into the
Englands' hands. Then in April 1946 the women of the church hosted a
bridal shower for Allene Griffin, even though she was a newcomer, and

36Clarence Jordan to Howard Johnson, 14 August 1942, CLJ 756:23.
37Clarence Jordan to Mack Goss, 14 February 1943; Clarence Jordan to Arthur Steilberg,
n. d. [summer 1943], CLJ 2340:1.

helped decorate the church when she married Harry Atkinson.38 Within the

neighborhood, the farmers at Koinonia befriended neighboring farmers, and

they exchanged equipment and labor when needed. The Koinonians were

particularly close to the Robert Hamiltons, a white family living just north of

Koinonia, eating with them on occasion, helping build brooders together, and

borrowing supplies. Whichever barn, the Hamilton's or Koinonia's, was

closest determined where the tractor driver from either farm went for

gasoline. Koinonians reached out to neighboring African-American farmers

also, lending equipment, for example, to Carranza Morgan, offering classes on

farm techniques and on literacy, and sharing surplus meat and produce.39

The acceptance Koinonians experienced in their early years in Sumter

County may be attributed in part to rural neighborliness, but they deceived

themselves if they thought they were gaining any significant local support.

County residents found accepting the Koinonians much easier when their

numbers were so few, and thus any resistance they offered the Koinonians

was limited. Further, Koinonia's economic intent of uplift by fostering better

agricultural practices lay within an acceptable limit for the area and did not

seem to threaten the entrenched system wherein whites controlled African

Americans in large part by denying them access to financial security. On the

other hand, Koinonians concentrated primarily on establishing themselves as
farmers, however different their approaches might be, and thus may have

given any opposition fewer opportunities to protest their presence than they

38Carence Jordan to Mack Goss, 8 August 1945, CLJ 2340:1. Mabel Orr England,
interview by David Stricklin, number 2. Williams, "The First Year," 12. Allene and Harry
Atkinson, telephone interview by author. Harry and Allene Atkinson, "Our Koinonia
Experience," in Koinonia Remembered, 19.
39Diary, 21 February 1943, 8 March 1943, 21 April 1943, CLJ 756:18:3. Allene and Harry
Atkinson, telephone interview by author. K'Meyer, Interracialism and Christian Community,
46,47. Clarence Jordan to Arthur Steilberg, n. d. [summer 1943], CLJ 2340:1.

would in subsequent years. Koinonia's low profile in the county made the

community's presence less threatening in the early years than it would be

In spite of Koinonia's sparse population between 1942 and 1948, the
farming operation became established enough and outside financial support

grew steady enough for Koinonia to be fairly secure. By the beginning of 1948,
the few Koinonians were ready to borrow money to double the farm's size.40

Clearly, they thought that Koinonia's future was promising enough not only
to approve new indebtedness but also to draw more members and laborers to
maintain the increased acreage. Moreover, while Sumter Countians may not

have embraced their presence, neither had they, as of yet, given the
Koinonians sufficient reason to relocate elsewhere. Within the few years
since Koinonia's founding in 1942, the few members had carved out a place,

however tenuous, for themselves in the county, had been welcomed into the
neighboring Southern Baptist church, had revived a farming operation on
spent land, had developed a wide external network of supporters, and had
positioned the community to expand its landholdings and membership and
to heighten its profile in the county. Committed to being a demonstration
plot for the Kingdom of God, they had laid the foundation for the work that
lay ahead.

4Minutes, 30 January 1948, CLJ 2341:4:16.


When the Englands and Jordans established Koinonia Farm in 1942,
they were not idealistic enough to think that the biblical guidelines in the
book of Acts would suffice for all the new community's needs. At the same
time, neither could they anticipate all the issues and complications that
would arise in building a community. The two families spent Koinonia's
early years trying to keep the farm afloat and had little time and, because so
few people lived there, little need to concern themselves with developing any
more than the most basic structure. Whatever income the farm generated, in
addition to steady contributions, supported the Koinonians and their material
needs. An influx of potential members in the late 1940s and the development
of relationships between Koinonia and outside groups, however, prompted
Koinonians to be more intentional about creating a community structure, a
task that characterized their history for the next few years. Growth forced the
adoption of membership guidelines and operating procedures and
heightened Koinonia's public presence in Sumter County, thereby
compelling Koinonians to be even more articulate and explicit about their
mission. The years from 1948 until 1956 witnessed not only expansion in
membership, structure, and profile but also the emergence of an adaptability
on the part of Koinonians as they negotiated the growth.
Rather than adopting rigid structure and policy, Koinonia instead
adopted a flexible policy, applying common sense to whatever situation was

at hand. That characteristic would not become apparent until later in its
history but had roots in this first communalistic period. Moreover,

Koinonians adroitly redefined themselves as these years progressed,

responding to outside influences and to the preferences of new members and

shifting from a community based on service to one based on a shared

common life. The ultimate service Koinonians could provide, the best way

to improve race relations and eradicate inequity, was to broaden their
membership. Thus, Koinonians did not change their primary objectives but

instead modified their methods for achieving them. This adeptness at

adapting would serve Koinonia well in the face of future threats to its

existence. The ability to be flexible and flourish instead of being rigid and

then stagnating places Koinonia firmly within the framework of

developmental communalism, a theory that explains why so many
communal movements spring up and soon wither and why others last

indefinitely because they transform themselves according to changing


Koinonia's founders had begun their project with only a basic

understanding of communalism and limited knowledge of similar

endeavors. Clarence Jordan claimed that his inspiration for Koinonia came
from his study in seminary of the New Testament church, that the simple

precepts specified in the second and fourth chapter of Acts provided the

necessary guidelines for the future community. Martin England had been

living in a farming cooperative when he began Koinonia and had known of

Macedonia Farm in northeast Georgia, having heard its founder, Morris

1Donald E. Pitzer, ed., America's Communal Utopias (Chapel Hill: University of
North Carolina Press, 1997), xviii. "Developmental Communalism: An Alternative
Approach to Communal Studies," in Utopian Thought and Communal Experience, eds. Dennis
Hardy and Loma Davidson (Middlesex, England: Middlesex Polytechnic, 1989): 68-76.

Mitchell, speak.2 England, therefore, had some knowledge of communalism,

and his and Jordan's contact with Howard Kester likely yielded information

about Providence Farm in Mississippi. By and large, however, the founders

seemed unfamiliar with similar groups, recent or new.

The utopian impulse has attracted a large following in American

history, and the allure of creating experimental communities, according to at

least one careful observer, seems to be cyclical. Interchanging the terms
"utopian communities" and "communal experiments" because both "signify

intentionally organized, relatively self-sufficient group living arrangements

that seek to realize ideal social relationships," Michael Barkun argues that

their episodic appearances usually occur in relation to "the rise and fall of

millennialism and the expansion and contraction of the economy." One

cycle, he argues, occurred during the Great Depression, the greatest economic

downturn in American history. In addition to the emergence of short-lived
communities such as Coxtown in Pittsburgh and numerous "Hoovervilles,"

the 1930s witnessed an "unprecedented role of the federal government in

communal organization." New Deal programs created ninety-nine

communities, many of which "were conceived as fundamental departures

from existing American social and economic patterns." Further, Barkun
finds evidence of millennialist influence, of a secular rather than pietistic

character, in the radical economic proposals popularized by Huey Long,

Father Charles Coughlin, and Dr. Charles Townsend.3 To whatever extent

2Martin England to Clarence Jordan, 23 April 1942, CLJ 756:2:2.

3Michael Barkun, "Communal Societies as Cyclical Phenomena," Communal Societies 4
(Fall 1984): 35, 37, 40. See also Paul K. Conkin, Tomorrow a New World: The New Deal
Community Program (Ithaca: Comell University Press, 1959). On Coxtown and three other
utopian endeavors of the period, see Donald W. Whisenhunt "Utopians, Communalism and the
Great Depression," Communal Societies 3 (Fall 1983): 101-110.

England and Jordan knew of these other groups, the community they

established came at the end of a cycle and was part of a larger movement.

Contact with other communal groups, specifically the Bruderhof and

Hutterites, made the Koinonians more aware of themselves as an intentional

community and forced attention to issues of policy and definition that had

previously eluded them. The Bruderhof, or Society of Brothers, was founded

in Germany in 1920, was forced out of that country by Nazi persecution, and

arrived in the United States in the 1950s by way of England and Paraguay.

Koinonians learned of the group first through a religious periodical and

contact with it in 1949 resulted in a visit by some of its members on their first

visit to the United States that same year. In turn, members of the Bruderhof

informed Koinonians of the Hutterites, one of the oldest communitarian

groups in history and one that had colonies in the United States.4 Visits in

the following years between Koinonia, the Bruderhof, and the Hutterites

prompted Koinonians to consider merging with the other groups and

compelled them to turn their focus inward as they sought to establish their

own unity.

Koinonians were certain that contact with these groups would teach

them things they needed to know about themselves. Members of the South

4Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author, 20 June 1992. Hermann Arnold to
Clarence Jordan, 18 April 1949, 14 July 1949, CLJ 756:2:12.
On the Bruderhof, see Emmy Arnold, Torches Together: The Beginnings and Early
Years of the Bruderhof Communities (Rifton, N. Y.: Plough Publishing House, 2nd ed., 1971);
David Benjamin Zablocki, The Joyful Community: An Account of the Bruderhof, a Communal
Movement Now in its Third Generation (Baltimore: Penguin Book, Inc., 1971); and Merrill Mow,
Torches Rekindled: The Bruderhof's Struggle for Renewal (Ulster Park, N. Y.: Plough
Publishing House, 1990).
On the Hutterites, see Paul K. Conkin, Two Paths to Utopia: The Hutterites and the
Llano Colony (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964); Victor Peters, All Things Common:
The Hutterian Way of Life (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1965); John W.
Bennett, Hutterian Brethren: The Agricultural Economy and Social Organization of a
Communal People (Stanford, Cal.: Stanford University Press, 1967); John Hostetler, Hutterite
Society (Baltimore and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1974).

American Bruderhof encouraged Koinonians to reciprocate their visit and

observe first hand what their way of life had to offer. No one ever traveled to
Paraguay, but Koinonians did establish close ties to the Bruderhof
communities springing up in the United States. In addition, Jordan visited

Hutterite colonies in South Dakota in 1952, and he and Will Wittkamper
visited more than two dozen colonies in 1954. Koinonia turned to the
Hutterites to borrow money in 1952 and again after a drought in 1954. At each
point of contact, Koinonians hoped to learn more about "community growth
practices," and leaders of the Bruderhof and Hutterites hoped Koinonians
would unite with their groups. On the first trip to Hutterite colonies in 1952,
Jordan set out to learn more about the "practical aspects of their living" and to
understand "the whys of their mode of living arrangements."5

At the same time Koinonians were learning of other communal
groups, they were also growing numerically. Jordan's travels finally bore
fruit, as a small influx of potential members began moving to Koinonia in
1948. Among them was Howard Johnson and, when he married about a year
later, his wife Marion Rutland. Johnson had agricultural training and was a
much-needed addition to the farm's operations.6 Also coming in 1948 were
Gilbert Butler, another Alabama Polytechnic student, and two students from

Georgia Baptists' Mercer University, Jack Singletary (and his wife Gene) and
Millard Hunt. All three had served in the military during the Second World

5Newsletter, [December] 1952. Hermann Arnold to Clarence Jordan, 18 April 1949, CLJ
756:2:12. Minutes, 27 February 1951, 25 March 1952, 1 October 1952, 4-5 March 1953, 22 April
1953,6 April 1954,23 June 1954,11 August 1954,24 November 1954,15 January 1955,21 January
1955,4 February 1955,22 March 1955.

6Clarence Jordan to Howard Johnson, [une 1948], CLJ 7562:11. Howard Johnson to
Clarence Jordan, 11 August 1942, CLJ 756:2:3. Willie Pugh to Howard Johnson, 16 February 1948,
CLJ 756:2:11. Harry Atkinson to Howard Johnson, [January 1949], CLJ 756:2:12. Newsletter,
1952. Dallas Lee, The Cotton Patch Evidence: The Story of Clarence Jordan and the Koinonia
Farm Experiment (New York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1971), 45-46, 50.

War but were convicted for refusing to register for the peace-time draft

enacted in 1948.7 Conrad Browne, an American Baptist student at the

University of Chicago's Divinity School, first heard Jordan speak in 1944 at a

church in Washington, D. C., and then heard him again in 1949 at the

American Baptist Conference Center in Green Lake, Wisconsin. He and his

wife Ora moved to Koinonia in November 1949, and the Browne family

proved to be integral members for fourteen years. Norman Long, a Virginia

Baptist student at Colgate Seminary, heard Jordan at the same conference and

moved to Koinonia in January 1950.8 By the end of 1950 Koinonia had a

population of more a dozen adults, including the Atkinsons who had

returned from Texas, and several children.9

The larger population increased Koinonia's profile in the county and

in turn attracted more notice from Sumter Countians. After the incident

with the school superintendent in 1944, a few years had passed before any

overt resistance surfaced against the Koinonians and their presence in the

area. Koinonians soon discovered, one recalled, that "the more [they] did in

the community, the more conflict [they] found." Several events occurred

between 1947 and 1950, the precise timing of which is unclear, that brought

some latent hostility to the surface. In one, Willie Pugh, the only single

female Koinonian, took two local African-American girls into Americus to

buy them clothes. After making their purchase, Pugh bought the girls ice

7Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 61-65. Gene Singletary, interview by author, 22 July 1991,
Plains, Georgia. Minutes, 6 January 1949, 20 January 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16. Gil[bert Butler] to Pal
[Howard Johnson], 29 August 1948; T. Gilbert Butler to Lee County Registration Officials, 30
August 1948, CLJ 756:2:11.

8Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 47, 51. Conrad and Ora Browne, interview by Dallas Lee,
[1970], transcript, Koinonia Partners, Americus, Georgia. Norman R. Long to Clarence Jordan, 20
September 1949, CLJ 756:2:12.

9Newsletter, 12 January 1951.

cream and walked back to the truck, holding their hands. A deacon from

Rehobeth Baptist Church, where most Koinonians attended, witnessed the

scene and became irate at what he perceived to be Pugh's, and thus

Koinonia's, flaunting of local custom.10 Another episode occurred on the
grounds of the church. Harry Atkinson recalled inviting the African-

American driver of a Rehobeth member to his Sunday School class and then

witnessing a ground swell of opposition rise within the church. One

historian of Koinonia insightfully notes that Koinonians had violated the

barrier between private and public space in these two incidents. What

Koinonians did on their own farm was one thing; when their work "spilled

out into the public sphere," however, it was not tolerated."

Another event occurring sometime between 1947 and 1950 illustrated

the scrutiny under which Koinonians lived, even on their own property. On

this occasion Pugh drove to a distant field to replace Bo Johnson, Candy

Johnson's son who had stayed at Koinonia when his father died and who

later began the membership process, for a night shift on the tractor, as

Koinonians were working around the clock to prepare their fields for

planting. A neighboring farmer saw a white woman and a black man

together in the dark and evidently reported the situation to the authorities.

When Pugh came in from the field the next morning, she discovered

something of an uproar. The sheriff had already visited to investigate, and

Robert Hamilton, the white neighbor with whom Koinonians were friends,

10Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by Tracy E. K'Meyer, 20 October 1990.
Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author.

1Tracy Elaine K'Meyer, Interracialism and Christian Community: The Story of
Koinonia Farm (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1997), 59, 60. Mary P. Ryan
develops this idea of space more fully in Women in Public: Between Banners and Ballots, 1825-
1880 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1990). Ryan demonstrates how women
redefined the boundaries between the private and public spheres by their activism for equal

quizzed Pugh until he was satisfied that the encounter was merely a change of

shifts. Gossip about Pugh and Johnson spread quickly through the county

and beyond. A reporter from out of town, having heard of the episode,

visited a few days later to pursue the story, and Koinonians made

arrangements for Johnson to travel out of state until tensions subsided. Pugh

did not realize until much later how serious the allegations against her were

and how she had unwittingly put Johnson into a life-threatening situation.

In the end, nothing drastic happened because of this incident, but Koinonians

began to realize how extreme the sentiments against them were.12

The local community resisted Koinonia's efforts and disparaged its

intentions, but the church was the first to organize and act on its opposition.13

Most Koinonians and volunteers attended Rehobeth church, about four

miles from the farm, and the Jordans had been members there since arriving

in the county. Since so many Koinonians were Southern Baptist, they

wanted to maintain their denominational ties. They held worship services

and Bible classes on the farm, to which they invited their neighbors but to

which mainly African Americans and Koinonians came, but they also

attended the all-white Rehobeth. The African Americans with whom

Koinonians had contact were from the area and were involved in their own

churches. Koinonians recognized the conflict in their advocating racial

12Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author. Ballard remembers this
incident occurring in 1947 or 1948. Minutes, 17 October 1950, read that Johnson "wanted to know
how long he must stay at West Palm Beach" and that the group "agreed that he should stay
two weeks." Whether the event Pugh remembers is what necessitated Johnson's temporary
absence, and thus she remembers her dates incorrectly, is unclear. Moreover, whether this
particular event precipitated or followed the Koinonians' dismissal from Rehobeth church
(described below) is uncertain. Whatever the case, outsiders concerned themselves with what
went on at Koinonia and took notice of events there. (Unless otherwise indicated, all minutes
are at Koinonia Partners, Americus, Georgia.)

13Florence Jordan, classroom lecture, Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 28 April
1977, audiocassette 1404, James P. Boyce Centennial Library, Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.

equality yet attending an all-white church, but they hoped that they could
make inroads with their white neighbors by being faithful church members.
Indeed, Koinonians held leadership positions in the church. Nevertheless,
although most Koinonians were Southern Baptists themselves, they found
some of their severest critics in others from that same tradition.
By 1948 some members of Rehobeth had had enough of the
Koinonians and, prompted by Koinonia's growing population and increased
profile and by the presence of men who resisted the postwar draft, requested
that they withdraw their membership from the church. When they refused,
the deacons removed them from their leadership positions within the church
but allowed them to remain as members. Allene and Harry Atkinson refused
to return, but other Koinonians continued to attend.14
As Jordan noted, the tensions surrounding the upcoming
gubernatorial primary did not help matters.15 In a one-party state such as
Georgia, the primary was equivalent to the actual election. The primary in
September 1948, however, held more than the usual significance. It was to
settle the three-governor controversy stemming from the general election of
1946, in which the winner died before being inaugurated and after which
three men claimed to be governor. Herman Talmadge was elected governor
in the special election of 1948. His election signified for Sumter and other
black belt, rural counties that an arch-segregationist resided in the statehouse,
that the county unit system remained intact (the popular vote had been close
between two of the candidates, but the county unit votes gave Talmadge a
decisive victory), and that states' rights reigned supreme, at least for the

14"Relationship with Community Churches," CLJ 2340:31. Harry [Atkinson] to
Howard [Johnson], [August 1948], CLJ 756:2:11. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 74-75. K'Meyer,
Interracialism and Christian Community, 59.
15Clarence Jordan to Howard Johnson, [August 1948], CLJ 756:2:11.

moment.16 This tense political climate only heightened resistance to

perceived threats to segregation, and Sumter Countians certainly were not

going to allow those influences to infiltrate, of all places, their churches.

By the spring of 1950, the relationship between Koinonia and Rehobeth

had deteriorated to the point to provoke an open confrontation. When

Koinonians took a visiting Indian Hindu agricultural student to church with

them, members of the congregation mistook him for an African American

and accused Koinonians of again trying to integrate the church. After a series

of meetings, the pastor wrote Jordan that the church would hold a business

meeting in which fellowship would be withdrawn from the Koinonians.

Even though Jordan was to preach the day of the scheduled business meeting

at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church in Montgomery, Alabama, the church held

the meeting without him and carried through its intentions.17

16The gubernatorial primary in 1946 was the first in which Georgia's African
Americans could vote after the Supreme Court struck down the white primary as
unconstitutional two years earlier. In reality, the Smith v. Allwright decision had little
immediate effect in Georgia; only in cities did large numbers of African Americans register to
vote. The county unit system, in effect until 1962, gave disproportionate power to the less-
populated, rural counties. Nevertheless, threats to white supremacy sent Georgia's Democratic
politicos into a panic in the election of 1946. They elected Eugene Talmadge, the state's
consummate racist, to a fourth term as governor, only to see him die before being inaugurated.
His son Herman claimed the office following a write-in campaign begun when supporters
realized the state of the senior Talmadge's health. Sitting governor Ellis Amall, however,
refused to honor the election, no matter that the legislature had elected the younger Talmadge
after the write-in campaign, and refused to vacate the governor's mansion and office to anyone
except incoming Lieutenant Governor Melvin E. Thompson. The state supreme court eventually
declared Thompson to be acting governor, even though Talmadge, by that time, had seized
occupancy of the governorship and Thompson had had to set up his office elsewhere. Intended
to settle the three-governor controversy, the special election of 1948 essentially sealed the
power of the pro-Talmadge faction by electing Herman Talmadge governor. Numan V. Bartley,
From Thurmond to Wallace: Political Tendencies in Georgia, 1948-1968 (Baltimore: The Johns
Hopkins University Press, 1970), 25-26. The Creation of Modern Georgia (Athens: The
University of Georgia Press, 1983), 188-190. Gary L. Roberts, "Tradition and Consensus: An
Introduction to Gubernatorial Leadership in Georgia, 1943-1983," in Georgia Governors in an
Age of Change: From Ellis Arnall to George Busbee, eds. Harold P. Henderson and Gary L.
Roberts (Athens: The University of Georgia Press, 1988), 5-7.

17A full account of this episode may be found in the document "Relationship with
Community Churches," CLJ 234031, and Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 74-81.

In the next newsletter, Jordan wrote that while the break with the
church grieved the Koinonians, it also showed them the effect their message

of racial equality was having on their fellow whites. "We are now whole-
heartedly committed to complete brotherhood across all barriers with no
other commitments to compromise our witness," he wrote, indicating his

position that membership in an all-white church had conflicted with
Koinonia's advocacy of brotherhood.18
The expulsion from Rehobeth generated publicity in religious and
interracial circles and resulted in part in even more people--as many as four
hundred a year, one Koinonian recalled--coming to Koinonia as visitors or as
potential members.19 Further, contact with other communal groups exposed
Koinonians to the ways of community, and internal issues emerged as
Koinonians tried to define membership and to create a structure through
which to be a community. On top of everything else, Koinonians had an
eight-hundred-acre farm to run, an increasing number of people to support,
and a leader who spent a large amount of time traveling to speaking
engagements.20 That they had any surplus time or energy with which to
minister to their neighbors is remarkable.

The provision for worship, the division of work, and the farm's
continuing growth demanded coordination. Even the necessary preparing of
meals and buying of groceries were complications that lacked immediately
obvious solutions. Eventually, the group built a community kitchen and

18Newsletter, 12 January 1951.
19The Christian Century 67 (6 September 1950): 1053; 67 (11 October 1950): 1204.
Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author.
20Records indicate that Jordan spoke, for example, in South Carolina, Mississippi,
Texas, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Georgia in 1948-1950. Speaking Engagements,
1940-1948, CLJ 756:9:3. Speaking Engagements, 1950-1954, CLJ 7569:4. Newsletter, December

worked out suitable routines, but only after trying several different

approaches first. In spite of the difficulties, the Koinonians were committed
to communal life and strove to work out how best to facilitate it. They elected

officers, rotated work assignments, and absorbed the growth as best they
could.21 As early as January 1948, the few members held community

meetings, kept minutes, and made decisions, such as one to borrow money to

purchase additional land, by making and approving a motion.22 All
incoming residents deposited their money and their possessions into
common holdings.

These simple policies became more complicated when applied to an
increasing number of people. The Conrad Browne family, for example,

wanted to withhold one hundred dollars they brought with them and

designate it for an additional bathroom. However badly the bathroom was

needed, they realized later that the restrictions they wished to place on their
money violated the spirit of the common purse. Another difficult situation
arose when people arrived with life insurance policies and premiums to pay.
The group could not reach a consensus on the issue of insurance and agreed,

at least temporarily, to leave the holding of policies up to the individual with

the group absorbing the cost for premiums.23

The growth required Koinonians not only to adopt more structure but
also to understand themselves more fully as a community. They had already

21Harry [Atkinson] to Howard [Johnson], [August 19481, CLJ 756:2:11. Conrad and Ora
Browne, interview by Dallas Lee. Minutes, 20 January 1949,3 February 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16.
22Minutes, 16 January 1948,3 February 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16.

23Conrad and Ora Browne, interview by Dallas Lee. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 72.
Minutes, 14 January 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16. More than a year later, they still had not reached
agreement on how to handle insurance and left the issue up to the individual. Finally, they
decided that no full member would carry life insurance unless the spouse was not a full member.
Minutes, 7 November 1950, 16 March 1951.

turned their attention to understanding the concept of koinonia more clearly
when the final expulsion from Rehobeth accelerated the process. Discussions
about identity and definition went hand-in-hand with those about housing
plans, daily schedules, and farming operations. Indeed, on one occasion the
group moved that "simultaneously we begin to deal with the basic issues of
Koinonia and build a chicken house." The two tasks were not that far apart
in their thinking, and addressing them together reflected their pattern of
working things out as they went and their commitment to keep their
livelihood and identity closely linked. To Koinonians, living by these
principles meant they were serving as a demonstration plot for the Kingdom
of God by translating Kingdom principles into everyday life.24
Serving as an example, a demonstration plot, of the Kingdom of God,
however, implied a passivity that discouraged some Koinonians. To them, a
strong emphasis on outreach was missing from the discussions on identity.
Most future Koinonians had first learned of the community by hearing
Clarence Jordan tell of the opportunities for improving race relations in the
deep South and extol the virtues of living communally with other like-
minded people. Prospective members arrived, however, with differing
interpretations of what Koinonia was about and with varying levels of
commitment to its principles. When exposure to other communal groups
prompted Koinonians to focus on their internal identity, for example, those
most committed to service and outreach balked at the idea of devoting energy
to developing membership requirements or operating policies. Other
Koinonians viewed the group as their church and did not understand, or
maybe even approve of, other Koinonians maintaining ties with the
institutional church, an issue essentially settled by Rehobeth church. This

24Minutes, 16 August 1949, 10 January 1950. Minutes, 21 December 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16.

search for identity and the competition internally as to what that identity

would be demonstrate Koinonia's move into what might be called an
adolescent period. Koinonia had finally accumulated enough people, had
endured beyond the critical initial years, and now had to reconfigure itself in
light of its membership's preferences and take steps to ensure stability in light
of so much growth.
If Koinonia had not learned of certain groups that might be described as
hyper-communalists, or if Rehobeth church had not foisted on the
Koinonians the issue of their relationship to the institutional church, then
perhaps the pendulum might not have swung so far from service to
community. Once Koinonia began defining itself more explicitly as a
community that performed outreach instead of an outreach agency whose
members lived communally--a difference far more than merely semantic--
then the community suffered the loss of some of its members and relegated
its outreach to secondary status. Because internal issues required energy that
otherwise would have been devoted to service and outreach, some members
left. Even they may have understood the necessity of Koinonia's doing that
internal work, but the extent to which Koinonia indulged itself drove them

To these Koinonians, community needed to be secondary to service
and outreach, and when Koinonia turned its focus inward, however
temporarily, they left. Gene and Jack Singletary left within a year of his
release from prison, Allene and Harry Atkinson left about the same time (but
returned in 1953), and the two couples farmed together in the next county
before buying another farm in Sumter County near Plains. In early 1951,
Willie Pugh and her new husband, C. Z. Ballard, joined them at the new

farm. Together the couples offered Sunday School classes for African

Americans in the area and performed other ministries for their new
neighbors.25 Ostensibly, each of these couples left Koinonia because of the

perceived shift from an inward focus that favored communitarianism over
outreach and service.
The Ballards, perhaps, perceived the shift to be the sharpest, and their
experience best illuminates this difficult transition. Willie Pugh Ballard
remembered being drawn to Koinonia first from hearing Clarence Jordan
speak at her Mississippi Baptist college. Southern Baptists were doing so little
in the way of race relations work that the prospect of devoting her efforts and

energies at Koinonia enticed her to move there. She put in the common
purse the eighty-two dollars she had accumulated in retirement, and for three
years involved herself in Rehobeth church, the neighborhood, and all the
activities of Koinonia. In return, Koinonia helped pay college expenses for

her two sisters since she could no longer support them, and Koinonians
became her family. Further, Pugh met her future husband when he visited

Koinonia in the summer of 1950. C. Z. Ballard worked in Florida and brought
with him on that first trip to Koinonia the Indian student whose visit
provoked the expulsion from Rehobeth church. He and Pugh married in
February 1951 and lived at Koinonia for about six weeks before leaving.

Willie Pugh Ballard, therefore, resided at Koinonia long enough to see
it transform from a skeleton group that eked out a living--at one point, she
had to work in the local hospital for a few months to generate extra income
for Koinonia-to a fairly well established and somewhat well-known
community. As more people came, clearly, more structure was necessary, but
accompanying the discussions for more structure were those about the

25Gene Singletary, interview by author. Allene and Harry Atkinson, telephone
interview by author, 24 August 1992. Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author.

community and commitment to it. Ballard and her husband, however,
believed that their commitment was to the work of the group, the outreach,

rather than to the group itself. Ballard characterized this period as "a

transition time for the basic theology of the group." The transition had begun
already when the representatives from the Bruderhof visited the first time.
Their influence sped the process and made "total commitment" to the group
the primary objective of Koinonia and made the will of the group as "the
highest expression of the will of God" the primary guideline for decision
making.26 Koinonians spent months discussing their identity as a

community and sometimes questioned the wisdom of moving ahead with
certain projects before reaching clarity of purpose and identity. Whereas only
a year earlier they had willingly voted to build a chicken house concurrently

with discussing the basic issues of Koinonia, at least one Koinonian saw their
first big issue of 1951 to be to decide whether to proceed with building more
housing or to put that and other decisions off "until we decide who we are

and what we are."27
The discussions focused in part on the development of a membership
structure. Since so many people were coming to Koinonia, at least to visit,
the more permanent residents decided they needed some way to distinguish
members from non-members. In the earliest years, whoever came and stayed
any length of time was considered a member. Long-timers, however, came to

feel that new people needed orientation to the principles and policies of
Koinonia and that transient people could be disruptive, even detrimental, to
the community if they had a voice equal to that of those who had committed
themselves indefinitely. After discussing requirements for each step,

26Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author. Minutes, 21 March 1951.
27Minutes, 9 January 1951.

Koinonians adopted a three-leveled system of membership. A person joined

the community as a novice, next became a provisional member, and finally,
upon mutual agreement, became a full member, divesting money and
property incrementally with each stage. The process theoretically took at least
a year to complete, giving both the community and the individual enough
time to evaluate the relationship and compatibility. Once Koinonians had
settled on membership requirements and on the process for becoming a
member, they decided to write a pledge for full members to sign formalizing
their commitment to each other.28

At this point, the Ballards decided to leave Koinonia. Not believing
that "the community should be an end in itself," C. Z. Ballard noted that he
favored "the social aspect of Christ's teachings," while Koinonians
emphasized "living together and sharing all things in common." Ballard did
not condemn their choice but stated that he would never find happiness until
he had "met the needs of the poor and the race problem in the South."
Willie Pugh Ballard claimed that Koinonia had succumbed to the dangers of
community by making it more important than service. She had come to the
point of leaving previously but had stayed because, so far, Koinonia "was the

best expression of Christian living" she knew. It had come to the point,
however, of failing in the things that were most important to her. Other
Koinonians tried to reassure the couple that they maintained their
commitment to service but believed that fulfilling it happened best in the
context of community. Nevertheless, the Ballards left and joined the
Atkinsons and Singletarys at the farm in Plains.29

28Minutes, 13 February 1951, 16 March 1951. Conrad and Ora Browne, interview by
Dallas Lee.
29Minutes, 16 March 1951. Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author.

Within a month Koinonians had adopted a pledge of commitment
which stated: "We desire to make known our total, unconditional
commitment to seek, express, and expand the Kingdom of God as revealed in

Jesus Christ. Being convinced that the community of believers who make a
like commitment is the continuing body of Jesus on earth, I joyfully enter
into a love union with the Koinonia and gladly submit myself to it, looking
to it to guide me in the knowledge of God's will and to strengthen me in the
pursuit of it." Eight people--Florence and Clarence Jordan, Marion and

Howard Johnson, Gilbert Butler, Norman Long, and Ora and Conrad Browne-

-signed the commitment as full members. Other residents not been at
Koinonia long enough to qualify for full membership.30
The true state of Koinonia's direction may have depended on the
viewer's perspective. Clearly, Koinonians were more interested in 1951 in
internal issues and in a communal focus than they had been even a year
earlier. The number of long-term residents had increased and required more
explicit operating procedures. These factors, combined with the influence of
other communitarians and the ouster from the local church, pushed
Koinonians naturally in a more inner-focused direction. Certainly, some
new members valued community over service but saw the two closely
linked. Few, if any, would have been in the community for the sake of
communal living alone. Instead, they wanted to perform outreach and

service from within the context of community. Moreover, they wanted to
bring into the community the people to whom they ministered.
The Ballards' experience demonstrates that the inner workings of the
community could have an adverse effect on its members, causing tensions
between individuals and the group. Further, it illustrates how deep

3Minutes, 21 April 1951, 16 March 1951.

involvement in a community such as Koinonia carries with it emotional

investment and, when differences arise, emotional pain. Willie Pugh Ballard
remarked later that "it was a strange thing when you are going through a
period of falling in love [with her future husband] and at the same time the

group that has been your family is deciding some things that are pretty
important and you have to decide [between the two] along at the same
time."31 The Ballards' experience also shows that growth and change

sometimes eclipsed Koinonia's mission and overshadowed the work that was
actually taking place. Koinonia was clearly becoming more communally
oriented, but not so much so that its members no longer valued and
performed outreach into the surrounding area. Koinonia's inward focus,
however, drove away some members and hardly mitigated other barriers to
the desired group cohesion.

In the first place, as the number of people involved in making
decisions increased, the likelihood for reaching consensus plummeted. Even
when the group reached a consensus, often it was, in the words of one

Koinonian, a "reluctant consensus." On other occasions, an issue itself may
have seemed minor, but the desire for consensus increased the significance of
an ensuing decision. For example, circumstances dictated the priority of
additional housing. Discussions on the subject, on the one hand, might spill
over into larger issues such as the legitimacy of needs for nuclear families
over against those of the larger community, the commitment to even more
simple living, and the judicious use of money for housing versus ongoing
operating expenses. The same discussions, on the other hand, might
deteriorate into squabbles, such as a long debate on the advantages of
linoleum flooring over asphalt tile. Rare as this latter tendency may have

31Willie Pugh Ballard, telephone interview by author.

been, it nevertheless indicates the lengths to which Koinonians sometimes
went in order to reach a decision. In this particular case, minutes reflect that
someoe who were against the providing of the linoleum on principle felt that
it was better to provide it in the face of financial difficulties than to deny it in
a situation which it seemed might lead to some hurt feelings."32 Koinonians
agreed that consensus on basic principles and commitments superseded
agreement on every specific decision regarding daily operations, but they also
knew that disagreement in little things sometimes masked other problems.
Other difficulties arose around the issue of finances. While the precise
financial picture for Koinonia during these years is unclear, the members
were clearly concerned with maintaining their livelihood. They determined
to live simply, even while realizing their relative affluence in comparison to
their neighbors. They quibbled over grocery purchases as to what were
actually necessities and what were pleasures, and during one year they
limited their clothing purchases to only thirty dollars per person, a small
figure given that half of the farm's population were growing children. At the
same time, however, the community expanded its land holdings on at least
three occasions between 1948 and 1956. The members spent hours discussing
how to cut costs when building houses and then turned around and bought
expensive farm equipment. As more and more people lived at the farm, the
debt increased. To complicate matters further, a severe drought in 1954
depleted anticipated profits for that year and prompted Koinonians to go even
deeper in debt to install an irrigation system for the farm. They had to find
new ways to generate income and discussed, for example, letting members get
jobs outside of the community. Finally they decided to open a roadside farm
market on the nearest major highway and to base a small-scale mail-order

321bid. Minutes, 6 March 1953.

business for farm products there.33 At issue for the Koinonians was how they

would make their living, what their standard of living would be, and how

these could be reconciled with their goals of simple living and equitable

distribution of resources.

Perhaps the most delicate issue for Koinonians surrounded the role of

Florence and Clarence Jordan, and in turn the issue of leadership, in the

community. Koinonians attempted to be what one scholar of communalism

calls an "organized democracy." The term means that they aspired to create

"a well-defined organizational structure" with open forums for full

participation by members, delegation of tasks and responsibilities, rotation of

offices, and group authority over major decision. Complicating this

organizational goal, however, was the presence of a charismatic leader. The

power of a true charismatic leader lay in an organizational structure based on

an authoritarian hierarchy. Clarence Jordan, however, did not expect

personal devotion from his subjects, as in the Weberian sense of charismatic

leadership, nor did he claim possession of special knowledge or powers.34

Nevertheless, since the beginning, by circumstance or by intention, Clarence

Jordan had been the de facto leader of Koinonia.

By the time enough people gathered at Koinonia in the late 1940s to

need managing, Jordan had run things on his own so long that, for all

33Minutes, 16 January 1948, 22 February 1949, CLJ 2341:4:16. Minutes, 17 October 1950, 21
August 1951,28 October 1952,4-5 March 1953, 10 March 1953, 22 April 1953, 22 May 1953, 27 May
1953,9 June 1953, 25 November 1953, 30 December 1953,6 January 1954, 22 February 1954, 11
August 1954,15 September 1954,5 November 1954, 21 December 1954, 18 January 1955,19 January
1955, 1 February 1955, 8 February 1955, 11 March 1955. Margaret Wittkamper, interviews by
author, 5 and 6 June 1991, Koinonia Partners, Americus, Georgia. Lee, Cotton Patch Evidence, 71,
34Rosabeth Moss Kanter, Communes: Creating and Managing the Collective Life (New
York: Harper and Row, Publishers, 1973), 146-147. __ Commitment and Community:
Communes and Utopias in Sociological Perspective (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University
Press, 1972), 117.

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