In 1960, when Vincent Harding moved to Atlanta, he began trying to weld together the ongoing nonviolent activism being lived out by some in the Black Church with the peace witness of the Mennonite Church. This effort became less than a decade long experiment, because Harding would eventually break formal ties with the Mennonite Church. Though his time and effort keeping a foot simultaneously in both the Black community and Mennonite community was fixed should not suggest to us that he no longer had an important role to play in for Mennonite lived faith or that he did not continue to influence the Mennonite Church deeply. In fact, his ongoing legacy for the Mennonite Church lives on today.
Vincent Harding died yesterday. If all the civil rights leader had done was draft King's "Beyond Vietnam" speech, that would have been quite a contribution. ("I watched this [antipoverty] program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything on a society gone mad on war.") But in the 60s Harding founded Atlanta's Mennonite House (with his wife Rosemarie Freeney Harding), traveled around the South with the movement, and got his doctorate in history (here in Chicago, with Century contributing editor Martin Marty). Since then he led a career of teaching (mostly at Iliff), writing, and activism.
Vincent Harding combined his sensibilities as a historian and as a pastor. He called us, as individuals and as a nation, to face our weaknesses and learn from them.