July 13, 2020

Briars in The Cotton Patch: A Story Finally Told

m-7916.jpgOne of the greatest untold stories among Southern Baptists is the life, mission and ministry of Clarence Jordan.(pronounced Jerden) Now, thanks to PBS, Jordan’s story has been made into a documentary that can communicate this overlooked history to a generation eager to see the true message of Jesus at work in the world.

The silence of contemporary Baptist conservatives towards Jordan’s legacy is a sad reflection of how the taint of racism and a fear of the “social” gospel continue to be a part of some SBC conservatism. Jordan’s ministry was opposed vehemently by local Baptist churches because he was leading an integrated community in a time of segregation. Koinonia persisted and survived, handing on some of its legacy to Habitat for Humanity, but most of what Jordan represented is unknown among Southern Baptists. It’s more likely a contemporary SBC conservative will know the history of reformers who were opposing Baptists than that they will know the story of this courageous contemporary Baptist. With all the culture war and truth war rhetoric among conservative evangelicals, it’s unfortunate that a man who truly had to fight a war- Jesus’ way- is almost completely ignored.

Clarence Jordan was a graduate of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, with a Ph.d in New Testament Greek. He applied his scholarship to many books and is well-known for his popular rewriting of the New Testament into the Cotton Patch Version. He took that scholarship and began practicing the way of Jesus at an integrated farm community in Georgia. Opposed by his fellow Christians, Jordan was a model of New Testament simplicity and action. In a time we desperately need examples of community and practical discipleship, Jordan is a timely resource. If SBC conservatives don’t see the relevance of Jordan, it’s a sad indication of what evangelicalism has become.

The documentary deserves a wide distribution. View the resources on the page and support this project. As a member of a similar community of practical discipleship, I look forward to all the good fruit that Jordan’s life mission will continue to bear.


  1. Happily, it was my SBC former pastor who turned me on to Jordan.

    Not to beat the Tom Key drum again, but have you had an opportunity to see the Cotton Patch Gospel musical?

  2. I’ve seen Cotton Patch Gospel many times. I use it with my students a bit. Great stuff.