Nathan Walton Speaks on MLK and the Black Freedom Church

Nathan Walton MLK seminar

Nathan Walton of Abundant Life Ministries Talks with UVA Students About MLK’s Formation and Relevance

How did Martin Luther King, Jr. become Martin Luther King, Jr.? How should we understand him in terms of history and today’s conversations around social justice?

Nathan Walton, executive director of Abundant Life Ministries, explored these questions and more during a Zoom discussion, on Sept. 16, with University of Virginia students.

Video and audio of Walton’s talk, “Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Witness of the Black Freedom Church,” are now available on The Project on Lived Theology’s website.

During his talk, Walton placed King within the history of the black church and showed how the church shaped King’s theological outlook and social engagement. Walton then examined how King was a byproduct of the black church and other social traditions. According to Walton, “King was often asking the big-picture question, ‘What do the specific claims and events from the Bible mean for the world? And what do they mean specifically for us?’”

The talk was followed by a question-and-answer session, during which Walton and the students exchanged ideas about King, the Civil Rights and Black Lives Matter movements, ownership of narratives, the concept of American exceptionalism and the importance of self-awareness and intellectual rigor.

Walton’s discussion was part of “The Civil Rights Movement in Theological and Religious Perspective,” a UVA undergraduate seminar taught by Charles Marsh, director of The Project on Lived Theology and a professor of religious studies at UVA.

Nathan Walton has served as executive director of Abundant Life Ministries since April 2018. He holds an MDiv from Duke Divinity School, and both a BA and a PhD in religious studies from UVA. His interests include community development, theology and parish ministry. In addition to his role with Abundant Life, Nathan serves as Community Life Pastor at Charlottesville Vineyard Church.

The Project on Lived Theology at the University of Virginia is a research initiative, whose mission is to study the social consequences of theological ideas for the sake of a more just and compassionate world.

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