Who Lynched Willie Earle? Preaching to Confront Racism

by April 6, 2018

Pastors and leaders long to speak an effective biblical word into the contemporary social crisis of racial violence and black pain. They need a no-nonsense strategy rooted in actual ecclesial life, illuminated in this fine book by a trustworthy guide, Will Willimon, who uses the true story of pastor Hawley Lynn’s March of 1947 sermon, “Who Lynched Willie Earle?” as an opportunity to respond to the last lynching in Greenville, South Carolina and its implications for a more faithful proclamation of the Gospel today.

By hearing black pain, naming white complicity, critiquing American exceptionalism/civil religion, inviting/challenging the church to respond, and attending to the voices of African American pastors and leaders, this book helps pastors of white, mainline Protestant churches preach effectively in situations of racial violence and dis-ease.


Who Lynched Willie Earl?  is a must-read for preachers of every context. Willimon bridges generations while challenging conventional practices of preachers who exercise the unsanctioned privilege ‘to remain silent.’ He creatively weaves biography and biblical imperative and calls us to employ our prophetic license in light of an inhumane then and now.”—F. Willis Johnson, Senior Minister, Wellspring Church UMC, Ferguson, MO; Vosburgh Visiting Professor of Ministry and Social Engagement, Drew University, Madison, NJ
“From an esteemed professor and pulpiteer of the church comes a timely topic that has troubled the waters of the United States for a mighty long time: racism. At this point in American history, we need this book more than ever to discern what it means to be a faithful Christian in our day. Thank you, Bishop Willimon!”—Luke A. Powery, Dean of Duke University Chapel and Associate Professor of Homiletics, Duke Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC
“Who better to invite good Christians to explore racism than Will Willimon? Here, as always, he proves to be the master raconteur, wise theologian, and humorous yet deadly disturber of the peace.”—James C. Howell, Senior Pastor, Myers Park UMC, Charlotte, NC; Adjunct Professor of Preaching, Duke Divinity School, Duke University, Durham, NC

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