Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond - Lesson 17

Peacemaking Beyond the Church

In this lesson, you will learn about the importance of peacemaking beyond the church and how it is a critical need in many societies. By exploring the instructor's personal story and the history of American evangelicalism, you will gain insight into the role of the church and race relations throughout history. You will also discover the story of Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm, an interracial community established in the midst of a segregated South. Through the challenges faced by the community and their commitment to nonviolence, you will better understand the importance of peacemaking and reconciliation in a fractured world.

Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Lesson 17
Watching Now
Peacemaking Beyond the Church

Lesson: Peacemaking Beyond the Church

I. Introduction

A. Importance of peacemaking role in society

II. Personal Story and American Evangelicalism History

A. Early colonial society and slavery

B. Great Awakening and slavery

C. American Civil War and its aftermath

D. The Civil Rights Movement and progress in race relations

III. Clarence Jordan and Koinonia Farm

A. Establishing an interracial community

B. Challenges faced and legacy

IV. Personal Reflection on Segregation and Lessons Learned

  • Learn about the crucial role of leadership in conflict resolution, explore the various types of conflicts in the church, and understand the importance of building a peacemaking culture to prevent and address conflicts effectively.
  • In this lesson, you gain insights into the growth and crisis of the global church, with a focus on Africa, and learn about the tragic Rwandan genocide. You will examine the historical background of these crises, the church's role in addressing them, and the need to move beyond the Gospel of sin management. Embracing the four-chapter gospel, you will understand the church's responsibility as a community of reconciled people, embodying God's reconciling work in the world.
  • You will gain insights into the gospel and its applicability to everyday life, as well as its impact on society, including bringing reconciliation and creating heaven on Earth. The discussion acknowledges the difficulties of living out the gospel in society and the tension between living in the world and living for the gospel.
  • In this lesson, you'll gain insight into the sparks that ignite conflict in the church, understand how conflicts can escalate, and discover the importance of developing peacemaking skills and fully embracing the gospel to foster unity and resolve conflicts.
  • You will learn about conflict culture in the church, which is an inherited culture for resolving conflict shaped by visible and invisible elements and assumptions and values that drive conditioned responses, and how recognizing and addressing it can lead to healthy conflict resolution.
  • This lesson explores how pastors and church leaders address people-pleasing cultures, examining the attitudes and actions of laissez-faire, controlling, and peacemaking leaders, and discussing the role of the church in promoting peacemaking, involving others, and establishing support systems.
  • Crafting a culture of peace requires three building blocks: having a passion for the gospel, unified leadership that exhibits a shepherd's heart to protect and guide, and embracing a peacemaking theology. By focusing on these building blocks, we can create a harmonious society that avoids the slippery slope towards violence.
  • This lesson highlights the significance of unified leadership within the church, demonstrating how effective leadership can help overcome crises and conflicts. By examining factors that contribute to unity and disunity among leaders, you will gain insight into the importance of addressing issues such as control, communication, differing gifts, competition, and qualifications in order to maintain a cohesive and gospel-centered leadership team.
  • You will gain insight into the importance of preparation and certain characteristics that need to be in place before conflict in order to build a united leadership team, using an analogy of running a marathon.
  • This lesson provides insights on understanding conflict and developing a peacemaking theology, teaching you how to respond biblically and create an approach that honors God and benefits those involved in the conflict.
  • You will learn practical steps to overcome conflict by reflecting the glory of God, responding with humility and grace, prioritizing unity over self-interest, speaking the truth in love, and pursuing forgiveness and reconciliation.
  • By learning practical peacemaking tools and focusing on communication, you'll enhance your ability to resolve conflicts by mastering responsible listening and speaking, enabling you to better understand others and communicate your message more effectively.
  • You will learn about the importance of listening as a spiritual practice to connect with God and others, and how being open and attentive to God's voice through listening can lead to greater awareness of His presence and deeper relationships with Him and others.
  • Gain insights into the barriers to good listening, the 600 word gap between listening capacity and speaking rate, and the objectives of responsible listening to improve communication and build trust in relationships.
  • In this lesson, you learn about the vital role of responsible speaking and listening in conflict resolution and how taking responsibility for understanding others and being understood can improve the chances of successful outcomes, along with strategies to enhance communication.
  • Learn to manage the Grapevine, an informal communication network, and understand the roles of Centrals and Peripherals in sharing information, as well as conflict mediation techniques and the importance of acknowledging and accommodating uneven tables in disputes.
  • This lesson highlights the crucial role of peacemaking beyond the church, touching on the history of American evangelicalism, race relations, and the inspiring story of Koinonia Farm, which exemplifies the importance of fostering reconciliation in a divided world.

How conflict and leadership intersect..

Dr. Rick Sessoms
Peacemaking in the Church and Beyond
Peacemaking Beyond the Church
Lesson Transcript

[00:00:01] Well, I want to take probably about between 20 and 25 minutes to wrap this up by talking about peacemaking beyond the church. Because in many parts of the world, this peacemaking role is absolutely critical. We serve in India and and the role of being a man of peace or a woman of peace within society is one of the greatest needs in the society today. And these places are looking for these people of peace to to function. So at the beginning of this church course, we talked about the need not only in the church, but in the world. And so this is a very, very important part of our calling, especially in a world that's so fractured. So to conclude this course, by way of illustration, I want to offer you my own story that is laced with the history of American evangelicalism and race. And as I unpack this story, I hope that it will serve as a microcosm for what we deal with in a broader scale, in the issue of being people of reconciliation beyond the church. I was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. Uh. In Tripler Army Hospital. Navy Hospital. During the Korean War, when I was ten months old, our family moved back here to North Carolina, where my father was born and raised. I'm a fifth generation Tar Heel. I didn't go to the University of North Carolina, but I am a fifth generation Tory on. My father went to university in North Carolina. I have deep roots in the South. Uh, to understand my personal encounter with race, though I have to take you back about 380 years, and I hope to do this all in about 20 minutes. So here we go. The first recorded landing of Africans in America was in Virginia in 1619, just 100 miles or so from where I grew up.

[00:02:15] In early colonial society, blacks were viewed as human beings with all the rights thereof, and the church treated them as fellow humans. But it wasn't long before all that changed. By the mid 60, Hunter's blacks were considered unequal with whites. In Virginia was the very first colony to recognize slavery officially with an act passed in 1661. Slavery was adopted as a primary work as the primary workforce in America. The belief of whites that blacks were inferior resulted in American slavery becoming racial slavery. Up to that time, it was not considered that. Over the ensuing decades, many church leaders in the north and the South, church leaders viewed slavery as compatible with the Christian faith. Best I can tell most of my forefathers is we've done some research. The original five Sessions brothers came from England. And they were all slave owners. Today, most people in the South with my last name are African-American. They're black. And either because the owners had children with the black slaves or because the slaves took this person's name when they were freed. Fast forward 100 years. An evangelical upsurge happened in the 1740s, generally known as the Great Awakening in this country. This powerful movement impacted the colonies from Massachusetts down to Georgia. One of the most influential evangelicals of this period was George Whitfield. In 1740, young Whitfield wrote a pamphlet, and it was entitled A Letter to the Inhabitants of Maryland, South Carolina and North Carolina, in which he attacked slave owners because they treated their slaves worse than their own dogs. However, one year after writing that pamphlet, Whitfield used all of his influence to persuade the trustees of Georgia. To legalize slavery in the colony. The reason Whitfield's orphanage in Bethesda, Georgia, could not run without slave labor.

[00:04:29] And so in 1714 he 1741 he wrote that it would be impossible to cultivate the land with just hired servants and the large boys, the orphanage, without quote, a few Negroes, unquote. Whitfield was one of the most influential forces in removing the prohibition against slavery in Georgia. In the same way many evangelicals during the Great Awakening saw the need for slaves emancipation from sin and spiritual bondage. But they saw no compelling reason for their freedom from physical and social bondage. They lived and preach the gospel of sin management. In the latter 1700s, the colonies entered a war for our independence from England with cries of freedom for all. But when the colonies emerged from the struggle in which 5000 blacks fought beside their white brothers in arms, rewards of victory were not extended to African-Americans. On the contrary, in the years that followed, the spiritual and social environments of America embraced great compromise between what was held to be right and what was held to be convenient. Unfortunately, what was held to be convenient triumphed and set the stage for the great divisions of the 1800s. In the 1800s, as northern states and southern states moved closer and closer to conflict. Prominent evangelicals like Charles Finney continued to be soft on the issue of slavery. Although Fanny personally held an anti-slavery position, he feared that taking a stand would diminish the pursuit of his primary task of saving souls. Again, the Gospel of Sin Management. When abolitionist against slavery arose in the following decades, some church denominations were deeply divided for two reasons. First, many of their churches were focused solely on the spiritual needs of the slaves while ignoring their social rights. Second and more importantly, in many cases, the clergy and the churches themselves could not strongly oppose slavery for the simple fact that they were intertwined with the institution of slavery.

[00:06:52] Many ministers were dependent on wealthy landowners, plantation owners for their financial support, and for this reason, thought the divine origin of slavery. In addition, over 650,000 slaves were owned by clergy themselves. The Presbyterians, the Methodist, the Baptist were most deeply impacted by these divisions. The Presbyterians split over slavery in 1836. The Methodist and Baptist in 1845, the same year for the Baptist, the struggle came to a head when the Alabama Baptist asked the Home Mission Society to appoint a slaveholder for missionary service. After much debate, the board voted not to appoint any missionary who owned slaves. And so on. May eight, 1845 Baptist leaders from the South gathered in Augusta, Georgia, and organized the Southern Baptist Convention. They supported slavery and held the belief that the blacks were inferior. My father and his father and his father. We're all Southern Baptist. Clearly, evangelicals in the South played an important role in southern secession that led to the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in our nation's history. When a sea of soldiers was buried and the smoke cleared, blacks rejoiced initially because of their emancipation. You know that history. But celebration was quickly followed by the heavy responsibility of being free. At the same time, Southern whites were desperately trying to regain control of their destinies and were living in fear that those that had once been their slaves would now a turn on them would rule over them. And so, as the North slowly granted Southerners the independence to reconstruct their southern societies, whites instituted what we called Jim Crow laws that were supposed to enforce separate but equal. Standards. In fact, they established the separate part, but not the equal part. These laws ushered in white supremacy and black subordination for the next hundred years, Church in the South generated generally adhered to these social standards, but gradually there were rays of hope.

[00:09:16] In 1957. Billy Graham, who of course, grew up in a small town here in North Carolina in the mountains, committed himself never to have another segregated crusade. That same year, he added. Howard Jones, who actually is from my denomination, a black pastor, an evangelist to his crusade team. His decision was met with warnings from white clergy and threats to cut off support. But Graham never wavered. And then there was Clarence Jordan. Have any of you heard of Clarence Jordan? I had not heard of him either. And I'll tell you why in a few moments. Jordan was born and raised in Georgia. He graduated from the University of Georgia in Athens with a Ph.D. in agriculture. And he also graduated with a doctorate from the Southern Baptist Seminary in Louisville. Jordan was a scholar who also had an intense commitment to take the teachings of Jesus seriously. In November of 1942, he and his wife Florence, and another white couple, Martin and Mable England, moved to a 440 acre farm in Sumter County in Georgia. The purpose of their move was to start an interracial community in which blacks and whites would live and work together amid the poverty and the racism of the rural South. 1942. The farm was named Koinonia. A Greek word used in acts to describe the early church. Through Bible studies with their black neighbors. Friendships began to develop in a small community, began a fellowship over meals and work. But this kind of interracial fellowship was not acceptable in the South the time. Including the local Southern Baptist Church. The deacons and the deacons, where the Jordans had been members for eight years. And so the church excommunicated the Jordans and the Englands in 1950. The corner near community continued.

[00:11:23] They farm together, they worship together, they ministered together. They remained committed to nonviolence through the fifties and sixties, even though Sumter County's wrath. Toward them was expressed through death threats, through Ku Klux Klan rallies, through shots fired into their homes. A grand jury summoned accusations of communist ties, abuse of their children at school, and even boycotting their farm produce. But through these long and challenging years, Clarence Jordan gave a gift to Christianity in America. He wrote the Cotton Patch version of the New Testament scriptures, which was his translation from the New Testament Greek into the language of Southern Americans. He was also instrumental in inspiring the ministry that is now known today as Habitat for Humanity. Well, I was born in 1954 and was raised just 2 hours up the road. Just just a few hours up the road from Jordans Corner near Community. But I never heard about Clarence Jordan until my adulthood because the world of my childhood was segregated. I was unaware. In fact, my first memory of in African-American encountering African-Americans was when I was eight or nine years old, when I visited my grandparents during school break in the summer. They lived in the southern Sandhills of North Carolina in a town called Rockingham. And my grandfather was a door to door pilot, life insurance salesman. And his job was to collect monthly insurance premiums, usually a dollar at a time from poor black families across Scotland County. And as as as he met with the adults, I was made to stay in the car. This old black Packard that he drove around in the. In the rural areas of Scotland County, the chickens ran free. The children played barefoot in the dirt. They would stare at me because my grandfather said, Now you roll up the windows and leave them rolled up and keep the doors locked.

[00:13:29] And so they stared at me through closed windows and locked doors as if I were an alien from another planet. And I suppose I was to them, and they certainly were to me. My first real encounter with an African-American was when Josephine came to be our maid. My mother went to work, and so Josephine sort of raised me. She always referred to my mother and father as Mr. and Mrs. Sessions. I called her Josephine. I learned much later that she had a last name. And a family of five sons and a daughter, to be exact. They lived on the other side of the tracks. When I was about ten years old, the nightly news began reporting the activities of Martin Luther King Jr. That he had organized a group he called the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. In turn, hundreds of black clergy and congregations were making extraordinary sacrifices to support the cause and promote freedom. Unfortunately, our church did not support this movement for several reasons. First, we were disconnected. And the daily lives and the struggles of blacks. So we couldn't sympathize with the urgency of eliminating segregation as effect upon the black community. Second, most whites had come to view the segregation that existed in the church as normal and acceptable. And thirdly, most of us misunderstood King and therefore viewed him with suspicion. I remember clearly that I was quick to believe when told that King was a liberal theologian, and we had questions about his being a communist as well. So we were unable to hear his call for Christian love to overcome the evils of racism. Evangelicals as a whole, including our church. We didn't recognize the importance. Of the civil rights movement and our need to be involved in it.

[00:15:40] In our absence. Became an issue of division between black and white evangelicals that continues to this very day. Throughout the sixties, racial tensions mounted. Stokely Carmichael Malcolm X drew public attention away from the civil rights message of nonviolence to a more aggressive rhetoric of black power. White evangelical churches were alarmed. Our alarm seemed valid when young blacks entered our churches with the intent, disrupting our services and showing their hate. In April of 1968, it all came to a head when King was assassinated in Memphis. I remember that night in Raleigh, a throng of angry protesters came up Fayetteville Street where my dad's office was located, and they threw a trashcan through the plate glass window of that office and destroyed all their office equipment. The black Christian community, as a rule, was no longer interested in participating in racial reconciliation. At the same time, immigration laws were being enforced in educational institutions throughout the South, namely in public schools. In 1971, my high school, Kerry High School, opened its doors to blacks for the first time. I should say that the doors were forced open. And this was my first personal encounter with racial hatred. I watched a white teacher assaulted, beaten by a gang of blacks in a school courtyard. Tommy, my white classmate, began to date Willette, Josephine's daughter. They were harassed by whites and blacks alike. Then in 1972, I entered Taco Falls College in Taco Falls, Georgia. As a freshman, the same year, five black athletes. Were admitted there as well. I played basketball with them. The initial their initial values about value to the college was because of their basketball talents. They were not allowed to relate to the white coeds on campus. And they they made the way, though, of dealing with the barrier of race.

[00:18:04] They opened that way for all of us. They became my first real black friends as we played together day in and day out. Their time there was not easy. Two or three of them were eventually expelled from the school for relating to the white people on campus. But we are all indebted to those five black athletes to this day. Since those intense days, white evangelicals have gradually ever so slowly come to realize and acknowledge our underestimation of racial discrimination. And our failure to be actively involved. And black Christians in turn, turn are being freed from the social restraints that have hindered their involvement in major Christian organizations. The progress has been significant, but it's been difficult and has been slow. And Decca. In the decade of the eighties, people like John Perkins championed reconciliation. Perkins was born and raised in Mississippi. He witnessed the murder of his older brother by a white supremacist. But he has lived his life based on the importance of reconciliation as the proper representation of the gospel in 1982 and Christianity Today, Perkins wrote. Reconciliation is the key to the gospel. Perkins amazing story has been a strong testimony to the living power of Jesus Christ. For some, however, the wedge between black and white Christians was driven more even more deeply in the eighties. They were often at opposite poles on political issues, such as the position of the U.S. government on South African apartheid. The Reagan administration's economic policies. And perhaps most divisive, the battle over abortion, say blacks could not identify with the white evangelicals agenda to stop abortion, while they largely ignored the plight of children born in desperate circumstances. And I just heard that that still goes on, that that in many places in the country that the the number of black children born out of wedlock is up above 72%.

[00:20:20] Blacks could not identify with the white evangelicals agenda to to stop abortion, therefore. And so although black and white evangelicals today are much closer on the issue of abortion, the issue of welfare of babies remains a very sore spot. The 1990s was also a momentous period of reconciliation of both a time of both triumphs and setbacks, you remember. The decade was not very old when race took center stage as we watched the TV broadcast of white police officers beating a fallen unarmed black motorist named Rodney King. And one of the four officers were later acquitted. America's witnessed the most destructive rioting in our country in the 20th century. More than 10,000 people were arrested. 50 people lost their lives. One of the most horrific images, as you remember, was a brutal bludgeoning, a white truck driver named Reginald Denny. A senseless act of retaliation by black youth. Three years later, the same county in California was once again shaken by another racially charged event as OJ Simpson was acquitted of double murders of his former wife, Nicole Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. The response to the verdict further revealed the deep racial divide that existed as many African-Americans rejoiced while whites reacted in shock and anger. Three weeks after this event, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan called for a million man march on Washington, D.C. At least 400,000 black men answered the call. A Boston pastor, Eugene Rivers, commented that America was now slipping into its own apartheid. Unfortunately, the racial separation that in American society was also very apparent in evangelical Christianity. Christian organizations still did not have a good representative of blacks as employees. These organizations had even fewer blacks in management positions. They were also a low number of blacks attending evangelical schools in college.

[00:22:27] And as an aside, yesterday, I was on the website of one of my denomination's most prominent churches in America, and I looked at their staff listing and there's probably 25 staff people and everyone is white. There's also a low number of blacks attending evangelical schools and colleges. Despite these events, there were encouraging signs. A Christian men's movement of the nineties named Promise Keepers made a committed effort to become racially diverse. This statement was followed by several very significant moves toward reconciliation, the most historic being the apology by the Southern Baptist Convention during their convention in 1995. They asked forgiveness for their racial position of the 1800s that led them to form their own convention. And since that time, many black churches gladly have been added to the Southern Baptist. Around this same time, I was pastor of a congregation in New York that I've mentioned before. In our town was a predominantly black congregation whose church building shared a common property line with a topless nightclub. When surveys were conducted on the properties, the nightclub learned that the sanctuary's outer walls side outer wall had been constructed many years before. But it was actually over the property line by four inches. The nightclub demanded that the church pay an exorbitant fee for that four inches of land or their building be torn down. I they didn't have any money to pay this exorbitant fee. I read the story in the local newspaper. And call the pastor. I just wanted to pray with him and communicate that we cared. So we began to meet regularly for prayer. Eventually, our congregation donated and helped raise the money to purchase that strip of land, a strip of land from the nightclub. And I'm happy to say that today that that was 20 years ago, that today that nightclub no longer exists.

[00:24:36] The church still there. But besides that, when their church was saved, we held a joint church service of celebration at our church that year. Late 1993. Church was packed to the gills that night. The press came out. The story was on the front page of the newspaper the next morning. One month later, the black church was willing to. The black church invited us to join them for a for a service. And only 15 people from our church showed up. We never had a joint service again. Our white congregation was willing to contribute to see them as a cause, but less willing to enter into relationship and community with African-Americans. So much progress has been made, but there's still a long way to go. The black and white churches are still largely separate, separated by obstructive traditions, by feelings of superiority. You know my words better than your worship. By a lack of trust and perhaps most of all, a false sense that we don't really need each other. In recent months, racial issues are once again headlining the news. The herd and the skepticism that have developed through the history of black and white interaction has led us to believe we can live separate lives. We can go on our way with no harmful effect. And, you know, my wife and I were talking about this real recently. And the truth is we have two grown children. One, our daughter is 32 now, and our son just turned it will turn 30 in November. And they don't seem to notice the person's color. As much as their parents and grandparents and great grandparents. But the sad reality is that we still live with the effects of racial separation. It was Billy Graham who said that 11:00 is still the most segregated hour in America.

[00:26:44] We sometimes forget that Christianity at its core is community based, not a geographical community or racial community, but a global community of all those who have placed their trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior. Sadly, both black and white Christians continue to view the Ministry of Reconciliation as an optional ministry. This generation has the opportunity to deal with the separation between people to live and proclaim the whole gospel. Christ, love has the power to transform us. So I want to share in closing five principles, five practical steps that I am learning that we need to take in this area of racial reconciliation or any reconciliation for that matter. The first is practice intentionality. Make a decision to establish a relationship with someone of another race. Raleigh, Washington, wrote that most interaction between whites and blacks is circumstantial integration. That is interaction that does not lead to deeper relationships. When we go outside our comfort zones to engage in other and address barriers between us, reflect the life of our savior who intentionally went into some area to interact with the purpose of achieving both spiritual and ethnic reconciliation. Secondly know before you go. As you attempt to be an agent of reconciliation, commit to understand that different ethnic groups hold different perspectives on race. If you're white, seek to sympathize with the pain and intensity of emotions that have resulted from ethnic oppression in America. If you're nonwhite, try to understand the pervasive lack of knowledge, the ignorance among whites about the black struggle, past and present. And regardless of your color. Forgiveness is always a choice. Thirdly, let's drop the stereotypes. In its most basic meaning. A stereotype is a general belief that we hold about the world. All of us use stereotyping. It's a way of thinking.

[00:29:10] It's a way of creating taxonomies and categories. It makes life livable. The guide in the way we think. But stereotypes become dangerous, and they become lethal when they give us a negative image of a racial or ethnic group. Negative stereotypes can be subtle, but they are destructive. One of the best ways to counter this tendency is to call stereotyping for what it is. To commit to people not as problems to be solved, but as individuals to be loved. Prepare to stand alone. This is such a big one. Reconciliation is never easy and requires the discipline of prayer and a persistent resolve to take the road less travel. It takes a determination to be in relationship with those of another group. And and this is why because political pundits on both sides of the aisle will label and criticize you for doing so. And then finally enter with the gospel of Grace. In his book, The Wounded Healer Henry Now, and whom I quoted before, speaks of ministering a fractured world populated by desperate people. In his chapter on ministry by a lonely minister. He writes these words, since it is his task to make visible the first vestiges of liberation for others. He must bind his own wounds, but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others. Speaking of the Minister of Grace, he is both the wounded minister and the Healing Minister. This is a description of the Ministry of Reconciliation in the Church and beyond. Thank you so much for your kind attention and for the privilege of sharing these hours with you in this course on peacemaking.


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