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Grawemeyer Award Winner James Cone Dies

May 01, 2018

Rev. Dr. James Hal Cone, winner of the 2018 Grawemeyer Award in Religion and renowned founder of Black Liberation Theology, died Saturday, April 28, 2018. He was 79.

James ConeCone, who was the Bill & Judith Moyers Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary in the City of New York, won the Grawemeyer Award for his book, The Cross and the Lynching Tree (Orbis Books, 2011). In his book, Cone passionately conjoins the provocative images of the first-century cross and the twentieth-century lynching tree.

"The crucifixion was clearly a first-century lynching," wrote Cone. "Both are symbols of the death of the innocent, mob hysteria, humiliation, and terror. They both also reveal a thirst for life that refuses to let the worst determine our final meaning and demonstrate that God can transform ugliness into beauty, into God's liberating presence."

Louisville Presbyterian Theological Seminary, jointly with the University of Louisville, awards the $100,000 prize to honor and publicize creative and significant insights into the relationship between human beings and the divine.

On March 21, at a special ceremony held at Union Seminary, Louisville Seminary President Michael Jinkins presented the Grawemeyer Award to Cone.


Of Cone’s passing, Jinkins said: “Dr Cone was a giant spanning the theological landscape in America for generations. An eloquent and passionate leader in civil rights, a scholar of exceptional breadth and depth, and a beloved teacher, he touched the lives of thousands who never knew him in person, shaped our social and political ethos in more ways than anyone can number, and established a beachhead for liberation from which we cannot retreat. Please join me in praying for Dr Cone's family, his colleagues at Union, his students, and his many, many friends in this time of profound loss. He shall be greatly missed.”

The funeral service for James Cone will be held on Monday, May 7, at 11 a.m. at the Riverside Church (490 Riverside Dr., New York, NY). Services will be live streamed on the Union website.

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