Dr. Brenda Salter McNeil from Seattle, in an interview on the Red Letter Christianity show, explains how the reconciling message of the cross of Jesus is both vertical and horizontal. Not only does it open the way for people to become right with God but it also opens the way for people to become right with each other. Entering a relationship with God, explains Dr. Brenda, cannot be separated from entering a kingdom in which disciples of Jesus find solidarity with all people, no matter how ‘other’ the other may be.
This video interview with Tony Compalo and Shane Claiborne took place in 2014. When asked about the practical steps for reconciling with others in the context of race relations, she talked about four phases which resonate very well with dynamics in a restorative dialogue process between offending and victimized parties.
- Realization: opening your eyes to the validity of another’s difficult experience
- Identification: feeling empathy with the other; sharing a common humanity
- Preparation: integrating new values into your lifestyle to face the long-haul
- Activation: putting your faith into deeds; taking risks of love in practical ways
There’s a heart-based, relationship-driven foundation to this progression, showing that one’s outward activity for peace and justice requires deep roots that draw from the nutrient soil of restorative frameworks. This is a great reminder that love cannot be isolated from the work of peace and justice!
Church folk often prefer simplistic answers to simplistic questions: “Why can’t they just get a job?” To this, Dr. Brenda says, “We need complex questions that lead to complex answers that can lead to complex solutions to complex problems.” (from a April 2020 interview)
Roadmap to Reconciliation is Designed for Church communities
Check out Dr. Brenda’s website which holds many videos and resources on racial reconciliation. One of these videos is Ferguson Remembered from Jan 2015 after Michael Brown was killed. It is interesting to line up this response with our current crisis stirred by the tragic killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Her book Roadmap to Reconciliation (2020, InterVarsity Press) is a revised version of her 2015 edition which comes with an Implementation Guide for church communities and study groups.
A new addition to this study set is the Restoration Cycle, a restorative tool to help churches strategically implement the value of reconciliation throughout their congregation. Check out the church consulting services offered by Dr. Brenda and her team that can assist church leaders on the road to reconciliation.
It’s time for the followers of Jesus to embark on the prophetic journey that leads to reconciliation and transformation around the world. Many of us may already be aware of the need for reconciliation in our own backyards. . . . We cannot ignore the plight of the people around us and as globalization continues its relentless march onward, we cannot turn a blind eye to the world at large either. We have to face the realities here at home and we must also embrace the stories of people all around the world. – Dr. Brenda