By Michelle Westlund '83
Issue 19 | Spring/Summer 2010
As part of an ongoing effort to examine intercultural dimensions in ministry, Bethel Seminary, Bethel’s Office of Diversity and Community, and Global Horizons Institute recently co-sponsored a 90-minute public forum on Pathways to Reconciliation at Bethel Seminary. The forum’s primary goal was to initiate dialogue regarding challenges to reconciliation, as well as explore the ways reconciliation can be achieved in the church in America.
Moderated by Leon Rodrigues, Bethel University’s chief diversity officer, a panel of three experts presented a variety of perspectives and addressed numerous questions from the audience. Panel member Curtiss DeYoung, chair of Bethel University’s reconciliation studies department, discussed segregation in the church. “God has a one-item agenda,” he declared. “Reconciliation to Himself and to each other.”
Samuel Zalanga, Bethel University professor of anthropology and sociology, then addressed the spiritual, sociological, and economic impacts of a lack of reconciliation. He maintained that we must confront the sin of idolatry to bring about reconciliation. In this context, idolatry refers to people making themselves God by using the status of their own culture to judge and evaluate other cultures. The third panel member, Bethel Seminary’s Dean of Intercultural Relations Mark Harden, discussed the effect of cultural bias on reconciliation efforts. He asserted that most people think having good intentions is enough, but instead we need to “move beyond tolerance and simple accommodation strategies to action and participation. We need a willingness to bend to God’s will to be united.”
Rodrigues summarized the panel’s dialogue by emphasizing that “guilt will not accomplish the goal of moving the church toward reconciliation. Instead, understanding differences through reconciliation will remind us of our primary goal.”
Because reconciliation involves a complex set of understandings, the conversation is far from over. The Pathways to Reconciliation Forum was a step in a series of opportunities for constructive dialogue about a complicated and vital topic.
Listen to the forum.