CHAPEL HILL, NC (July 2, 2010) – A recent conference at Duke University will further enable the Evangelical Covenant Church to be more intentional about pursuing reconciliation, say denomination administrators and pastors who attended the event.
Nine representatives from the Covenant attended the Duke Summer Institute on Racial Reconciliation, as did 12 other denomination pastors. The experience gave them the opportunity to learn more about and model reconciliation.
“This was one of the riches experiences of my Covenant life,” said Robert Johnson, pastor of City Covenant Church in Kansas City, Missouri, and president of the African American Ministers Association. our open discussions created a level transparency about issues of race, privilege, and entitlement that would never be discussed during any normal venue or interaction.”
Relationships were changed forever, he added. “If we continue to invest with positive dialogue together, we an be catalysts transforming our denomination, having it reflect the image that Christ would be proud of.”
Debbie Blue, executive minister of the Department for Compassion, Mercy, and Justice, said, “We were in essence becoming God’s new creation, a reconciled and beloved community. God was doing something that we, as elected and selected leaders, could bring back to the whole church.”
Participants said discussions about the role of lament and the opportunity to practice the discipline corporately impacted them the most. “Before we can have hope through reconciliation we need to lament or name our pain, and this can be a difficult and painful experience, but it is necessary,” said Hugh Forbes, pastor of the Evangelical Covenant Church of Bethel, Alaska. “At the end of this journey of lament, hope and finally celebration is newness and wholeness through Christ’s healing power.”
“It was revealing to understand that lamenting has different definitions depending on your background and racial origin,” Johnson said.
He appreciated the opportunity to process the events each day with colleagues. “We had excellent discussion times about the challenges we face personally and the challenges we face corporately about racial reconciliation and racial righteousness,” said Executive Vice President Donn Engebretson.
“Individuals were given freedom and support to share places of deep pain that comes from the battle grounds in and around the growing diversity within the church,” Engebreston said.
In addition to the opportunity for sharing with other Covenanters, Engebretson said engaging with representatives from Intervarsity Christian Fellowship was particularly beneficial. “We learned about their growth as an organization in racial diversity but also about their points of struggle and challenge as they continue in this journey.”
Although the conference focused primarily on racial reconciliation, a broad spectrum of issues was addressed, said Forbes. “Race is a place that many including myself go to quickly when we hear the word reconciliation, but there are many areas that we need reconciliation in our lives besides racial. We can have poverty or financial issues, gender, religious and marital. It was a real eye-opener to realize that we as people have many facets of our lives that may need reconciliation.”
Forbes emphasized that reconciliation is an ongoing journey. The conference was structured to follow a trajectory of New Creation – Lament – Hope –Leadership – and A Spirituality for the Long Haul.”
Covenant representatives also included Samuel Galdamez, pastor of Iglesia de Pacto in Turlock, California, and president of the Hispanic Ministers Association; Dick Lucco, superintendent of the Great Lakes Conference; Dave Olson, executive minister of the Department of Church Growth and Evangelism; Curt Peterson, executive minister of the Department of World Mission; and Harold Spooner, president of Covenant Initiatives for Care for Covenant Ministries of Benevolence.