Duke Summer Institute Equips Participants for Reconciliation
The third annual Duke Summer Institute, held June 6 to 11 and hosted by Duke Divinity School's Center for Reconciliation, drew 120 participants from 24 states and 15 countries for six days of listening, dialoguing, and learning from each other's experiences with racial reconciliation. This year's participants included six leaders from the RCA.
The RCA delegation included Keith Ross, moderator of the Commission on Race and Ethnicity; Ed Schneider, planting pastor of The Rock in Oak Ridge, Tennessee; Ian Dixon, youth leader at Well of Hope, an RCA church plant in Orlando, Florida; Imos Wu, executive committee member of the Council for Pacific and Asian American Ministries and pastor of Bogart Memorial Reformed Church in Bogota, New Jersey; Sharon Hayes, RCA personnel director; and Claudette Reid, RCA coordinator for women's ministries.
The goal of the Duke Summer Institute is to strengthen and inspire Christian leaders in the work of justice and reconciliation. Each day, participants gathered in a large group to listen to and dialogue with plenary speakers and spent time in worship together. They also split into smaller seminar groups that dove deeper into specific issues related to reconciliation, such as Christian-Muslim relations, immigration, poverty, women in ministry, and the development of multicultural churches.
RCA participants found many blessings in the experience. "I had a chance again to look through the Scriptures to see [how] God's heart is for reconciliation," says Wu. "The gospel itself is a message of reconciliation. However, we--including me--often forget to teach or talk about it, nonetheless to do it."
"We were a group of people who for the most part had never met one another before the institute," says Dixon, referring to the RCA group. "However, the interactions were so organic and loving that I was truly blessed by each of them."
He adds that the diversity of the larger body of participants was also a blessing. "The variety of persons present provided such an enriching experience, through conversation, story sharing, prayer, and just general encouragement."
The RCA group was also tasked with reflecting together on ways the Duke Summer Institute could enhance the RCA's own journey with multiracial ministry and reconciliation. They shared those reflections with Earl James, coordinator for multiracial initiatives and social justice, to help him figure out how the program can best be used to help the RCA work toward its goal of a multiracial future freed from racism.
The RCA participants agree that the most beneficial mix of participants will include not only people who are passionate about multiracial ministry, but also people who do not consider racial reconciliation a top priority. "[The RCA should] intentionally invite to future summer institutes those individuals who are on the margins of agreement regarding the foundational necessity of multicultural reconciliation," says Schneider. "Inviting only people who already agree and are likely to passionately accept the goals of this summer institute would be similar to the pastor only preaching to the choir."
"I feel that a blended group from both ends of the viewpoint spectrum would be truly beneficial. The idea would be to encourage, strengthen, and equip those who are already interested, and introduce, expose, and in some cases perhaps even convict those who are not," says Dixon. "The key to making this experience a viable and beneficial one for the denomination is to reach those on the margins."
They also emphasize the importance of having participants use what they learn from the program and continue the learning after their experience at Duke is over. "How do we do the 'valley work' once the 'mountain top' experience is over?" asks Reid. "I believe it begins with asking the Holy Spirit to guide our selection of each cohort--that they be individuals across the RCA who are willing to serve Christ and not their own agenda."
The RCA's Office of Multiracial Initiatives and Social Justice plans to send an RCA group to the Duke Summer Institute for the next two to three years. If you are interested in attending, or if you would like to provide financial support to help someone from the RCA attend, please contact Earl James, coordinator for multiracial initiatives and social justice, at email@example.com or (800) 722-9977, ext. 3253 (toll-free).
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