King & Faith

Interreligious Symposium

Saturday, January 18

10:00am - 1:00pm

doors open at 9:30am

The 2020 series will inaugurate the King & Faith Symposium. The symposium brings together scholars and the general public in interreligious discussion on the theme of justice in varied religious traditions. The symposium is a partnership between the NorcalMLK Foundation, the Center for Islamic Studies at the Graduate Theological Union, and the Church for the Fellowship of All Peoples in San Francisco.


Martin Luther King, Jr. notes in his 1958 work Stride Toward Freedom that by the time he entered to Atlanta’s Morehouse College his concern for racial and economic justice was already substantial. In many of King’s speeches, sermons and writings, he often cited biblical texts as anecdote to his idea of justice. One of his favorite texts was found in the Judeo-Christian First Testament Book of Amos: “Let Justice (judgement) roll down like waters, and righteousness like a never failing stream!” ( 5:24 NIV)

The Hebrew term for justice/judgement in this text, mishpât (mish pawt’), derives from the hebrew primitive verb shaphat (shaw fat’), which connotes the authority to govern, to judge, to vindicate, and to punish. Mishpât embodies the establishment of law, the interpretation of ordinance, the pronouncement of verdict, and the legal foundation of the authority to execute sentence. Mishpât, as justice/judgement, is distinguished in that the whole determination and consequence of juxtaposed good and evil, right and wrong, and presence with and separation from is tied to this concept.

The Judeo-Christian tradition accepts mishpât and shaphat as emanating from the divine. And, in its New Testament framework, divine mission is passed on to those who follow the teachings of the Way, where the principal ethic in exercising mishpât is love, understood by the Greek term, agápé, which connotes care, affection, and concern for others. For instance, the author of the New Testament canonical gospel of John writes how Jesus commands: "Love one another. Even as I have loved you, so you must love one another." (13:34 NIV) Love here is embodied by the Greek verbal parent, agápáw.

In King’s understanding, mishpât, as carried out through agápé, was not restricted to a particular sacred tradition. Rather, he held that this form of justice/judgement existed as a universal principle. King understood justice/judgement to be the ontological manifestation of care for the poor and oppressed, of struggle against evil in the world, and of the exercise of a fundamental concern with the wholesomeness of the person, the world, and the social milieux in which one lives.  

In our inaugural interreligous symposium, we look to interrogate this Kingian framework through two panels:

  1. “What is Justice?;” and 

  2. “The Time for Justice.”

Each scholar will present their thoughts, followed by a group question and discussion period. The panels and follow-on discussions will be moderated by Dr. Dorsey O. Blake.