“THE FRUIT OF SETTING THINGS RIGHT IS SOWN IN PEACE BY THOSE WHO MAKE PEACE.” (James 3:18)
This verse may have been an intentional reversal of seed and fruit elements as described by Isaiah:
“Then justice will dwell in the wilderness, and righteousness abide in the fruitful field. And the effect of righteousness will be peace.” — Isaiah 30: 16-17
Today we hear people rightly cry out: “No justice, no peace!”
Indeed, how can there be ‘shalom’ if there is no justice? Even Desmond Tutu once said, “Peace without justice is an impossibility.”
Certainly in both passages we see how biblical peace and justice/righteousness are closely linked. The real question is, “What kind of justice?” James helps us to lean into this question by going deeper: peaceful ends from a right-making process result best from peaceful means of a right-making process.
The Restorative Church project envisions visibly vibrant church communities that have normalized restorative peacemaking practices both inwardly and outwardly.
Restorative Church promotes collaborative, cross-fertilizing conversation between people in the fields of restorative justice, restorative theology, and restorative practices for church communities.
Three Areas of Purpose
- Promoting interdisciplinary dialogue between theorists of crime/law/justice and scholars of biblical/theological studies (and between academics and practitioners).
- Illuminating the rich connections between biblical writings and themes of restorative justice and conflict transformation.
- Equipping faith communities with resources to strengthen congregational practices and ministries of relational peacemaking.
Restorative Church grew out of the 2016 Zehr Institute webinar on “Restorative Justice, Restorative Theology and Restorative Church Practices,” led jointly by Chris Marshall and Ted Lewis. A loose network of people participated in subsequent Zoom meetings, expressing interest in advancing the inter-weaving of these three areas. Ted Lewis convened the first Restorative Church gathering in Denver, Colorado, June 2019, which followed the biennial NACRJ conference (National Association for Community and Restorative Justice). With funding supports from Central Plains Mennonite Conference, Ted worked on the Restorative Church website and launched it in June 2020.
In looking over the past 50 years, the Restorative Church project recognizes that…
- Restorative Justice (in its modern context) is indebted to the church world for its original framing and spreading, while still being deeply aligned with centuries-old indigenous justice practices worldwide;
- Restorative Justice has largely grown independent of and from the church world as RJ has a) expanded in multiple areas of application, b) been adopted by government agencies and nonprofits, and c) evolved into a wider movement for social change;
- Restorative Justice (in its early VORP programming) originally drew from Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) models of mediated dialogue, but has broadened greatly into other models that do not share the same standards or structures (i.e. circles);
- Church-based conflict resolution methods have largely drawn from ADR models, yet have also adapted these models with business, leadership, and therapeutic modalities; consequently, restorative justice categories have not been commonplace in church-related work;
- Christian theology over the past 30 years has increasingly borrowed the language of restorative justice to deepen its own developments and articulations;
- Current leaders and theoreticians of restorative justice could benefit greatly from a two-way dialogue with scholars of biblical teachings on law, crime, justice, violence, punishment, dialogue and healing, and vice versa;
- Recent trends in trauma-care, systems theory, historical harm, race relations, prevention work, civil discourse, etc., have greatly expanded the menu of restorative work, all of which is very applicable to peacemaking work within and beyond church communities;
Restorative Church promotes the holistic integration of…
- Restorative and other resolution models for addressing harms and conflicts
- Theological reflection and restorative justice theory and practice
- Communal (inward) and missional (outward) dimensions of peacemaking
- Prevention and intervention work within church communities
- Micro/relational healing and macro/systemic transformation and change
Moreover, Restorative Church maintains that the very integration of these elements is essential to the quality and integrity of any particular expression of peacemaking within church settings.
Vision for Collaborative Partnership and Content Submission
As the Restorative Church network grows, there is a wide invitation for partners to suggest and provide appropriate content that can be featured on the website, highlighted in the monthly email updates, and possibly circulated through other publishing venues. Please contact us here.
Vision for a Future Restorative Justice/Theology/Church Conference
While the post-NACRJ R Ch gathering (4 hours) is designed to be a semi-formal time for new people to be introduced to the Restorative Church project, and can easily be repeated every other year, the initial vision that Ted Lewis and Chris Marshall seeded was to bring together theologians, church leaders, and RJ practitioners and scholars to have fruitful, cross-fertilizing conversation for several days. Whether this preserves a traditional conference format with speakers and workshops, or has more of a council format with people invited to have stimulating conversation with each other, is yet to be determined.
Posture of Restorative Church In the Midst of Other Religious and Non-Religious Traditions
- R Ch affirms that the insights and wisdom of restorative practices apply the same to all people of all cultures throughout all human history. It also affirms how restorative dialogue creates a sacred experience for all people and people groups by virtue of its profound, humanizing, and heart-based character.
- While lifting up the significance of biblical and Christian influences on the beginnings of various strands of the restorative justice movement, R Ch affirms that there are multiple stories of origin that honor non-Christian (primarily indigenous) influences upon contemporary expressions of restorative justice.
- R Ch speaks primarily to a Christian audience that recognizes how church communities are called to collectively bear witness to God’s relational virtues. Even so, the insights and wisdom of ecclesial practices of peacemaking apply equally to all communities of faith, inclusive of the Abrahamic faiths of Judaism and Islam, and all Eastern and tribal traditions.
- Finally, R Ch recognizes that within any religious tradition (and certainly within every Christian denomination) there is a common division between conservative and progressive groups. R Ch aspires to serve people of all leanings, and also to provide resources to help Christians seek unity and maintain respectful dialogue over polarizing issues.
View the Spiritual Roots of RJ for more content on these themes.