Clarence Jordan was a man of unusual abilities and commitment. He had two Ph.D.s, one in agriculture and one in Greek and Hebrew. So gifted was he, he could have chosen to do anything he wanted. He chose to serve the poor. In the 1940s, he founded a farm in Americus, Georgia, an interracial, Christian farming community.
It was called it Koinonia (κοινωνία), a word meaning communion or fellowship that in Acts 2:42 is applied to the earliest Christian community.
The Koinonia partners bound themselves to the equality of all persons, rejection of violence, ecological stewardship, and common ownership of possessions
It was a community for poor whites and poor blacks. As you might guess, such an idea did not go over well in the Deep South of the ’40s.
For several years the residents of Koinonia lived in relative peace alongside their Sumter County neighbours. But as the Civil Rights Movement progressed, white citizens of the area increasingly perceived Koinonia as a threat.
Ironically, much of the resistance came from good church people who followed the laws of segregation as much as the other folk in town. The town people tried everything to stop Clarence. They tried boycotting him, and slashing workers’ tyres when they came to town. Over and over, for fourteen years, they tried to stop him.
Finally, in 1954, the Ku Klux Klan had enough of Clarence Jordan, so they decided to get rid of him once and for all. They came one night with guns and torches and set fire to every building on Koinonia Farm but Clarence’s home, which they riddled with bullets.
And they chased off all the families except one black family which refused to leave. Clarence recognized the voices of many of the Klansmen, and, as you might guess, some of them were church people.
Another was the local newspaper’s reporter. The next day, the reporter came out to see what remained of the farm. The rubble still smouldered and the land was scorched, but he found Clarence in the field, hoeing and planting.
“I heard the awful news,” he called to Clarence, “and I came out to do a story on the tragedy of your farm closing. Clarence just kept on hoeing and planting. The reporter kept prodding, kept poking, trying to get a rise from this quietly determined man who seemed to be planting instead of packing his bags.
So, finally, the reporter said in a haughty voice, “Well, Dr. Jordan, you got two of them Ph.D.s and you’ve put fourteen years into this farm, and there’s nothing left of it at all. Just how successful do you think you’ve been?
Clarence stopped hoeing, turned toward the reporter with his penetrating blue eyes, and said quietly but firmly, “About as successful as the cross. Sir, I don’t think you understand us. What we are about is not success but faithfulness. We’re staying. Good day.”
Beginning that day, Clarence and his companions rebuilt Koinonia and he worked that farm until his death in 1969.