Spencer Perkins, who died in 1998, was Chris Rice's coauthor on the book More Than Equals: Racial Healing for the Sake of the Gospel (IVP, 1993). He was also Rice's best friend. Now Rice tells the story of their friendship in Grace Matters (Jossey-Bass, purchase book here.)
The only time I've ever talked to you was in an interview with you and Spencer together for the book, More Than Equals. Writing this new book and doing interviews for it must bring memories of doing the same with him.
When your closest friend dies suddenly, the way that Spencer did, you just don't go on with life as usual. I shed a lot of tears writing [this book]. I had a lot of good laughs, too, remembering the very special friendship that we had. But I felt like I really had to get this story out of me in a sense before I could move on with my life.
Tell us a little about you and how you met Spencer.
Spencer's father came to speak at my college. John Perkins was the founder of this ministry [Voice of Calvary] in Mississippi that I'd never heard of. And so I decided to leave Middlebury in the middle of my junior year and volunteer for what I thought would be six months in Mississippi.
John is an amazing person: An African American who grew up in a sharecropping family and has received honorary doctorates from seven colleges and universities, an amazing Christian leader, an activist. He was dangerously concrete in his understanding of the gospel. Racial reconciliation was not just some theology. It was, "We've got to desegregate the Sabbath." So we were a group of white and black believers who were doing just that in an inner-city neighborhood in Jackson.
The neighborhood that we were relocating into was one that had been all white up until desegregation. ...