Burris A. Jenkins

Postcard of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church
Postcard of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church. Courtesy of the Missouri Valley Special Collections.

Dr. Burris A. Jenkins used Kansas City as his pulpit, communicating with thousands of people through newspapers, radio waves, and authorship of 17 books. He served as pastor of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church, later the Community Christian Church at 4601 Main Street. Often considered too liberal for his era or occupation, Jenkins won scores of followers with his blunt sermons, essays, and novels.

Jenkins was born in Kansas City in 1869, attended Central High School, and received his undergraduate degree from Bethany College in West Virginia. He was ordained in 1891 and served as a pastor in Indianapolis. He received advanced degrees from Harvard and went on to serve as a professor and president of the University of Indianapolis and president of Kentucky University. He left Kentucky to return to Kansas City as pastor of the Linwood Boulevard Christian Church. The church burned in 1939, and Jenkins chose Frank Lloyd Wright as the architect for the church’s new home overlooking the Country Club Plaza.

Jenkins served as editor of the Kansas City Post from 1919 to 1921, hoping to fight for the establishment of the League of Nations. After two years, it became necessary for him to choose between the newspaper and his pulpit and, without hesitation, he resigned from the Post.

"Live dangerously!" Jenkins would thunder from the pulpit, embracing his own philosophy against all adversaries. Unconventional in nearly every aspect of his chosen field, Jenkins often preached from non-Biblical texts, such as the latest book or his travels abroad. The church frequently hosted motion pictures, dances, card games, and fundraising boxing matches. These activities led to opposition to Jenkins and his Community Church from other Cambellite Christian churches in the city.

The energetic Jenkins held the title of pastor of his distinctive church for 38 years. Upon his death in 1945, tributes were paid to him from the pulpits of many denominations throughout the city.

Acknowledgement: 

A previous version of this article appears on kchistory.org: http://kchistory.org/content/biography-burris-jenkins-1869-1945-newspape...

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