What wonderful news! Christena Cleveland has been appointed to the faculty of Duke Divinity School as the next director of the Center for Reconciliation and Duke’s first-ever professor of the practice of reconciliation. Christena, may you be anointed with the power of the Holy Spirit as you lead the Center into its next chapter of growth–from Duke, to Durham, to the U.S., to “the uttermost parts of the earth.” (See the full story from Duke Divinity School, with links to Christena’s web site and biography.)
These images Donna and I see on our daily walk to work are part of why we’ve fallen in love with our new home of Chuncheon in South Korea. We now begin over thirty days of travel–from MCC meetings in Canada, to our son’s Vermont graduation, to a Duke visit, to China. With spring beginning in Chuncheon after a long and cold winter, it’s not easy to tug ourselves away. If fall in Vermont is garish (as my brother says), that is Chuncheon in spring. Chuncheon means a cheon (stream) that starts to flow when the ice and snow from the winter melts in the chun (spring). We will miss you Spring City!
My last post was Ash Wednesday. This post comes, appropriately, after Easter, in resurrection time.
Last week in Nagasaki, Japan, we experienced powerful days at the 2nd annual Christian Forum for Reconciliation in Northeast Asia (major partners are Duke Divinity School, the Mennonite Central Committee, and Northeast Asia colleagues). Sixty Christian leaders gathered for five days from China mainland, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea, and U.S. We met in the 150th anniversary year of the discovery of Japan’s “hidden Christians,” and the 70th anniversary of the U.S. atomic bomb drop and beginning of the divide of Korea. The video slideshow captures a time that moved from event, to journey, to pilgrimage—from chronos (watch) time to kairos (holy) time. The hymn “Until All Things Reconciled” (see words here) in the background was written by two leaders from the African Great Lakes Initiative we began 9 years ago; it gave me goosebumps to hear it sung by a Northeast Asia choir. We named a time of growing tensions in the region around territorial disputes and rising nationalist spirits (exhibit A: Obama support for alarming military reform by Japan prime minister Abe) and nationalist spirits rising. One Chinese participant proposed a character to describe this time of rising tension, bringing both “crisis” and “opportunity” together into one moment: The turning point was our pilgrimage day in Nagasaki engaging stories of pain and hope, sharing tears as we encountered stories of Japanese suffering from Christian persecution and atomic bomb, to Korean and Chinese suffering. One deep takeaway for me: repentance requires life together. Divided people need one another’s bodies for the pain and privilege and the spirits of the age to be extracted. And for Christians this means we also need the body of Christ at the center of that extraction.
This Ash Wednesday I find it difficult to get these three young people off my mind. On February 10, Deah Barakat, his wife Yusor Abu-Salha, and her sister Razan Abu Salha, three Muslim students living near the University of North Carolina (where my son attends), were brutally shot and killed in their apartment by a neighbor. They were beautiful young people: Deah and Yusor newly married, and Deah about to head to Syria to provide free dental service to children there (see video by Deah).
These murders come at a time when persecution against Muslims in America continues to increase (see “Letting Our Suffering Speak and Be Public” by Omid Safi, Duke professor and director of the Islamic Studies Center). According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, active anti-Muslim groups are on the rise.
Yet my shame is greater when it comes to the U.S. church. According to a new poll, nearly half of 1,000 senior Protestant pastors surveyed say the Islamic State, also known as ISIL or ISIS, “gives a true indication of what an Islamic society looks like.”
Personally, I confess that I cannot name a single close friend who is a Muslim. I regret I did not do more as director of the Duke Divinity School Center for Reconciliation.
In this season of Lent, Christians are drawn to take a deep look inside ourselves, walking with Jesus who on the journey to crucifixion went out of his way to encounter the stranger. In his 2015 Ash Wednesday message, Pope Francis decried what he called “the globalization of indifference.” Tragically and increasingly, Christians are suffering at the margins of certain Islamic societies. It is time for Christians in the U.S., as the majority group with immense power on home ground, to confess our indifference to the Christian-Muslim challenge. It is time to seek out Muslims of goodwill in face-to-face encounters. In concrete acts of eating together and in sharing our stories of pain and hope with one another, we can begin to interrupt the indifference.
P.S. Beginning three years ago, one small thing we did do at the Center for Reconciliation was to create a seminar at the annual Summer Institute for Reconciliation to engage the Christian-Muslim challenge, including bringing in Muslim faculty for the first time. The seminar happens again in June 2015, led by Rick Love and Najeeba Syeed-Miller, and scholarships are available.
Regarding my recent post on passing of Sam Moffett this week: My siblings reminded me we Rices may not have ended up as a Presbyterian missionary family in Korea in 1966 if not for the Moffetts. The Moffetts spoke about Korea at a U.S. church my parents were attending, planting a vision for Korea. No Moffetts, no Rices in Korea, no Rices now with MCC in Chuncheon. The mysteries of life.
The great 99-year old pioneer Korea missionary Sam Moffett passed into heaven yesterday. I remember “Uncle Sam” (what we called him growing up) as a gentle, kind, and tender gentleman (and excellent tennis player). The world knew him for his masterful two-volume history of Christianity in Asia, written while teaching at Princeton Seminary. Moffett’s parents were among the earliest Protestant missionaries to Korea. In Seoul in 2011 I visited a museum at Presbyterian University and Theological Seminary dedicated to Moffett’s father. He and his wife served in Pyongyang for 46 years and were present during the great 1906 Pyongyang revival (around the same time as the renowned Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles).
Along with recent passing of Syngman Rhee, we see fragile giants of faith walking into the sunset, calling we who remain to deeper faithfulness. We must take in our hearts and future vision their fidelity to the ground of Pyongyang–where Syngman was born and returned as an apostle of peace, and where Sam Moffett grew up and began missionary service.
I am delighted that my dear friends Renie and Bill McCutchen have worked with Duke Divinity School to endow a new professorship to be held by the new director of the Center for Reconciliation. This promises to ground the Center more deeply in the fabric of Duke University and give its ministry resilience in years ahead. What an incredible gift!
Renie served so faithfully on the Center advisory board. She and Bill became part of a beautiful “new we” as the Center transformed so many of us into a new understanding of who “my people” are, expanded by God’s greater vision of beloved community across divides.
It was my great joy to join with Emmanuel Katongole as “beginners” of the Center, and to see fresh gifts offered to Duke divinity students, the U.S. via a book series and the Summer Institute for Reconciliation, Africa via the Great Lakes Initiative, and the emerging Northeast Asia Reconciliation Initiative which Duke and MCC are partnering on along with regional colleagues.
Let us pray for Duke’s choosing of the right candidate to help lead the ministry into a fresh chapter of vitality.