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“Reconciliation is what we practice after we have chosen justice.”

“Reconciliation is what we practice after we have chosen justice.”

The meaning of the word reconciliation, as the word is frequently used in church circles, has always made me uneasy for reasons I couldn’t define until today.

Here’s an excerpt from Austin Channing’s blog, which I hope you will read in its entirety:

Reconciliation is what we practice after we have chosen justice.

Reconciliation requires far more than hugs, small talk, and coffee dates. Being nice is well… nice, but it is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is what we do as we listen to hard truths from the marginalized among us. As our friends point out how troubling our words have been, how hurtful our actions have been, it’s our reaction that determines whether or not we are practicing reconciliation. Drinking in the words. Sitting in the pain. Committing to understanding. Committing to doing better. Desiring the hard truths because they lead to growth. These are the sign posts on the path of reconciliation. It’s spending time in each other’s spaces- physical space, head space, heart space. And it’s creating shared spaces where both can breathe freely.

Reconciliation requires more than a rainbow of skin-tones at the 11:00 o’clock service. Diversity without justice is assimilation. And assimilation makes clear who’s culture is the favored one, the good one, the right one, the holy one. If your culture is the standard for rightness, you have found the Imago Dei in others to be insufficient. It is the definition of racism- the assumed superiority of your race, your culture, your way of being. We can discuss who is assimilating into what, how and why, but a pound of diversity without an ounce of justice, is not reconciliation. Reconciliation is how we respond after being told we are racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, agist, ableist congregation hiding behind platitudes of love rather than acting justly. Reconciliation is having our hearts broken that people are experiencing these things, not having our feelings hurt for being called out on it. Reconciliation is staying in relationship until all these are cast out and love reigns.

Reconciliation isn’t a matter of avoiding conflict. It’s a matter of meeting it head on.


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Sara Miles

“Being nice is nice…but it is not reconciliation.”

Amen. Thank you Austin for telling the truth.

Jim Hammond

“Why? Because none of these things require the presence of justice, equality, shared power.”

I observe that there is a disconnect among many, perhaps though not necessarily based on generational differences, about the very definition of justice. I thought I knew the definition of justice, but as I read the work of colleagues and friends, I am no longer sure that I do know what the word means. It used to have something to do with equality and impartiality. Today justice seems to mean something more than equality and/or impartiality — in fact, some usages of the word seem to imply treating people unequally, indeed intentionally giving favor and partiality, “hands-up” if you will. Exercising favor and partiality is not equality. The meaning of “justice’ seems to be morphing.

Among the tests of reconciliation listed are:

1) “Are you advocating according to the instructions of those who eat at your food pantry?” I am not at all certain that one should advocate according to the instructions of anyone other than oneself, one’s heart, one’s mind, one’s soul, informed in a Christian’s life prayerfully by one’s faith in the life, teaching and witness of Jesus. Such a process may well include listening to those who eat at your food pantry, but mindless obedience seems inappropriate.

2) “Are you learning the Scriptures from those who are imprisoned?” I am deeply steeped in a literary-critical approach to Scripture, for without same the Bible makes little sense other than as a neat source for self-serving proof texts. I am more than willing to listen and learn from those who are imprisoned, but not mindlessly, anymore than I would be willing to cede my biblical understandings to anyone mindlessly.

3) “Are you so valuing the innate human dignity of the marginalized that you are willing to share power or even submit your will to the oppressed?” Is this a definition of justice? If I choose not to submit my will to one who is engaging in self-destructive behaviors, for example, am I no longer practicing reconciliation?

I think the author has an important message, a very important message, and I hope that some comments will develop here to further the discussion.

Susan Schroeder

Okay, I read the whole thing. I am in healthcare. I serve the disabled, often. We have many people of color in our practice and in my congregation. I don’t know what *subordinate myself to the disabled or different ethnicity* means. If we have no people of color in our ministers, does that mean we are refusing reconciliation? If I don’t get into a wheelchair when I take care of a disabled person mean I am patronizing them? This is too hard for me. I am just going to try to be the best Episcopalian Christian I can and leave “Reconciliation” to others.

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