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Boston Consultation: “We Find Christ Anew in the One Who Offends Us Most”

August 19, 2010

Boston University's campus near the Charles River, a beautiful spot

I’m still contemplating three invigorating days last week at “Teaching Religion, Conflict Transformation, and Peacebuilding:  A Consultation of Educators,” held at the Boston University School of Theology.  I love Boston, and it was a refreshing space with people committed to being more than theoretical, including a couple Jewish leaders I really enjoyed meeting.

Three things I’m thinking about:

First, while the church’s many conflicts are cutting the knees out of our credibility, convenor Tom Porter’s claim that “we’re in the early stages of a movement” putting peace witness at the heart of Christianity struck me as true.  Regarding “early stages” Tom cited Willard Swartley’s recent, important book Covenant of Peace: The Missing Peace in New Testament Theology and Ethics. Regarding the “movement” part I have written about emerging “communities of the restless.”  The BU gathering was another example.

A second challenge:  peacemaking is about who we become, not just what we do.  There is a growing professionalization of “peacebuilding.”  But healing deep wounds is not a technical issue.  The consultation raised critical questions not only regarding the sustainability of the peacemaker over the long haul (creating social change leads to spiritual exhaustion) but the peacemakers’ conversion.  One participant named “the mistaken notion that you can get to justice by bypassing righteousness.”  How is peace and justice work rooted not in resistance and judgment but in gratitude, grace, and joy?

Third, Marc Gopin from George Mason University contrasted what is marketed as peace (especially by the academy) versus the wisdom gathered from lives and communities on the ground (Charles Marsh’s work in The Beloved Community is a good example of the latter).  Gopin talked about the many “peacemaking geniuses” he meets at the grassroots across the world.  A couple great quotes:  “Academics kills practice – it makes the theoreticians the experts” and “The genius of a PhD does not require a PhD.”

Finally a word from Jan Love, dean of Candler School of Theology, is bugging me (in a good way):

“We need to move beyond tolerance and beyond offense to engage the profound differences we experience … This is what Paul’s understanding of love means [in 2 Corinthians 13].  We find Christ anew in the one who offends us most”

About the Author: Chris Rice is co-director of the Center for Reconciliation at Duke Divinity School.  He is author of Reconciling All Things, Grace Matters, and More Than Equals. He writes regularly at the blog Reconcilers.

Last 5 posts on the Reconcilers Blog:

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Dan Sidey permalink
    September 1, 2010 1:40 pm

    Thanks for this, Chris.

  2. November 1, 2010 12:39 pm

    I do see “a growing professionalization of the peacemaker” … And it is no more apparent than in the absence in the Boston program of the Emmanuel Gospel Center, just a few blocks away, as a living example of the consultation’s goals. I don’t know why there is so much trouble “seeing” EGC. Maybe because EGC staff don’t have doctorates and academic posts. Maybe because they aren’t studying reconciliation, talking about reconciliation, and writing books about reconciliation. They’re busy helping build ethnic churches who are rebuilding a ruined city. And in that, they show a respect for and support to diverse peoples and classes that most “reconcilers” could learn from. Reconciliation for its own sake almost always fails. Reconciliation as a means to a common goal is much more successful.

    • Chris Rice permalink*
      November 5, 2010 7:57 am

      I certainly can’t speak to why this ministry (which I’m familiar with, and respect) was not at the table, but I can say that bringing the academy into deep engagement with communities of practice is crucial. Each part tends to think it is the whole when the truth is these tend to be self-sufficient worlds. I’m sure there are ministries in Durham who find it hard not to be ‘seen’ by Duke, and I lament that. Iwas delighted to see 30+ academic institutions at the last Christian Community Development conference–it is important for the grassroots to see the academy ‘come their way’ so to speak.

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