By Reilly Wright, Managing Editor
Ohio Wesleyan’s Chaplain Jon R. Powers became one of 26 preachers inducted into the Martin Luther King Jr. Board of Preachers in Atlanta, Georgia.
Located at Morehouse College, King’s alma mater, the board claims to honor faith leaders from multiple traditions. Inductees are chosen for their commitment to “promote peace, tolerance, interfaith understanding” and other ideals exemplified by King.
Rev. Dr. Lawrence Edward Carter Sr., dean of the Martin Luther King Jr. Chapel and director of the Martin Luther King Jr. College of Pastoral Leadership selected Powers for induction. The induction ceremony took place on April 5.
“To be only one of two white persons in this nationally honored group of 26 MLK preachers at the 50th anniversary of Dr. King’s assassination was a powerful and humbling experience for me,” Powers said.
King was assassinated on April 4, 1968 and this year’s ceremony took place one day after its anniversary. Powers said the consecutive assassinations of his longtime heroes of King, Senator Robert F. Kennedy and then the suicide of his beloved father was traumatic.
“Those three deaths, so close together, marked my soul for eternity, and more than any other thing, made me the chaplain I have been for the rest of my life,” he said.
Powers, who joined OWU in 1988, was raised in rural Michigan exposed to racial diversity by his black grandmother. Until he joined a city school, he said he did not recognize the racial prejudice in the world.
He said teachers told his parents that the Martin Luther King Jr. books he brought to class were “communist literature” that was causing trouble with classmates.
“I have been creating trouble among my classmates and my peers ever since!” he said.
When meeting this year’s other inductees, Powers said there was an immediate link as they shared stories and compared notes on their lives of religious dedication.
“For each of us, I sensed this was a snapshot in time of our curiously collective lives that none of us will ever forget, and none of us will ever totally comprehend,” Powers said.
Powers’ honor is something that comes from a life of devotion toward acceptance according to Ohio Wesleyan President Rock Jones.
“Jon Powers has devoted his life to the work of justice, equality and inclusion for all people,” Jones said. “His ministry, including his ministry of preaching, reflect these commitments in every way and now is recognized by the Martin Luther King, Jr. Board of Preachers.”
Ultimately, Powers expresses his gratitude to be part of a community that embraces King’s principles as core values, but asks that these values be used as often and as diversely as possible.
When it comes to the OWU community, Powers said students, staff and faculty see the face of “an old, white bearded white man.” But, underneath, he said he has a vulnerable soul raised past racial boundaries and proud to love God by loving everyone he meets.
“Maybe we all need to stop assuming that the person we meet on the Jay or in class is one-dimensional?” he said.