Bishop Jackson, what is The Reconciled Church?
Jackson: In response to police-shootings and race divisions in the past year–North Charleston, the most recent–TRC is multi-racial, non-denominational and apolitical Christian action. It is a wide network of leaders sharing best practices and clearing paths to change–local and national. This past January in the TRC’s formative meeting, select leaders met in Dallas and outlined Seven Bridges to Peace, seven categories in which to spur churches, legislators, and the private sector to necessary change. With every TRC meeting, numbers grow, networks expand and we add specific actions that make sense, remake people, and serve a nation.
Why the name–The Reconciled Church?
Jackson: Because only great diversity, in unison, can bring the U.S. to its better self.
But speaking of the church, Bishop Jakes, Dr. King called 11 o’clock Sunday morning the most segregated hour in America.
Jakes: Too few churches are racially integrated but it’s simplistic to call it all racism. I’s culture. It’s comfort. It’s a distinction between the general populace that has never had to fit in and minorities who do. We have a long way to go to be the total reflection of what the kingdom ought to look like. But we can begin in places like this–by talking about it and by taking steps to address the problems that underlie it.
James Robison, what is the message to Christians about the church?
Robison: The message is that Christians too often interpret “making disciples” to mean making spiritual clones, and the point is not for people to be like us but for us all to be like Christ. If we can show people genuine love—period—the way a dedicated parent loves a child, lives will transform. I’m convinced that before love can sweep our nation and the world, it first must take root in us, in the church of Jesus Christ.
Meanwhile police and politics, race relations, criminal justice . . . these issues seem insoluble. What makes you think real change can happen?
Robison: Because we already see it. The point is to expand, to put what works under the magnifying glass and reproduce it. We look at Jim Liske and the work in Prison Fellowship. BGEA’s Adopt-a-Block program in Ferguson. The Texas Offenders Re-entry Program. Those are just a few examples, case studies, that can grow into larger-scale solutions. The key is unity, information, insight and cooperation.
TRC is coming out with a book?
Jackson: A best-practices book, yes. Look for it late this year: a compilation of what’s working and who’s working it–for study, principles, adaptation and improvements, and wider application. We’re excited about who’s contributing chapters and the conversations about to blow out because of it.
Meanwhile, what can any one person do to see God’s will for us to work together?
Jakes: First it needs to be preached. But then let’s take the time to dignify each other with attention. Let’s be interested and curious about other people and the culture they live in. Let’s be a part of each others’ lives. It’s powerful, when you meet someone different from you, to ask yourself this question: “What’s it like to be you?” That’s the first step to becoming students of one another and to having honest conversations.
What are the Seven Bridges to Peace?
Jackson: They are seven practical access points into national problems at both personal and community levels. In these key areas, or across these bridges, the church can lead and act: 1) prayer and reconciliation events, 2) education reform, 3) civic engagement, 4) community outreach and service, 5) marriage and family, 6) criminal justice reform, and 7) economic development
You think the the Church actually can affect economic development or criminal justice?
Jackson: As it models unity–as God’s people address the racial divide in our own house–yes, new things happen. For one, we all see more clearly that we have not just a race problem but a class problem. A poverty problem. The TRC becomes a clearinghouse of ideas and power through unity. Church, government, business . . . together we stand–together we revitalize education, economic development, and justice–or divided we fall.
So what is the call to arms? Why should even non-Christians care, and how can anyone, any color, any faith, any political persuasion, be part of the solution?
Robison: Any person can step back from party lines, denominational differences, stereotypes and rhetoric. We’re all human. We start there. We speak to each other with truth and in love and continue to build on what makes a nation great. TRC should inspire everyone everywhere— including people who create business, wealth, opportunity and jobs—to focus their creative energy on prevention and restoration, and not just on fear and punishment.
Bishop Jakes, closing remarks?
Jakes: At a time when secular minds question the relevancy of the church in relation to sociological ills, we’re saying we care and we’re willing to unite around common objectives and goals. It’s progress that we’re meeting together to challenge elected officials and citizens and corporations to tackle these problems with us, which aren’t going to just go away. We can pay for prisons, jails and taxes or we can build youth and rebuild broken people. This is what Jesus calls us to. It’s difficult and grueling, but at the end of the day we can’t afford not to speak for the people who really have no voice.
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