Curtiss DeYoung joins an "all-star" group in reconciliation panel
News | Jon Westmark
Conference attendees worship together in an evening plenary session. | Matt Kelley
Pastor Jin Kim faced a problem. It was a normal Sunday service for his Columbia Heights church until an African immigrant strolled in and took a seat. Didn’t the man see the sign in front of the church that clearly labeled it as a Korean church? Kim became uncomfortable. He knew the service wouldn’t connect with the man.
It was a wake-up call for Kim, who faced what he called “a crisis of integrity,” but slowly, he began to change things. He stopped practicing what he called “tribal religion.” His philosophy was simple: acknowledge other human beings as human beings.
Kim’s church for Korean immigrants is now the Church of All Nations and is one of a small group of churches nationwide without an ethnic majority.
On Friday, Sept. 9, Kim took part in a reconciliation panel at the Christian Community Development Association (CCDA) national conference in Minneapolis. He and four others, including Bethel professor of Reconciliation Studies Curtiss DeYoung, made up what panel facilitator Barbara Skinner called an “all-star group” of reconcilers.
Seated in front of a near capacity crowd in the Hilton’s Minneapolis Ballroom, they discussed what it meant for each of them to be reconcilers. The panel was composed of three males and two females, each of a different ethnicity.
Their anecdotes were as varied as their backgrounds. Pastor Alexia Salvatierra spoke of her experience reconciling two megachurches in southern Los Angeles that were two miles apart but would not interact because of race. Mark Charles, coordinator of the Global Discipleship Network project spoke specifically about the difference in mindset between Americans at large and Native Americans. DeYoung spoke about his role in post-apartheid South Africa.
The panel also spoke on class and gender reconciliation. Executive Director of the Oasis Christian Community Development Corporation Gina Lewis spoke about her experience reconciling the suburban black community with the inner-city black community in Indianapolis.
The panel agreed reconciliation takes more time than a four-day conference. “Reconciliation is not project,” Lewis said. “It’s an opportunity for a relationship.”
They stressed humility. People can’t learn from those of another background until they have been mentored by someone from that community, according to DeYoung.
The CCDA’s philosophy echoes the panel’s conclusion. According to the CCDA’s website, the process takes three “R’s”: Relocation, Reconciliation and Redistribution. In other words, live with the marginalized, build relationships and bring justice to underserved communities.
The reconciliation process can be frustrating at times according to DeYoung, who spoke candidly about his role as a privileged white male. “When it gets uncomfortable as a white male, I can’t stand up and walk away from the table,” he said. “I must stay.”
Conference attendees got the chance to take part in reconciliation at various ministries around the city as well as attend workshops on the process.
Bethel was well represented at the conference, indicating the conversation is also happening on campus. In addition to the keynote speeches by DeYoung, Bethel professors Samuel Zalanga and Ruben Rivera co-led a workshop on the effects of the American dream on Christian community development. Assistant Campus Pastor Tanden Brekke and Chief Diversity Officer Leon Rodrigues headed a workshop about using the civil rights movement to continue to fuel social change.
Despite the work being done by the panelists and conference attendees, DeYoung sees significant work ahead. “We are not post-race,” he said. “We will be in a post-racial society when we have dismantled the social institutions that are separating one from another based on race.”