Delegates at the 2012 General Conference of The United Methodist Church May 1 declared the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. a modern-day martyr.
The historic vote was in keeping with a decision at the 2008 General Conference giving the German theologian the Rev. Dietrich Bonhoeffer the same distinction.
King, who gave his life for the betterment of all people, will be listed with Bonhoeffer in the Book of Resolutions to bear witness to all people of faith in printed and digital form.
“Dr. King gave of himself to bring a message of hope to the world. His martyrdom set him apart. His love and his sacrifice must be remembered in a significant way by the church for future generations,” the declaration reads.
A graduate of Boston Theological Seminary, a United Methodist-related institution, King is perhaps the most well-known leader of the African-American Civil Rights Movement. He led the 1955 Montgomery bus boycott and the 1963 March on Washington, where he delivered his famous I Have a Dream speech.
In 1964, King became the youngest person to receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his work to end racial segregation and discrimination. He was assassinated on April 4, 1968, in Memphis, Tenn., and was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom (1977) and the Congressional Gold Medal (2004).
Martin Luther King Jr. Day was established as a national holiday in 1986.
Maidstone Mulenga is the director of communications for the Upper New York Annual Conference. Distributed by United Methodist News Service.