The­olo­gian said re­li­gion should free the op­pressed

South Florida Times - - OBITUARIES - By DEEPTI HAJELA

NEW YORK (AP) - The­olo­gian James Cone, who as a founder of black lib­er­a­tion the­ol­ogy linked Chris­tian faith with the strug­gle against racism and op­pres­sion, has died. He was 79.

Cone was hos­pi­tal­ized last week and died at Me­mo­rial Sloan Ket­ter­ing Can­cer Cen­ter on Satur­day, a spokes­woman for Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary said. The cause of his death wasn't re­leased.

In his work, Cone con­nected the words and lessons of the Bible to the fight for lib­erty and equal­ity by black Amer­i­cans, say­ing God and Je­sus' mes­sages were about so­cial jus­tice and free­ing peo­ple from op­pres­sion and not just wait­ing for the here­after. His 1969 book,“Black The­ol­ogy & Black Power,'' has been a sem­i­nal text in the field.

Cone be­gan teach­ing at Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in 1969. He had stud­ied the­ol­ogy at Gar­rett The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary in Evanston, Illi­nois, and re­ceived his doc­tor­ate from North­west­ern Univer­sity in 1965.

Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary's pres­i­dent, Serene Jones, said in many ways Cone “has been Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary for the past 50 years.''

“To say his death leaves a void is a stag- ger­ing un­der­state­ment,'' Jones said in a state­ment an­nounc­ing the death. “His prophetic voice, deep kind­ness, and fierce com­mit­ment to black lib­er­a­tion em­bod­ied not just the very best of our sem­i­nary, but of the the­o­log­i­cal field as a whole and of Amer­i­can prophetic thought and ac­tion.''

Cone's ef­forts to con­nect the­ol­ogy and so­cial is­sues con­tin­ued through­out his ca­reer. In Novem­ber 2017, he re­ceived the Grawe­meyer Award in Re­li­gion, a $100,000 prize, for his 2011 book, “The Cross and the Lynch­ing Tree.” The book makes con­nec­tions be­tween Je­sus' cru­ci­fix­ion and the lynch­ing of black peo­ple in the United States.

Cone had been on sab­bat­i­cal this aca­demic year to write an­other book, a mem­oir called “Said I Wasn't Gonna Tell No­body,'' which is to be pub­lished this year. His edi­tor shared some of what he had writ­ten for the book's con­clu­sion in Union The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary's state­ment on his pass­ing.

“I write be­cause writ­ing is the way I fight,'' Cone wrote. “Teach­ing is the way I re­sist, do­ing what I can to sub­vert white supremacy.''

Cone was born in Fordyce, Arkansas. He was an or­dained min­is­ter in the African Methodist Epis­co­pal Church.

He is sur­vived by his brother, two sons, two daugh­ters and two grand­chil­dren.

PHOTO COUR­TESY OF UNION THE­O­LOG­I­CAL SEM­I­NARY

James Cone, the­olo­gian and author of "Black The­ol­ogy & Black Power," has died at the age of 79. Cone’s writ­ings and teach­ings con­nected re­li­gion with so­cial is­sues.

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