Dr. John R Compton was my first pastor and role model as a spiritual leader.  I wanted to acknowledge him during Black History month yet his legacy as a pastor and community leader extends beyond the confines of a one month celebration.

By Rebecca Goodman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

The Rev. John R. Compton, former president of the Cincinnati NAACP and the first African-American to serve on the governing board of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), died April 19. He was 77.

Active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, the Rev. Mr. Compton was part of the march on Washington led by the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963 and helped organize visits to Cleveland by King.

The Rev. Mr. Compton came to Cincinnati in 1948 to become pastor of the Wehrman Avenue Christian Church. Prior to that, he had served at a church in Palestine, Texas, after graduating from Jarvis Christian College there. During his 30 years as pastor at the Wehrman Avenue church, the growth of the congregation necessitated a move to a larger building. With the move came a new name – the United Christian Church.

After he left that assignment, the Rev. Mr. Compton provided leadership in the regional and national offices of the Christian Church. He was the first African-American to serve as regional minister (for the church in Indiana) and as president for a unit (the division of homeland ministries). He was administrator of the National Convocation of the Christian Church, and administrator of the reconciliation mission, the church’s race and poverty program.

He also served on the church’s 16-member general cabinet, wrote numerous articles for the church’s magazine and lectured at the Christian Theological Seminary.

After his retirement, the Rev. Mr. Compton served the Bond Hill Christian Church, overseeing the merger of that African-American church with the white Forest Park Christian Church. The resulting church is known as the Kemper Road Christian Church.

The Rev. Mr. Compton received awards from Jarvis Christian College, Cincinnati Community Action Now, the NAACP and honorary doctorates from Lynchburg College and the Christian Theological Seminary.

In 1988, he received the Liberation Award from the National Convocation of the Christian Church and was inducted into the Jarvis Christian College Hall of Fame in 1995.

The Rev. Mr. Compton was a member of the Walnut Hills Area Council board, Victory Neighborhood Services Agency and the Cincinnati Model Cities board.

I believe that there is a lack of understanding about what the Beloved Community is and how it should operate in the 21st Century. Who are the guardians of the dream or the transmitters of the vision? I believe that the Beloved Community is balanced between Chrisitan piety and social responsibility. The ultimate goal is justice for everyone.(Rawl’s Equality Principle) God’s call for us to be in relationship with God and people demands that we share this relationship that we expereince as love, grace and forgiveness so that everyone will expereince what we are/have expereinced. The Beloved Community embraced radical racial and class diversity, economic opportunity for all and justice for those who were oppressed. This is the core of the Beloved Community.

Is this a lost concept with middle/upper middle class Americans? Does the American middle class value working for justice and equality of all of God’s people or only those who are most like them? People who encountered the Beloved Community in the King framework were transformed. They believed that their individual happiness in life (Mill’s happiness Principle) was rooted in the community being whole and unified. (Dyke’s Community is greater than the individual principle) That is why there was a civil rights movement.

Proposition: The civil rights movement is dead. Now is the time for the Beloved Community to become a reality in the lives of Americans.

Thesis: The vision of a flourishing democratic society that President Obama has cast is embodied in the Beloved Community of Dr. King. Without the theological foundation of God’s grace that also seeks justice for all, the vision is incomplete.