by Ezra Millstein
from HabitatWorld Magazine
I like Clarence Jordan.
But if he were around for his 100th birthday this year, it’s unlikely he would feel honored by a virtual befriending or an electronic thumbs-up. Clarence — the Greek scholar, theologian, community-builder, social critic, prophet and farmer — would have wanted those thumbs in the dirt instead, planting seeds of justice and mercy. Or poking the ribs of the slothful to prod them into action or to jolt selfish numbskulls into radical generosity. These things Clarence would enjoy for a birthday celebration.
Clarence and his wife Florence, who would also be 100 this year, founded Koinonia Farm, a Christian community located just south of Americus, Georgia. This fall, Koinonia commemorates the Jordan birthdays as well as the 70th anniversary of their community. Habitat for Humanity’s founder Millard Fuller claimed that Clarence was the spiritual father of Habitat. This anniversary is an opportunity for all of us who are Habitat adherents to listen to Clarence, reflect on our calling and renew our commitment to this work.
Clarence as a spiritual ancestor carries personal meaning for me. I’m marking one other anniversary this year: Forty years ago, in 1972 as a sophomore in college, I read Dallas Lee’s book The Cotton Patch Evidence and first learned about Clarence and the Koinonia Farm “experiment.” I was deeply moved, but to explain why that book was so formative in my experience I have to back up four more years.