Global Ministries

The United Methodist Church

Connecting the Church in Mission

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and the Poor People's Campaign

Jan 12, 2011


January 14, 2011--In honor of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the General Board of Global Ministries is committed to Dr. King's legacy of justice, which includes economic justice and ending poverty. Dr. King is remembered for his leadership in the United States and his work towards racial justice, desegregation, and non-violence.

At the time of his assassination in 1968, Dr. King was in the midst of planning a Poor People's March, integral to a campaign to unify and take action on behalf of people living in poverty.

Dr. King's anti-poverty work continues more than 40 years after his death. As in the late 1960s, Global Ministries, the mission agency of The United Methodist Church, continues to partner with Civil Rights leaders, including Christian leaders from the Interchurch Center (where Global Ministries still has offices) to uplift people in need of jobs, housing, and health care.

If Dr. King were alive today, he might well ask, "Why are there 40 million poor people in America?" which he asked the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1967. Incidentally, last week's 2010 census figures indicate the number of people living in poverty in the US hovers at about 48 million (or 15.7 percent).

"Somehow the preacher must say with Jesus, 'The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to deal with the problems of the poor,'" Dr. King said at his last sermon, delivered at the Washington National Cathedral in 1968.

Poverty Initiative

To commemorate and reinvigorate the campaign for those living in poverty, an Advance program, the Poverty Initiative of Union Seminary, is calling upon people of faith everywhere to "Re-Ignite the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Poor People's Campaign."

To learn more about the Poverty Initiative and the campaign led by people who are poor, link to: There you will find seminary workshops and resources to raise questions and take action, guided by community leaders who live in poverty. The Poverty Scholars are needed for the 2011 summer seminar to link together anti-poverty community-based leaders to strategize on next steps.

"Increasingly, people are seeing you can do charity--food banks and clothing drives. But there's justice. The people who volunteered in the church are now the ones standing in the lines. There is increased interest in systematic solutions, particularly among people who are driven to action by their faith," said Dawn Plummer, Development Coordinator of the Poverty Initiative.

You may give to the Poverty Initiative through the Advance, the designated giving channel of The United Methodist Church: Poverty Initiative, Advance #3020543.

Human Relations Sunday

This Sunday, January 16, 2011--as they do every year before Martin Luther King, Jr., Day--United Methodist churches celebrate Human Relations Sunday.

This special Sunday undergirds the work of the Community Developers Program, an innovative program related to the General Board of Global Ministries. Community developers empower and uplift people and communities out of entrenched poverty. The community-based approach values the assets of communities and builds on the gifts and people who reside in a community.

Although this Sunday is the designated Special Sunday, Human Relations Sunday may be celebrated any time of the year. (In 2010, giving for Human Relations Sunday was down by more than 20 percent, perhaps due to the January 12 th Haiti earthquake.)

Learn more about ways to celebrate Human Relations Sunday and value the gifts of the community through The United Methodist Church. There you can find stories, worship ideas, and talking points to understand the magnitude of lives transformed and dreams fulfilled through the Community Developers Program.

"Given an opportunity, this person can make a difference. We need to help them see their value and support them. They're giving back. They're passing it forward," said Deborah Bell, Community Developer with Better Community Development (BCD), Inc., an outreach of Theressa Hoover United Methodist Church in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Civil Rights Photos

To view Civil Rights photos and be inspired for action, link to: These photos document an important and continuing emphasis of The United Methodist Church's ministry with the poor through the General Board of Global Ministries.

Recently discovered in the General Board of Global Ministries' photo archives, the dramatic photos that make up the Ken Thompson collection, provide a glimpse into the national and historic struggle for economic empowerment inspired by Dr. King's Poor People's Campaign.