So today was the beginning of the Justice Conference here in Portland, OR. It began with pre-conference seminars taught and engaged in conversations about justice issues and the night culminated with Ken Wytsma, Justice Conference founder, and theologian Miroslav Volf as two plenary speakers.
I went to four different seminars and in this post I want to discuss some gleanings from each teacher and speaker.
The first seminar I went to was led by Western Seminary prof Gerry Breshears titled “Justice According to Abraham, Amos, Jesus, and Paul” for which he contended a synonymous use throughout Scripture of justice and righteousness. He taught me some vocabulary words that I was unfamiliar with in their context of the Hebrew and Greek language, which was intriguing. He also mentioned he believes that many people outside of the Christian faith are involved in justice issues but that we must remember that “Justice starts at God” and that as part of his team “We are a part of a divine rescue mission.”
Second I heard the Dean of Faculty from Kilns College, Michael Caba, titled “Towards Just Economics: Capitalism, Socialism, and the Bible.” He argued that the Bible does not allow for a construction of capitalism or socialism and that economics is increasingly a justice issue because “Different views of justice create different outcomes for a preferred economic system.” Then he outlined that throughout Scripture he thinks there are four basic economic principles supported: owning private property, concern for the poor, developing a strong work ethic, and condemnation of oppression. He also said that in the end we must have a Kingdom view of economics remembering that “God owns it all, and you are his servant and steward with the purpose of bringing him glory.”
The third seminar I went to was led by Melissa McCreary, also from Kilns College, with “What is the role of education in a just life?” She discussed the needs and means of education and its importance in living a just life. She spoke largely of access to higher education. “Education”, she said, “needs to include character development.” The way education is pivitol in living a just life is that it informs us about injustice, exposes us to what justice really is and looks like, aids in discover of solutions, and points us towards action. McCreary said, “We must ensure access to education and teach to justice.”
The last seminar I went to was led by Mike Hogan from International Justice Mission and it was about “Engaging and mobilizing churches for justice.” I really appreciated this one because he talked about his personal story of how he got involved in justice, the purpose of IJM and how it works, and hwo to get involved. He also used a Ministry/Values Map to help identify if justice was an issue that concerned our individual contexts and then encouraged us to “Build justice into the theology and culture of your church.” I plan on using the Ministry/Values Map within my own ministry context. The justice journey begins with education about a theology of justice from the Bible, knowing about global and local issues, and developing a team of people to be a “justice learning community.” Then you explore by developing a taskforce from your “justice learning community”, explore issues within your congregation and neighborhood and explore opportunities to aid in justice internationally through the missionaries the church supports. Third is engagement which means pray, advocate, mobilize, and respond.
The first plenary speaker got underway at 7 p.m. Ken Wytsma, founder of The Justice Conference, President of Kilns College, and Pastor at Antioch in Bend, OR spoke about what justice is in a philosophical and practical way. He spoke as Breshears did, that justice and righteousness are synonymous throughout Scripture. A quote I found particularly profound at the end of his speech was “Justice has taught me about grace. Justice surfaces the need for and is made complete by grace.”
The second plenary speaker was Yale Divinity School theologian Miroslav Volf. He began with a devotion about Job and that he believes that within the story of Job we are left with needing not only justice, but “the God of justice to hold us.” Then he spoke on his topic which came from 1 Peter 2:17, “Honor everyone.” This was a really hard topic because he spoke about the need for honor that is more than tolerance, honor that gives integrity to the self, “treating others as they are created in the image of God and loved by God.” We must also speak the truth and speak well about them even when it is difficult. The especially challenging point of his talk was that we must honor everyone, even people who we strongly disagree with. He asked “Can the doer be separated from the deed (of sin) in order to honor them?” and answered by saying “God’s forgiveness separates the wrongdoer from the wrongdoing to free us.” And that “Separating the doer from the deed allows us to honor and forgive them.” Volf closed with “God is love-love is not predicated on what we do. If we do this we unChristian the Christian faith. We must have a love for enemy as God loved us.”
These are just snippets of the first day. I am excited to give a more detailed outline of each speaker and discuss their views further when I have time. Tomorrow I will probably be writing about the important and meaningful gleanings that I have as well.
Make sure to check out my reflections day 2:http://t.co/B1DcQECh