Justice Conference Highlights

The annual Justice Conference was held in Chicago last weekend.  Chicago will be the new home for the conference as thousands gathered from around the world to seek justice together.  Here are quick highlights:

Cornell West:  Cornell is no stranger to controversy, but he refrained from major political commentary and brought powerful words for the church and those who would pursue justice.  “Indifference to evil is worse than evil itself.”  “Justice is what love looks like in public.”  “Justice must be rooted in something deeper than itself.” “By serving others we find a joy the world can’t give and a joy they can’t take away.”  On the church he bemoaned the loss of choirs that stirred the soul replaced by praise bands that stirred the body.  On education, “Rich kids get taught, poor kids get tested.”

Eugene Cho:  My friend Eugene brought a powerful message rooted in the gospel, lived out through love and justice.  “When we reduce people into projects we dehumanize them.”

Louis Dooley:  An ex-con, Louis brings a strong message of involvement in justice.  “We need everyone to work the field.  God’s people got to get their hands dirty.”

Bob Goff:  Rarely do people think of lawyers as loving or funny, but Bob is both.  His stories are memorable and poignant.   From encounters with a rental car where he struggled with patience only to find the man had just seen him speak (we are always representing Christ) to his graduating the first class of Ugandan Witch Doctors known to sacrifice children.  He gives each graduate a kiss on the forehead and a whisper – “don’t make me have to kill you” – a reference to his role as the Ugandan Counsel which has the death penalty.  But Bob loves to keep things simple, because they really are:  “Love everybody, always.”  “We are known for our opinions, but we will be remembered for our love.”

Ken Wytsma:  Friend and co-founder of The Justice Conference, Ken reminded us of the importance of faith in the work of justice.  “It’s not the quantity of faith that matters, but the presence of faith.”

Belinda Bauman:  Belinda was on a panel with Alyce Daily and her husband, Stephen Bauman.  She spoke passionately about lessons learned from a brave woman raped and left for dead.  As she said, “Violence against women anywhere is violence against me.”

Another panel of women (Jenny Yang, Esther Havens, Austin Channing Brown, and Ann Voskamp) highlighted the importance of treating people as people, not projects; of standing in the gap to give voice to the voiceless or as Ann said, “We are who we are to be a voice for the other.”

Lynne Hybels:  Lynne spoke on peace, particularly Israeli-Palestinian peace.  “Trade weapons for words.  Seek peace not revenge.”

Jonathan Meritt:  Challenged Christians to get engaged in the public square and to do so with bravery, humility, empathy and diversity.  “What if we began to open our eyes toward those with whom we disagree?”

A panel on race relations challenged white privilege and power (Rev. Michael McBride, Rev. Gabe Salguiero, Rev. Traci Blackman, Dr. Aloa Sutter, and Rev. Dr. Soong Cha-Rha).  With some humor and stinging criticism,   the panel well-pointed to Jesus who had all the power of heaven but willingly set it aside. We likewise should lay down power on behalf of others.

Gabriel Salguero:  Pasto Salguero spoke on kids.  “No kid is disposable.”  Kids at the border were not ‘those kids’.  “They are not those kids, but our kids.  They are not peril, but promise.”

Loui Giglio:  Pastor Giglio presented a powerful gospel message.  Our actions must be rooted in the gospel of Jesus Christ.  Justice is part of our worship.  “Even though we may be doing the right thing we may not be the right person in the process.”  “If your core identity is you’re a justice person, you’re not going to like heaven.  Justice isn’t a career path, it’s a theological imperative.”  Justice is rooted in creation and the cross.

Neichelle Guidry:  Neichelle closed the conference with a message from the rich young ruler and a question – “Are you ready for an assignment from God?”  She gave three caveats:  Grow up – it’s not enough to have your heart in the right place; Become Kingdom Minded – get out of your addiction of convenience; Choose – Be a follower of Jesus and doer of justice.  “God is looking for people who are hungry for purpose and ready for assignment.”

There is an early registration of only $79 for next year’s conference.  I encourage you to register.  The conference is designed to highlight different aspects of justice and challenge our thoughts and actions.  As a conservative evangelical, I disagree with elements of liberation theology present, but I appreciate hearing from both my evangelical and liberal friends.  Together may we act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God as we listen to His voice and

Go and Do Likewise.