Clarence Jordan

Founder, Koinonia Farm (1912–1969)
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Photo courtesy of Koinonia Farm. Used with permission.

Clarence Jordan was born in rural Georgia and earned ministerial credentials as well as a doctorate in New Testament studies from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville. In 1942, with his wife, Florence, and a couple other families, he founded Koinonia Farm, an experiment in communal Christian living, near Americus, Georgia. Koinonia was the Greek word used in Acts to describe the early Church community and its atmosphere of reconciliation and partnership. Jordan believed the most vital need for reconciliation in the South was between blacks and whites. At a time when such talk was considered dangerously radical, Jordan’s views drew a wedge between Koinonia and its neighbors. He was expelled from the local Baptist church. Troubles truly began in the 1950s after the Supreme Court ruling on school desegregation. Koinonia was subjected to shootings, bombings, and vandalism, along with an economic boycott of the community. 

Jordan published a vernacular translation of the New Testament called his “Cotton Patch version,” setting the story of Jesus “along the dusty rows of cotton, corn, and peanuts” in rural Georgia. He believed the problems with Christianity stemmed from the fact that most Christians pictured Jesus enthroned in heaven or safely confined to “Bible Times,” thus missing the challenge of the incarnation. By glorifying Christ, he wrote, “we more effectively rid ourselves of him” than did those who crucified him. Jordan died on October 29, 1969. 

“The good news of the resurrection of Jesus is not that we shall die and go home to be with him, but that he has risen and comes home with us, bringing all his hungry, naked, thirsty, sick prisoner brothers with him.” —Clarence Jordan 

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Robert Ellsberg

Robert Ellsberg is the publisher and editor-in-chief of Orbis Books and the author of several award-winning books, including All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets, and Witnesses for Our Time; Blessed Among All Women; and The Saints' Guide to Happiness.

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